THE MODERN MINT BLOG
When to prune boxwood? A question I get asked at just about every talk I ever give!
So below I will explain when to do it, from the traditional time (put this in your diary for a simple life) through to what I believe is the best time to prune your boxwood.
Do note all boxwood pruning times I talk about cover boxwood in any form – from topiary, to hedges whether large or small and around your vegetable patch, and even for boxwood trees.
This photo is from years ago, but I actually worked on this hedge again last week (early March 2020).
Now read on to discover the best time to prune your boxwood…
When To Prune Your Boxwood – The Traditional Answer
The traditional time to prune your boxwood is on Derby Day, around the start of June.
I believe that was because all the Lords and Ladies went wandering off to the races for the day, giving the gardeners and anyone else on the staff who was handy with a pair of shears or snips the chance to go at the boxwood parterres and all the other boxwood plants in the garden.
By the end of a long day, all the box is pruned and looking sharp, the garden is tidy and the Lords and Ladies (drunk on champagne?) could return home and, with a lazy wave of a hand towards the garden, breathe out a contented, cigar stinking sigh and say “I love being rich.”
Then they could pick up an old, age-hardened stick of blackthorn and go find some peasant to beat with it, just for the pure larks…. or something…
I guess that is how they would have behaved, anyway.
I have worked for quite a few Lords and Ladies, making and maintaining their topiary, and they have not (always) been like that. But it does feel like that is how they would be, right….?
Quaff quaff, puff puff….
So I Have To Prune Boxwood In Early June Then?
Uhmm, no, not really.
Pruning on Derby Day is just the traditional day. The big problem with this tradition is that boxwood has two growth spurts through the year – once from April to the end of June, then a slower, smaller growth spurt from July to September (depending on the weather and how encouraging the weather is for growth.)
So if you prune in early June, it will start growing again within the month and then you have to do it all again to keep it looking smart and tidy for winter. Should you choose to keep it looking smart and tidy for winter.
You create twice the work for yourself. And quite frankly, life is too short for that.
- Prune boxwood once.
- Prune boxwood well.
- Go get a gin and tonic.
How is that not a tradition yet?
So I Recommend You Prune Boxwood…
If you decide Derby Day is the daftest day to prune boxwood, then here is my recommendation for you:
Any month with an ‘R’ in.
And that includes ‘Jurly’ and ‘Argust’.
What I’m trying to say is, prune your boxwood when you have a pair of shears in your hand. When you have the time to do it with patience and joy. When you have a chance to do it well.
Because that is the key to all topiary making. Do it well when you do it. And if you get your timing right, by doing it later in the year after the growth has finished, you only have to do it once. Which makes sense to me.
I have been doing a lot of boxwood pruning in January and February in recent years.
This means you don’t get any leaf scorch on the boxwood plants, because the sun won’t burn the newly exposed leaves left after pruning. It also seems to reduce the spread of things like rust, because conditions are colder and so less conducive to the spread of disease.
Another advantage of winter pruning is that there is less to do elsewhere in the garden, meaning I have more time to make it look good.
So I Should Prune Boxwood When I Can?
Absolutely. Prune boxwood at anytime, absolutely anytime you have the energy to do it.
Don’t stress too much over when to prune this plant – it is a brilliant plant to prune and can take a huge amount of clipping.
The real problem with boxwood is not when to prune, but the boxwood caterpillar. So keep an eye out for that, especially from April when the caterpillar begins to munch the leaves.
And of course, if you need more than this handy blog post, you can always ask me for help when it comes time to prune your boxwood. I love doing it.
I was asked by the European Boxwood & Topiary Society to help out with answering a common question – How to sharpen your shears? So we spent a fun day making a video, that hopefully will help you make sure you have sharp, shiny blades to do your topiary pruning with. And you can find here more examples of the topiary I make with my sharp blades.
You can get a ticket for this new talk I’m giving at the European Boxwood And Topiary Society here – TALK TICKETS It is on the 25th August at 6pm. It should be great fun and I’m very excited to be sharing some recent thoughts about topiary with people – and how it might work in a modern garden.
If you have a subscription, you can check out an article about bespoke ideas for your garden in the Telegraph. There are some great crafts people there, so check it out. Click Here To See The Article About my Topiary Work In The Telegraph