Our front garden, north east facing, shaded mostly, had a 20 year old 9 foot boxwood hedge. It was tightly trimmed and followed the curve of our front walkway . About 2.25 feet high it balanced a 5 foot red japanese red maple at one end and armoustone boulder at the other.
It was recommended that it be removed due to a major infestation. Our garden now lacks the symmetry and year round green colour it had …what planting to replace this traditional yet versitile hedge. I have asked for professional and they recommend yews or box honeysuckle. Or should I just try another boxwood hedge. Look forward to your response. Thank you.
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners with your interesting garden design problem. I understand that your front north-east facing garden is now bereft of colour and interest since you have had to pull out a 20-year old, 9-foot long, boxwood fence due to disease. This is very upsetting for you. You have been advised by a professional landscaper to replace the boxwood fence with honeysuckle or Yews. You would like our second opinion.
Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) has been an iconic fixture in the garden for centuries. Very sadly, boxwoods have been plagued with several issues recently. You do not tell us what led to the demise of your boxwood fence. In order to answer whether you can replace your old hedge with new boxwoods, that question should be answered.
Some of the potential villains are: (1) Boxwood blight (a fungus) that has been a problem in Ontario since 2014. (2) The box tree moth larvae; these larvae were first detected in Etobicoke in 2018 and have now spread more widely in Toronto. (3) The boxwood leaf miner.
The following information on these pests come from some of our archived posts:
In the case of boxwood blight, some experts recommend not replanting boxwood in the same spot in the event that the blight fungal spores are still active in the soil. However, if care is taken to select more blight resistant varieties, then you should be able to proceed. There is a hybrid developed in Canada called the ‘Green’ series with cultivars such as Green Gem, Green Mountain and Green Velvet, that are resistant to boxwood blight. See Boxwood Blight
The box tree moth is spreading throughout Ontario and doing a lot of damage, but I do not believe that a previous infestation would preclude you from growing boxwoods again. The box tree moth can be controlled if identified quickly, and would not have been the reason for pulling out your existing 20-year old boxwood trees. For your interest, the horticultural association for landscape professionals, Landscape Ontario, has been monitoring and controlling the spread of box tree moth in Toronto for several years. Box tree moth larvae can be effectively managed with a safe biological insecticide – registered for use in Canada. Landscape Ontario box tree moth resource page: Landscape Ontario
Boxwood Leafminer (Monarthropalpus flavus) is the larva (immature form) of a small, orangish mosquito-like fly. Here are links to previous Toronto Master Gardener posts that you may find informative: Boxwood leafminer, Boxwood Shrubs Infested. However, again, I do not think that a previous infestation of Boxwood Leafminer would preclude you replanting boxwoods.
To get to your question on alternatives to boxwood, there are a number of alternatives that you could plant as a hedge if you are feeling adventurous. The University of Georgia has an interesting article on this topic: University of Georgia Extension. They have a well-laid-out table with suggestions that include non-traditional alternatives with distinct character; evergreen shrubs with fragrant or showy flowers; coarse-textured broadleaf evergreens or needle-leaf evergreens; and boxwood look-alikes with similar texture and compact form. The yew is included in their lists. However, the box honeysuckle is not in their lists, but that may still be a very good alternative for you. Keep in mind that some of the suggestions on this website will only be appropriate to plant in Georgia and will not be good for our plant hardiness zone in Toronto (6a or 7).
There is also a Toronto Master Gardener Gardening Guide on “Evergreens Suitable for Hedging” that you may like to look over for ideas: Gardening Guide. They list boxwood, but also add cedar, Ilex, ilex glabra, inkberry, juniper, spruce, white cedar, and yew.
I hope this answer gives you some confidence as you make your gardening and design choices for your front garden this spring.