Disguise bare stems with neatly manicured box.
Time to plant: Spring or autumn.
Most of us wouldn’t dream of going outside without our socks on unless it was a blazing hot day, so why should it be any different for trees?
This slender trunk would look a little vulnerable and cold without a neatly manicured cube of box (Buxus sempervirens) around its naked ankles.
Perfectly suited to a formal, minimalist garden, the geometric shape of the box echoes other features in the garden, such as nearby garden furniture. Its neat lines mirror the square pattern of the paving material – the vibrant green contrasts brilliantly with the dazzling white stone.
A uniform block of box like this would jar if planted under a tree that is allowed to grow naturally with minimal interference from a pair of secateurs.
However, here it is perfectly placed under an architectural tree, whose neatly clipped head sits on top of a long length of bare stem. Sometimes the crown of these trees can seem to ‘float’ as the stems are so lean, but planting at the base helps to ground it and draw it back into the design.
To keep your topiary sharp, prune box in mid-June, when the leaves are hard and leathery, and again in late summer, if necessary. For accuracy, prune with a pair of hand-held clippers, such as sheep shears.