Many old and abandoned boxwod plantings could be salvaged by pruning and proper fertilizing, according to William Gould Jr., extension landscape architecture specialist at the University of Maryland. Boxwood is very receptive to shearing to almost any shape, he says; many examples of fine topiary work have been preserved at nearby Williamsburg.
For old, overgrown boxwood shrubs, pruning into tree form may sometimes be advisable, Gould says. Thesed large shrubs are potentially very valuable and should be fairly easy to transplant with commerical landscaping equipment, since they are typically shallow-rooted.
Boxwoods grow well in the shade of deep-rooted trees such as oak, and they can be used in conjunction with trees to help give scale to the landscape design, he says.
According to Francis R. Gouin, University of Maryland ornamentals specialist, too much acid fertilizer in recent years has slowed the growth of many boxwood plantings, already noted as slow growers, and made them susceptible to disease.
"Because it's a broadleaf evergreen, it's often lumped with such shrubs as azaleas, rhododendrons and mountain laurel, which are acid-loving plants," he says. "But unlike its broadleaf counterparts, boxwood is not of Oriental or native American origin. It was brought to this country by early English settlers who found it thriving in their homeland, where the soil contains rather high amounts of limestone."
Gouin recommends that boxwood be given dolomitic limestone and nitrogen fertilizer periodically. Sewage sludge or barnyard manure make an ideal mulch for established plantings, he says. The University of Maryland soil-testing laboratory offers free soil-testing. Phone your county extension horticulture or agricultural agent listed under the county or city government in the white pages of the phone directory.
The most destructive pest of boxwood is the boxwood leafminer, according to John A. Davidson, University of Maryland extension entomologist. The maggots cause blotch mines on the undersides of the leaves.
For control, spray the undersides of boxwood leaves in late April with malathion, diazinon or sevin. If mines are observed, spray with Cygon in June. Q: We plan to move in mid-July and want to take our boxwood with us. Can they be transplanted at that time? A: English boxwood is as easy to move in midsummer as it is in spring or fall. Of course, it needs to be done carefully. Q: I've been growing roses for longer than I can remember. This year for the first time they have the black spot disease and are losing their leaves fast. How can I get rid of it? A: The spores of the black spot disease are spread by splashing water, wind and passing animals. Infection takes place only when water remains on the leaves for several hours. Infection can be prevented by spraying the leaves with an effective fungicide, such as Benlate. Directions on the label should be followed closely. Once your roses become infected, unless sprayed regularly, there will be rapid deterioration. Q: My tomatoes are coming along fine. When should I fertilize them? A: When the first fruit is about the size of a half-dollar, spread a heaping teaspoon of 5-10-5 fertilizer around the plant 8 to 10 inches from the stem. Mix the fertilizer into the top half-inch of soil and water thoroughly. sRepeat once or twice a month. Don't overdo it, because in might result in lush foliage and little fruit. Q: How can I get rid of the crabgrass in my lawn? It comes along every year and nothing I do seems to work in getting rid of it. A: Crabgrass starts from seed mostly during mid- to late spring, and is killed by the first heavy frost. You can prevent the crabgrass seed from getting started by applying Benefin to the lawn in early spring, or DSMA, CMA or MSMA in June when the crabgrass is less than an inch tall. Directions on the label should be followed closely. Q: I have two orange trees I started from seed four years ago. Will they ever bear fruit? A: It's unlikely that they'll ever bear for you because they can't get the sunlight they need in late fall and winter. Q: What's the best way to start a new grape vine from the old I have now? A: Layering is an easy way to do it. In early spring pull down a cane (branch), dig a narrow trench about nine inches long and three inches deep for the cane to rest in.Make a shallow cut opposite each bud on the part that is to be buried, pin the cane to the ground in the trench and cover with soil. Q: My candytuft is too high and is covered with seed. Can I cut it back? If I do, will it bloom next year? A: Candytuft should be cut back to about six inches soon after the flowers fade. If allowed to produce seed, the flowers will be of poor quality next year. The seeds are worthless because they do not come true. Q: My daylilies are not blooming as well as they used to. Do you have any suggestions? A: A clump of daylilies increases in size every year, and there comes a time when there are too many plants in too little space. At that time they should be dug and divided. The best time to divide is soon after they finish blooming. Q: Can fruit trees be used as ornamentals around our home? A: Yes, definitely. Dwarf and semi-dwarf apple, peach and pear trees make excellent ornamentals. They need full sun and well-drained soil. Be careful about planting them near a patio, because ripe fruit will attract bees and other insects. Q: What time of day is best for cutting roses so they'll last longer? A: Research has shown that blooms cut in late afternoon, at 5 or 6 o'clock, last longer than those cut in the morning or midday. Q: My geraniums are blooming fine outdoors, but they get yellow leaves on them occasionally. Is there a way to stop it? A: The yellow leaves usually indicate poor drainage, over-watering or underwatering. Find out which one is responsible and correct it. Q: Are the Irish potatos you buy in the grocery stores suitable for planting? A: Definitely not. Most of them have been treated with a sprout inhibitor. It's best to buy certified seed potatoes.