Sweet Box

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Stephanie Hudak

Stephanie Hudak

By Stephanie Hudak, Columnist

I am so lucky to have a good friend who is a great gardener and a wonderful writer. Connie Cottingham is the person who encouraged me to start writing myself – and, thank goodness, mentored me along the way. She has a really good website that you should all sign up for….it’s free and fun (www.conniecottingham.com).

I am going to steal some of her recent information about sweet box in the hopes of exciting you about this great ground cover and also letting you know about her website, where you can get lots of great information about all kinds of plants. Sweet box (Sarococca confusa) is a good ground cover that is shade tolerant, has a sweet fragrance, slow growing, evergreen, and, ta da….deer resistant.

How much better can a plant get? Well, it can. It is a great companion for other plants in your shade garden. In the winter its evergreen leaves will look great by themselves.

But, in spring and summer the bright colors of coral belles and caladiums will spruce up the “socks and shoes” of your garden ten notches. Another great suggestion is to add either a variety of hostas or solomon’s seal to this bed.

The variegated leaves of either will add lots of texture and color to the area. Both are perennials and will die down at the first frost but they each have such a pretty tan color as they fade away that it will add so much to the pattern.

A wave of winterized Solomon seal is truly beautiful….a slow to grow plant, but so worth the time and effort. And let’s not forget how awesome it is in summer.

Sweet box can come in different varieties and sizes. The first one mentioned (Sarcoccoa confusa) is slow growing and can get to three-five feet high and wide.

There is another one that isn’t so big – Sarococcoa hookeriana var. humilis – big name for a small guy – is only about 12-18 inches tall. While it will spread slowly by suckers like its big sister, the path won’t be aggressive for either.

And we all know how to take care of that if it becomes a problem – pruners!! There is also S. ruscifolia which is fragrant and grows to about three by three; and S. walllichii, a new product on the market, which we know might be hard to find, but, isn’t that what we gardeners love – a challenge to find new stuff. And there is another great gift idea for you all. And speaking of gardening gifts.

I never, ever go without having the most current Michael A. Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants book in my house. Not an easy read since it doesn’t have pretty pictures but it is filled with incredible information.

For those who do want pretty pictures….Dr. Dirr does have a book filled with great photos to help you “see” what he is talking about along with information about each plant. Either one would be a great addition to a gardener’s library. Happy Holidays and lots of Hugs to all.

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