How to create a box ball
In horticulture topiary is the name given to the practice of shaping live plants by clipping the foliage of trees and shrubs to form clearly defined shapes. Perhaps the simplest form to create is a ball and the easiest plant to do this with is the box or buxus sempervirens. As buxus is an evergreen, a box ball will provide you with an all-year-round focal point in your garden. They are easy to look after and you will be able to see the results of your efforts quickly. Using a few rooted cuttings you should be able to develop an impressive ball shaped plant in just two years.
Buxus sempervirens is a dense-leaved native evergreen shrub, with dark green glossy leaves that give off a sweet smell. From late winter onwards it produces small butter coloured flowers. As it is slow growing it is an ideal choice for topiary work. It us also fully hardy and will tolerate sun, partial shade and even shady positions.
Start off by potting the rooted buxus cuttings into individual 10cm pots. Stand the pots outdoors or in a cold frame and water regularly. If you give the cuttings a light trim at this stage you will encourage the plants to bush out from the base which is what you want. In about eight weeks you should have some nicely rooted plants that are ready to move on to a larger pot. Plant the cuttings fairly close together so that they start to knit together in the one pot. Nip out the shoot tips to encourage bushy growth. Water and feed regularly to encourage growth and prevent the leaves from turning brown. Trim the plants little and often throughout the growing season, removing the tips of the plants once 2-3cm has been added to the desired outline. In a couple of years your plants should have knitted together and formed a nice sphere shape.
You may also find that you need to re-pot into a larger container. Once you have reached this stage, a light trim twice a year with hand shears should keep your box ball in shape. Make sure your shears are clean before you prune to avoid the spread of box blight, a fungal disease that affects buxus plants. A box ball is a great way to show off decorative planters to their best. This simple evergreen sphere will contrast with summer flowers and provide structure and style to winter gardens.