More (Mass) Layered Boxwoods - Priority Area #2 - IB2DWs Extended - February 2023

Yesterday, I posted an inspiration photo of a mass planting of sculpted boxwoods planted in a three-tiered system and talked about how I could use them under the pair of Lindens in our backyard.  

I haven't really done a mass (greater than 10) planting of shrubs, but I've been nosing back through the archives of Deb Silver's Dirt Simple blog for inspiration and notice that she's a big believer (and user) of mass plantings of evergreen shrubs.  Like in this post where she features A LOT of boxwoods in various beds and talks this way about their use:

A restricted palette of plants, and a massed planting can be both both classical and contemporary in feeling.
I really like that idea of using a mass planting with a limited number of plants and colors to be both classical and contemporary at the same time.  

I've failed to put my desired garden style into words overall - I'm not a cottage gardener.  I'm not a Japanese Gardener.  I'm not a minimal gardener.  I'm not a formal gardener.  

What am I?  A few things:  A shade gardener.  A foliage gardener.  And now...I am a sort of mix of classical and contemporary gardener in one.  That feels right.

So, I can put this idea of mass planting to use under the Lindens, but I also can do it elsewhere - like in the front yard. two spots.  

For the first of those two, let's focus on a (mostly) blank canvas.  I'm calling my shot now:  Landscape Priority Area #2 (for 2023), I want to talk about using the same mass planting of evergreen shrubs in the front yard - specifically in the IB2DWs extended area.  

In my post from January where I outlined some potential projects, the Lindens were on there. But, so too....was the IB2DWs (extended) bed.  

Late last Fall, I planted a few newly divided Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grasses in this section and (at the time), I wasn't sure if this was their final destination or if it was just a place to stash them for the time beingFrom the look of the photo from last October, there are (now) four clumps of grasses that run from the Bald Cypress tree on the west to a little more than halfway towards the tiny (the tiniest!) of Ginko trees in that bed.  

Here's how that section looks today - spanning from the Bald Cypress tree on the left down to the large, mature Mulberry tree that is tucked in right by the sidewalk and the property line:

In my "potential projects" post, I mentioned this IB2DWs area as one of the identified needs and talked about how I was going to have three new Disneyland Roses that will arrive this Spring.  My thought - at that time - was to think about using this area (which gets full Sun) as the potential home.  The other (potential) home for them is in the front porch beds.  

Here is what the area looks like via plan currently:

There are two primary decision paths that exist:  First...a bed WITH three Disneyland Roses.  Second...a bed WITHOUT Disneyland Roses.  All of them have Karl Foerster Grasses across the back.  Let's call that ten (10) grasses.  

Ok...let's first explore path one: 'with' Disneyland Roses.  I like the look of boxwoods creating a border that surrounds the roses - and there is an example of that below.   In this 'with Disneyland Rose', there seems like two choices:  boxwoods right up against the drive. Or, set back to allow for a lower plant right next to the drive.  Here they are - including examples/inspiration photos below.  

NOTE...none of these are *my* photos.  They're all from Houzz. 

1.  With + 3 layers.  Grasses in back.  Roses in middle.  Boxwoods along drive.  Like this below - right up against drive.

2.  With + 4 layers.  Grasses in back.  Roses in middle.  Boxwoods fronted by a low plant in front next to the drive - like this below.  There are two examples.  Could be sedges, grasses, fescue or other ground cover like ajuga.

Of those choices, my mind is clear:  I'd prefer to push the boxwoods *off* the drive a bit and have something else planted along the edge.  So, that eliminates #1 above.   

Now, let's move on to decision path #2:  Without the Disneyland Roses.  

3.  Without + 2 layers in formal mass. Grasses in back.  No roses.  2 or more rows of boxwoods.  Could be medium sized ones in two rows like the first photo below.  Or, smaller ones in up to 4 rows - in the second inspiration photo.  No ground cover in either of these.

4.  Without + 3 layers.  Grasses in back, boxwoods planted via informal mass(es) all same variety + groundcover. (grasses in back, boxwoods bunched, groundcover).  See below for one informal (not hard pruned to be same size) bed.  The second photo shows another way to use different sizes, too. 

Same variety - different shaping.

5.  without + 3 layers informal masses with different varieties + groundcover.  This would be grasses in back, boxwoods bunched of different varieties, groundcover/near drive.  See below for how a bed with different varieties of boxwood could work for texture.  

6.  Without + 4 layers (or colonies).  Grasses in back, informal massed boxwoods, Taller grasses in middle, fescue balls in colonies out front.  This would be a combination of the photo below and #5 above.  Imagine two clusters of boxwoods.  And a few colonies of grasses.

I've done this a few times using our landscape plan, but thinking about the total plants required, here are a few views.    Here, below is what option 1 would look like below.  Requires 6 grasses, 10 boxwoods, 3 roses. 

Here's option 2.  double row of boxwoods.  

And, here's another look that calls for one row of boxwoods fronted by some colonies.

So, where does that leave me?  

The roses being in or out determines a lot.  Right now, I'm leaning towards using the 3 Disneyland Roses in the front porch beds - under the Triumph Elm.  That would free this area up to be a mix of grasses and shrubs and perennials.

I'm leaning towards this being the final layout:  a combination of 4, 5 and 6.  

Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grasses across the back.  10 total.  
Two colonies of mixed boxwoods in front of the grasses.  Six to seven per.  12 to 14 total.
Two to three colonies of an upright grass - in two colonies.  That's 10 to 15 grasses.
And, fronted by some blue fescues.  I really like the look of that inspiration photo and know that I've already planted some of these.

But, before I call this one locked - priority and to-do-list-wise, I think I need to solve the front porch bed and ensure the roses have a home.  

If this is the way (as Mando would say), it means that I need:
  • 6 Karl Foerster Grasses.  I think I have these on hand.
  • 12 to 14 Boxwoods.  $150 to $250.
  • 10 to 15 grasses or sedges.  $100 to $200.
  • 12 to 18 Blue Fescue grasses.  $120 to $180.


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