The perfect garden is a balance between order and chaos, and getting that balance right is the sign of a good gardener. The secret is to use neat, dense plants as accents to the more random growth of most garden plants, and when it comes to neat and dense, boxwood is a great choice. At the Tree Center we carry a wide range of boxwoods for lots of different needs, from the tall American boxwood for tall hedges and specimens to the English boxwood for low hedges and the Wintergreen boxwood for clipped balls. Franklin’s Gem Boxwood fits right in as our smallest, most compact boxwood, which is also incredibly winter hardy. If you love the neat form of boxwood, but find clipping a chore, then Franklin’s Gem is the boxwood for you. It is so neat, with tiny leaves and a perfect rounded form, that it really needs no clipping at all to be the perfect addition to your garden. Plant a pair in pots to frame your front door. Add several to the foundation planting around your home as accents and groups. Create a miniature hedge to edge a small bed by planting a row of them 18 inches apart. Wherever you use it you can be sure of a neat, pest-free plant that will be attractive and green in both cold and hot weather.
The Korean boxwood, Buxus sinica, which was previously called ‘microphylla’ or ‘koreana’, is a native of China and Korea. It has been grown in Korean, Japanese and Chinese gardens for centuries, loved for its compact form, with small leaves and dense growth easily clipped into various forms. It quickly became popular in the Northeast of the USA when gardeners there discovered that the English boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) was not very hardy and became brown and unsightly during the winter months anywhere colder than zone 6. However the Korean boxwood was hardier, soon becoming very popular for that reason, and nurseries found even hardier forms over time, so that with careful selection it is possible to grow boxwood throughout zone 5 with plants that remain a healthy green color all winter. Korean boxwood is also hardier and usually smaller than the Japanese boxwood (Buxus microphylla var. japonica).
The Brandywine Valley is known for its grand gardens, and many of the plants in those gardens came from J. Franklin Styer’s Nursery in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. The nursery was founded in 1890 to supply the gardens of the wealthy properties in the area, and it was Jacob Styler’s son, Franklin, who in the 1960’s received a package of seedling boxwoods from Japan. Like all seedlings each one was different, and one in particular caught his eye. It had very small leaves and a dense, compact form that needed almost no clipping to remain neat and rounded. Not only did it remain green and glossy at the height of summer, it was also very winter-hardy, and turned a rich olive-green in winter, without any browning. It was such a gem in the garden that it soon became just that – ‘Franklin’s Gem’. This special form of Korean boxwood cannot be grown from seed but must be reproduced from stem pieces skillfully rooted by expert gardeners. Our plants are exact copies of Franklin Styler’s original plant, grown form rooted pieces, so avoid cheaper plants simply labeled as ‘dwarf boxwood’, because they could be almost anything, and are certainly not this very special and carefully chosen plant.
Plant your Franklin’s Gem Boxwood in any location, from full sun to moderate shade, in most kinds of soil. For best growth add some organic material when planting and as mulch each spring. Water your plants well during the first years and during hot, dry weather in summer. Especially if you clip regularly, use a fertilizer for evergreen plants and hedges each spring. An annual clipping at the end of winter will keep your plants extra neat, but Franklin’s Gem Boxwood is so dense it really doesn’t even need to be clipped at all.
We are thrilled to be able to offer you this very special form of boxwood, but we know that our supplies will quickly run out, because this plant is so popular, and rarely available. So order now for those doorway pots, or for that planting you have always wanted, and avoid the disappointment of the ‘sold out’ sign.