Excellent new alternatives to box

Fresh and tough evergreens for tidy topiary

Plant breeders have been turning their attention to developing alternatives to box for topiary and low hedging. Box tree caterpillar, box blight and other pests and diseases have become such intractable problems that gardeners are giving up growing box entirely. Now, good alternative plant selections are emerging.

Lonicera nitida Garden Clouds SeriesThe three varieties in the Garden Clouds Series are all forms of Lonicera nitida*. All make neat, naturally ball-shaped evergreens ideal for low hedges and small topiary subjects.

They were developed by Dutch plant breeder Guido Rouwette, whose speciality up till now has been hydrangeas. I featured another of his introductions, the extra dwarf Hydrangea paniculata Little Spooky, on this blog back in August.

He told me about his new loniceras. “My three new loniceras are good for gardens and for landscape use. They are bushy growers, are disease free, grow well in all soil types and come in three new fresh colours that are different from existing varieties.

“They can be clipped to create a range of shapes from hedges to globes or cones – just like a box plant. They are seedlings of Lonicera nitida ‘Red Tips’ crossed with Lonicera nitida ‘Elegant’”.

All three of these new loniceras are reliably winter hardy, with fine, glossy green, disease-free foliage that comes in three colours:

  • Garden Clouds Green Breeze ('GRLN01') has bright green foliage

  • Garden Clouds Copper Glow has green foliage with copper-coloured new shoots

  • Garden Clouds Purple Storm has dark green foliage with dark purple new shoots.

All three in the series reach about 3ft (90cm) high and 2ft (60cm) wide in three years. Regular clipping easily restricts them and allows them to develop interesting shapes. Plants in the Garden Clouds Series are happy in full sun as well as in the shade and appreciate a well-drained soil.

You can order plants of the Lonicera nitida Garden Clouds Series from Cowells Garden Centre.

*It has recently been determined that the correct name for this species is Lonicera ligustrina var. yunnanensis, but this name is not yet in general use.

**Please note, the contents of this blog reflect the views of its author and do not constitute an official endorsement by the RHS.

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