Friday, October 11, 2013

Planting Potbound Boxwoods

Autumn is the time of year when every nursery looks to unload surplus inventory on unsuspecting gardeners.  According to one stockist I use, "All the money is made in April and May -- by September we just hope to sell at wholesale."  This makes it a great time to seek out those plants you need in quantity and gives you license to bargain hard with the end of the season on your side.

You can never have too many boxwood shrubs.  And while I prefer the bog standard Buxus Sempervirens, I can always find a place for any of the Buxus Microphylla varieties in the garden.  But you are always faced with a tough choice -- tiny twigs that you can afford, or proper, robust shrubs at a premium price.  But the shortening days become a great equalizer, and the rows of $28, two-gallon "Green Beauty" plants drop to $18, and with some negotiation ("If I take all 25 plants, can we say $12 each?) you're in business.

But there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Hyped up on fertilizer and daily watering, each pot will be a tangled mass of tan, spidery roots, crowding out the potting medium and threatening the long-term health of the plant.  It's good that its vigor also makes it bombproof.

Ruthless is the key word here, and as you brandish your razor knife you must "disguise fair nature with hard-favored rage", cutting out three deep v-shaped channels through the ball.  This stops the encircling roots from strangling the plant, and prunes them so they immediately send out new shoots.  Mixing well-rotted compost into the soil and breaking the backfill into a very crumbly tilth helps to ensure that as you water, the soil fills in around the rootball.  I usually add a top layer of leaf mould, water twice per week for the next month, and add a bit of fertilizer in the spring.

We all know that there are no guarantees in gardening, but I've found this approach allows me to take advantage of the good deals that exist at the end of the gardening year.

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