Pruning box

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Box is one of the few plants that retains its green leaves throughout the year. If you want to ensure your box keeps its dense shape, you need to prune it in the right way, at the right time.
  1. When’s the best time to prune your box?

    It’s best to prune box twice a year or even a little more frequently. For example, if you prune box once a year it will not be sturdy enough to withstand a layer of snow in winter. You can prune your box for the first time at the end of May. Make sure that the longest branches with new light green box leaves have grown at least 5cm (2 inches). The second pruning can be scheduled for September, giving the box time to recover before winter sets in. Don’t prune your box when it’s very hot, as the plant will lose water through the ‘wounds’ at the end of the branches and the outermost leaves will turn brown. If the weather turns sunny after you have pruned your box, water it very regularly.

  2. Preparation and tools

    Before you start pruning, make sure that your tools are clean and sharp. That will minimise damage to leaves and branches. Grass shears are the best choice for the job because they are specially designed for the box. Grass shears are a lot smaller than a hedge trimmer and are easier to handle, enabling you to trim the box into the right shape much more easily. Manual grass shears are great for very light pruning. If you have a bigger job on your hands or you want to make it easier for yourself electric grass shears are the ideal choice. A hedge trimmer is quicker and more convenient when pruning a full-sized box hedge.

     As well as grass shears and a hedge trimmer, a pruning saw is handy when you need to cut back thicker branches before pruning the hedge. That’s because grass shears can become blunt when used to cut thicker branches or when they come into contact with sand.

  3. Shaping box

    Do you have a box plant or a whole box hedge? You should decide what shape you want your box to have before you start pruning. It’s easy to prune box to create the shape you want. You can trim a hedge so that it’s straight at the sides, but you can also trim it rounded at the top. A box plant can be pruned in the shape of a globe, which you see a lot, or you can make it more angular or be more adventurous and creative

  4. Pruning a box hedge

    Step 1
    Begin pruning the sides and the front and back of the hedge. Be sure to make it a little narrower at the top, so the sun can reach the whole hedge. The bottom will turn brown if the bottom is just as wide as – or even wider than – the top. 

    Step 2
    Once the sides are done, you can start with the top. First set the desired hedge height by stretching a piece of string between two stakes. You can then use the hedge trimmer or grass shears to prune along the string, which ensures you do it straight.

    If you want to significantly reduce the height of the hedge, you may have to prune the thicker branches. In this case, use a pruning saw for stems, which will ensure the hedge trimmer or grass shear blade remains sharp.

    Step 3
    Rake together the pruned twigs and leaves and throw them in your garden waste bin.

    Step 4
    Once you’re done with pruning the hedge, dress it with fertiliser to ensure optimal growth. Cattle or poultry manure pellets are most suitable for box. Don't be stingy with the manure – box is a big eater.

  5. Pruning globes

    If you want to shape your box into a smart globe, it's best to use grass shears. Cordless grass shears will ensure the job goes a lot smoother.

    Step 1
    Begin pruning at the top of the globe. Here, you determine how high the globe is.

    Step 2
    Stand above the globe and hold the grass shears upside down. You’ll be better able to trim the curves that way.

    Step 3
    Follow the shape as you prune. Walking around the globe as you’re working gives you a better feel for the shape and helps you trim the box correctly.

    Step 4
    Inspect the box globe from a distance from time to time and walk around it from a distance. Check to see that the proportions are right and make minor adjustments where needed.

    Step 5
    Rake together the pruned twigs and leaves and throw them in your garden waste bin.

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Pruning box

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