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Heart Knot Design- installed!

Friends, how cool is this?! It takes my breath away. Thank you Elizabeth for finding me and allowing me to share your beautiful garden with my friends. I am so honored. And, I am SO taking cuttings this year of my boxwoods!! Thank you for answering all of my nosey questions about your process. My brain is spinning with ideas and I know you will inspire many others to create a knot garden or parterre of their own!

“I think I started taking cuttings in 2008 – and took cuttings for about three years. I ended up with 60 boxwood plants that I bought and about 250 babies that I propagated. I kept on searching for a good pattern that I could do and found your picture. It was perfect as it was made up of squares and half circles…and it was pretty…and it was charming…and I could trim it so it would look like a woven knot…and it had hearts!!! Then I lost your website and couldn’t find it again until I went through some old Facebook posts. Boxwood are slow growing; I trimmed it for the first time this spring. I have wanted to thank you for the longest time! Thank you!!!

Boxwood Design: I have always wanted a shaped English / French garden. I found many examples that were way too difficult to do in the space I had. The outside edge of the knot garden, along the rock edge, is 21 feet. I have room for my “shade” garden and some stone pathways and a bench. I was so happy to find your design. I can do this!!! It is basically straight lines and half-circles. Better yet, they weave together into intertwining hearts. I (and my husband) also like it because it can be a “casual” formal garden.

Propagation: August-September 2008
• There are a lot of resources online – here is one: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/shrubs/boxwood/rooting-boxwood-bushes.htm
• I bought dwarf boxwoods (private nursery, Home Depot, and Lowe’s) and took cuttings. Note: if you leave multiple boxwood in your car on a warm day it will smell like a kitty litter box. …lovely.
• The first time I cut back the whole plant, but that was a bad idea. It left me with many short, unusable pieces, and may have stressed the plant. I found that I could plant 8” (+/-) cuttings that would make the new plants a lot larger. I experimented with later cuttings – one plant I would take cuttings from one side, another plant I would take them from the center, or randomly find branches that looked good. By not pruning the whole plant, I could make cuttings from the same “mommy” plant the following years.
• As I took my cuttings, I put them into a bucket of water so they wouldn’t dry out.

• I trimmed the leaves off of lower couple of inches, or so, and scraped the bark off of one side of the bottom of the cuttings. (see drawing.)
• I stuck them in Root-tone? Some sort of rooting powder.
• Then placed them in a window box, close together, in a mixture of rooting mix and sand. I then soaked them and let them drain. I think I had about 15 window boxes +. I don’t remember.
• I placed them on some benches on our back deck along the side of the house. They received a few hours of morning sun. I kept them damp and misted them 3-4 times a day.

• I had to figure out what to do with them when it got cold – – ??
• I had some plastic shelves so I put the window boxes of cuttings on the shelves, put the shelves next to the French door on the back deck and rotated them occasionally so both ends would get some sun. I bought some heavyweight clear vinyl (plastic?) from JoAnn’s and covered the shelves to make a “greenhouse.” My make-do greenhouse is in the back of my yard for storage now.

• I bought some heat mats, but found that it didn’t really warm up the plants. I bought some spongy floor mats and put it under the heat mats. I also put an instant type meat thermometer in each window box to make sure my babies weren’t getting too hot, or too cold. I don’t remember the ideal temperature. I did put the heat mats on a timer.
• Later, I put some fluorescent glow lights in each shelf and they were on the timer as well. The second year, I hung the grow lights inside the house, in the kitchen next to the French door.
• I kept them from drying out and misted them often.

Rooting Boxwood Bushes: Growing Boxwood From Cuttings
Used as hedges, edging, screening plants and accents, you can never have too many boxwoods. Read this article to find out how to get plenty of new shrubs for free by starting boxwood cuttings. Click here to learn more about boxwood propagation. gardeningknowhow.com

Moving the cuttings:
• My success rate was great – so I have been told – over 50% of my cuttings developed roots.
• I waited until July to plant the cuttings into pots. I could have waited another year if I wanted to.
• I used some sort of soil amendment for shrubs and put the cuttings that had roots into pots. (I didn’t realize that I should have added it to the topsoil, but used it full strength. I haven’t seen it lately and I don’t remember exactly what it was.) I ran out of pots so some of the cuttings were grouped together into one pot or shared larger flower pots.
• I watered them well, then watered them with some Miracle Grow Quick start.
• I put them in a shady, protected area along a fence and made sure that they didn’t dry out.
• In the winter I mulched around the pots with leaves.
• In August I would buy more “Mommy” plants and start the process over again.
• I bought some used pots from a private nursery.

• I did this every year until 2012. I had breast cancer and was a bit busy with surgeries and chemotherapy. Watering all of the babies and the mommy plants during the summer took almost an hour a day. Thankfully my husband often took over the watering for me. (I am fine, now, by the way.)
• I had about 300 babies, and about 40 mommy plants (I think.)

Planting: September 23, 2015. The area does not have full intense sun.
• I needed a flat area, and I needed the soil to drain. Boxwood do not like to have soggy feet. My backyard is quite marshy during the winter. I hired a landscaping company to build a retaining wall and bring in some topsoil for a raised garden. They upgraded the topsoil to garden soil. They also put the rocks around the raised garden for me. Nice!
• I read where I should place the boxwood farther apart and wait (forever) for the plants to fill in. I wondered how the formal gardens in Europe and England were planted. We went to visit my brother who was living near Paris and visited Versailles. I wish I still had the picture I took – – I crawled on my knees to get a picture of the boxwood formal gardens at ground level. The boxwood were planted closely together.
• Some of the boxwood roots were a bit rootbound so I cut off the roots (so I could get them out of the pots) then “teased” the roots out before I planted them.
• I used some plastic lattice to help me lay out the garden and hired a friend to help me plant. It took us about a day to plant the raised garden (the hearts.) I don’t remember if we used the Quick Start fertilizer or not. We did not add any other fertilizer, or fertilizer mulch. I hired some neighbor kids and we mulched with small bark nuggets. I was beginning to feel my age.
• I did not plant the border boxwood as I had standing water problems. The next summer, I dug some trenches that sloped down the hill under where the boxwood would grow. I dug a pit (a sump) at the end of my trenches and put some concrete blocks covered with landscape fabric. I still have a few spots that do not dry out very well, but the boxwood are thriving.
• I used the mommy boxwood for short hedges along the back of the house, along my girly shed, and the border around the knot garden. Since I had large and small boxwood, I made a crenulated design.

How long did installation take?
• Planting the boxwood did not really take that long – about a day. Getting the area ready, and growing the cuttings to a healthy size took years. I could have spent a lot of money and bought the boxwood, but I enjoyed taking the cuttings.

Biggest Challenge: Making the area drain well was the hardest part.

Maintenance? Trimming? Fertilizing?
• Washington State has dry summers. I need to water the knot garden for at least 4 hours once a week. There is one corner, near a large fir tree that needs to be watered more often.
• Two years ago (August 2018) I trimmed the knot garden for the first time. Last August I hired my friend and we gave it a more intense “haircut.” We will refine it more as it grows in. Picking up the trimmed pieces is the hardest part of trimming. Any mistakes we make will always grow out, given time. The knot garden is less work than mowing. Boxwood are slow growing plants.
• I put medium bark nuggets around the boxwood to help prevent weeds, but there is some weeding that needs to be done. I need to clean off falling leaves and branches in the fall / winter. The pictures I just took show leaves and branches that should be cleared off.
• I have used the Kellogg Organic Grow mulch around, but not touching, the base of the plants in the spring for the first three years. The plants seem to appreciate it.

Advice? Find a design you love, then enjoy the process.

Thank you Elizabeth for sharing your garden! I can’t wait to start propogating my boxwoods!: )






ABOUT

Hi, I'm Michelle. I am an artist/designer specializing in unique topiary themed illustrations for the Home & Gardener. I live on a farm in Upstate New York with my husband, aka Farmboy, my two children affectionately known as "La La" and "the Bean" and a small petting zoo of other family members.

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