Boxwood hedge

(Question)

I have a 25 year old boxwood hedge which has been decimated by last year’s frost and then a blight on everything else…
The hedge is 30′ long and about 3′ high.  It will all have to go, but I am concerned about the soil and what else I can put in the ground that would not be affected.
Any suggestions for a new alternative evergreen hedge and do I remove the soil?

(Answer)

Last year’s very cold winter took a huge toll on Boxwood plantings and hedges in Toronto and surrounding areas.  Many of us waited until well into summer to see exactly how much the plants might restore themselves before selectively trimming or removing the shrubs altogether.

Stressed boxwoods are prone to many problems including Blight, which can be caused by fungi, cold winter injury, incorrect soil, poor drainage or periods of drought.  Any one of these issues alone or in combination can be detrimental.  Symptoms consist of weak and spindly plants.  Dead or dying branches occur randomly in the bush.  The older leaves drop prematurely and the remaining foliage develops a yellow color.  Dead areas can develop along branches or near the crown.

Regarding your question about the soil – general consensus is that the site should be avoided for future boxwood plantings so plant something different that is hardy to your zone.  If it is any solace to know that you are not alone, your question has been previously asked by another gardener.  You will find the answered question with alternative suggestions for plantings in the link below.

http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/index.php/askagardener/replacing-a-blighted-boxwood/

Proper cultural practices such as, providing water when necessary, no excessive fertilizing, thinning shrubs to allow better air circulation, careful clean up of any leaf debris from around the plant and sterilization of any shears or clippers used to prune or trim all garden plants, are of utmost importance in maintaining a healthy hedge.  To prevent winter injury, make sure plenty of soil moisture is available during the fall with regular watering until ground freeze-up.  This is especially important in our South Central Ontario region where the ground can still be frozen on sunny days.  When this happens the plant foliage starts to transpire but the roots cannot replace the lost moisture from the frozen soil so the foliage dies of dehydration.

The addition of good compost and/or sheep manure to the soil after you have removed the old dead boxwoods and before planting anything else would be beneficial.  To help with your spring plans for new plantings, please see the suggestions in the link below.

http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/index.php/factsheet/evergreens-suitable-for-hedging-a-toronto-master-gardeners-guide/