- Planting container with drainage holes; mine is 16 × 16 inches
- Scrap paper
- 1 bag (16 quarts) potting mix
- Small pebbles or dry sand (optional)
- 30 to 35 rooted boxwood cuttings (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’); exact amount depends on design and maturity of the cuttings
- Gravel or grit topdressing
- Hand trowel
1. Sketch planting plan. Create a template by tracing the top of your container onto several pieces of scrap paper. Pencil out various designs until you come up with one that pleases you; remember that most formal garden designs are symmetrical, and simple geometric plans read strongly and are easier to maintain.
2. Prepare container. Fill your container with dampened potting mix and firmly tap against the surface of your workspace to settle the soil. Using your finger or a pencil, inscribe your final design on the surface of the potting mix. Further define the resulting shallow furrows with small pebbles or dry sand for a clearer preview of your finished plan and an easy-to-follow planting guide.
3. Prepare boxwood cuttings. Gently wash soil away from cuttings and trim roots to an even 1½ to 2 inches. To encourage future branching, “tip prune” each cutting by snipping the tips of each tiny growing shoot with sharp scissors.
4. Plant cuttings. Place each cutting following the lines of your planting guide, spacing plants about 1 inch apart. More mature cuttings which have already begun branching may be planted further apart. Make sure roots are completely covered with soil. Water your finished planted container thoroughly to eliminate air pockets and settle roots into the potting mix.
5. Trim the tiny boxwood plants. Use sharp scissors to nip and neaten the lines of your design. Newly planted rows may initially appear weak and thin, but as young plants establish and flush out with new growth your design will fill in quickly.
Newly planted knot garden.
6. Top-dress finished planting. Completely cover any remaining exposed soil with fine gravel or grit. This final touch helps to set off the design; even very young plantings appear far more finished once “dressed.” Topdressing also encourages healthy growth by conserving moisture and maintaining even soil temperatures.
7. Maintain your garden. Boxwood is hardy in zones 6-8. Plants flourish in partial sun to full shade making these little gardens adaptable to just about any exposure. Water regularly during dry weather just as you would any container planting. Clip two or three times a year to maintain shape. Keep plant debris cleared to highlight pattern as well as avoid the accumulation of rotting organic material. Renew topdressing material as needed. Feed with a mild (half-strength) plant food after the first full growing season and every year thereafter
To take your own boxwood cuttings, clip 3-inch pieces from the tips of the current year’s growth, semi-ripe wood, between July and November. Place cuttings into a jar filled with cool water to thoroughly hydrate. Working with one cutting at a time, dip the cut end of each stem into rooting hormone (available in powder or liquid form at garden centers). Then, stick cut end down into nursery flats or containers filled with dampened sterile potting mix; space cuttings about every half inch. Water the container well to settle the potting mix and place in a shaded location (indoors or out). Keep the cuttings damp but not soggy and make sure to water during dry periods. Cuttings will have rooted by the following spring and can be transplanted into your knot garden container. For landscape use, transplant cuttings into 4-inch containers and grow on for one year.
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