ProfessorRoush would like to call down a pox on all those garden authorities who have advocated various winter hardy boxwoods to be excellent landscaping plants. A further pox on the "Big Box" stores who sell the cheapest boxwoods available and thus limit the selection of available cultivars to us. Boxwoods are everywhere these days. Southern Living, for instance, has an 18 page internet extravaganza on boxwoods as "the backbone of Southern gardens for centuries". Boxwoods for landscaping. Boxwoods as the perfect container plants. Trim and tidy boxwoods. Lavender and boxwood gardens. Boxwood...BS, I say!
I jumped onto the boxwood welcome wagon a number of years ago when I grew tired of mustache landscaping with junipers and arborvitaes. In Kansas, those two conifer stalwarts are plagued annually by bagworms, leaving the gardener only a choice between marathon hand-picking sessions or toxic wastelands. During the landscaping of a new home, I went with less traditional choices for my front entry; large-leaved evergreens such as hollies and boxwoods.
I was so enamored by the survival of my first boxwoods that when it came time to screen the wind near my front door and outline the circular driveway (or, if you prefer, to slow and divert the feng shui flow of qi in the area), I chose to buy 12 inexpensive Buxus microphylla koreana 'Wintergreen' plants to create a hedge. I will admit openly that the effort has created a really functional low-maintenance hedge over the years, at times a bit winter-damaged as I've noted previously, but a very nice screen as pictured above.
Functional, yes , but undesirable. You see, the one thing that most boxwood advocates fail to disclose is that boxwoods, at certain times of the year, smell like....well, they smell like cat urine. Unneutered male cat piss to be exact. If you realize the source of that stench around your house comes from the boxwoods, then search terms such as "boxwood" and "cat piss" will turn up any number of entrys about the problem, ranging from how it will diminish the sale value of your home, to sources where the authors claim to like the odor, claiming "it reminds me of happy hours spent in wonderful European gardens, surrounded by brilliant flowers, the hum of bees and the redolence of boxwood." I'm sad to confirm that if you park your car in my circular driveway right now, the odor as you step outside the car will not remind you of happy hours in European gardens. Until I read that the stench should have been expected, I thought my cats were using the area as a toilet.
Adding insult to injury, however is not beyond the reach of the most diabolical garden authorities. One D. C. Winston, author of an EHow article I found titled "How to find a boxwood that doesn't smell like cat urine," is a prime example. The advice given in the article? Avoid the Buxus sempervirens cultivars because they are have the strongest "acrid" odor. Seek out the species Buxus microphylla. Mr. Winston specifically recommended 'Wintergreen'. Ain't that a hoot?
Take it from me, don't plant boxwoods by your front door. Ever.
I've never been a fan of boxwoods, and now I can add one more reason to dislike them to my list. Thanks for the info.ReplyDelete
When we were searching for a choice for new evergreens for our front landscaping, I zeroed in on boxwood BECAUSE of the smell. This old house of ours was missing that little fragrance note that I identify with other old houses. I don't mind it ... perhaps this is because I have, in the past, had cats with less than stellar litterbox habits and my nose has learned to deal with it. Our Green Mountain boxwoods, in their third year now, came through this more recent bitterly cold, snowy, windy winter without so much as a crispy twig to be seen. They currently wear lots of new spring growth, and I am very, very happy with our choice. Now they just need to get bigger to be in better scale with their surroundings.ReplyDelete
You planted them FOR the smell? Couldn't you just have let some old newspapers sit someplace moist and musty for awhile?Delete
We discovered this same issue when we bought a house that had one by the back door. Took us a bit to figure out it was the bush (husband named it cat pee bush) and not the neighborhood cats marking. So far we've tolerated it, since it blocks the wind well.ReplyDelete
Yes Penny, luckily they don't ALWAYS smell that bad.Delete
We've lived in this house for 33 years with Japanese boxwood bushes along the front, under the living room windows. The pee smell came occasionally over the years, but after 5 years of drought in Southern California, the odor is overwhelming. Short of pulling them all out, is there anything like enzymes that can be sprayed on to help? I love the breeze, but not the smell of pees.ReplyDelete
No, I'm sorry, I don't know of any way to mitigate the odor....except to get rid of them. As a recent post on this blog describes, I just finally had enough of mine and now they're gone. See: http://kansasgardenmusings.blogspot.com/2016/04/ever-just-get-tired-of-something.htmlDelete