How Boxwood Shrubs can be used to Build Custom Gardens

There are 70 species of the genus Buxus that are collectively known as boxwoods. Some are very small, growing only inches tall. Others, such as the American boxwood, can reach heights of up to ten feet. Most of the smaller boxwood shrubs typically have a very dense texture composed of very small, tight foliage, which makes them ideal for formal garden design.

What many people do not consciously realize, however, is that boxwoods are perhaps even more important to custom garden design. We like to think of a custom garden as one built along the principles of form-follows-content.

The huge diversity in the boxwood shrub family of plants makes it an ideal source of plant material for any number of garden types that we create for the individual homes and yards of our Houston landscaping clients. They are so versatile, in fact, that they can be used for everything ranging from borders and ground cover, interior pattern décor, and even the garden’s primary organic material.

One such custom garden we see around homes throughout the Houston landscape is the foundation garden. This type of garden stretches along the front façade of a house. Depending on the architecture of the home, it can be a straight rectangle, or a more curved form that reaches into the yard in places.

Boxwood shrubs are normally used to make borders for foundation gardens because they are distinctively darker than surrounding lawn grass. However, the smaller species that grow slowly also grow lower to the ground to many of the more ornamental plants contained within the garden’s interior. In this way, the boxwood border gives the garden a clear boundary without inhibiting its free expression of life and color.

Along similar lines, a linear custom garden lined by boxwood shrubs is an excellent way to accent a walkway that connects a sidewalk to a home’s front door. The key is to use as many low-growth plants as possible here to avoid overgrowing the hardscape. Perennial flowering plants that retain color throughout the year are recommended for the interior.


Boxwoods which are distinctively darker than the lawn grass should be used as borders. This creates a clear separation of the walkway from the lawn, but the presence of the garden around the concrete or stone softens up the scene beautifully and makes it look unified with the rest of the front yard landscape.

Another popular use for boxwood shrubs is building a custom garden on a large, backyard terrace. Such a hardscape can be a massive structure, composed of masonry walls, multiple levels, and portions of the stone cut out to function as planting areas. Different species of boxwoods can be used in all of these areas.

More colorful, small species can actually grow in masonry wall planters. The darker species that line foundation gardens can also be used here to frame the parts of the hardscape that have been cut out for planting. Still other boxwood plants can actually be grown in flower pots and arranged and rearranged at will.

Boxwood shrubs are also very important in the creation of custom shade gardens. The problem some Houston homeowners have with shade gardens is that the area they choose to plant their garden in is heavily shaded during a large portion of the day, but it is also fully exposed to the bright, hot sun for more than a few hours in the remainder of the day.

This makes it hard to plant some species that want all light or all shade. Boxwood plants, however, do well in sunlight, but even better in shade. This makes them ideal for custom gardens built around meditation fountains, or for couple’s patios nested away in the far back reaches of the yard.