Plant Profile” Justin Brouwer Boxwood

Justin Brouwer Boxwood plant profile card

This is a boxwood I specify a fair bit. Why? Scale. Justin Brouwer stays tight and compact. The ones in the profile picture were taken at the home of the grower’s relative. They were planted over twenty-five years ago, if I remember correctly, and they’ve maintained a tight ball roughly 30 inches in diameter. I prefer the look of a boxwood that’s not sheared really hard, just lightly pruned and shaped. These work out perfectly for that.

Boxwood are a fascinating plant, actually. I had the good fortune to attend a talk by Lynn Batdorf, the curator of the National Boxwood Collection at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington. It was one of the most incredible plant geekfests I’ve ever been to- so cool! The man loves his boxwood (note: the plural of boxwood is boxwood. Boxwood lovers will dopeslap you if you throw an “S” on there), and he’s an amazing wealth of knowledge. Here are some boxwood fun facts he shared:

  • The landscape use of boxwood dates to twelfth century Eastern Europe. It was believed that evil spirits would hide in plants near the home and sneak inside; boxwood, being denser than water, is too dense for evil spirits to hide inside, so boxwood were planted by the front door as a safeguard from spirits. That’s where the foundation planting tradition comes from. I know! How cool is that?
  • Because it’s so dense, boxwood doesn’t swell or shrink, making it a popular choice for seafaring navigational instruments
  • While we associate boxwood with colonial America and old European gardens, there are ten times as many tropical varieties as temperate varieties.

My favorite part of the talk? Mr. Batdorf showed a slide of an as-yet unnamed boxwood. He said “Look at the exfoliating bark. A boxwood with exfoliating bark. Isn’t that exciting?!” And we all went “ooooooh!” and leaned forward. It was like watching the IMAX “To Fly!” at the Air & Space Museum and looking around at everyone leaning 45 degrees to vertical as the biplane loops around on screen.

My name is Dave Marciniak, and I am a plant nerd.

Dave Marciniak is a landscape designer and speaker. He lives in Culpeper, Virginia and can be found via his website and on Twitter.

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