Here's a plant we think of as too formal, too boring, too (fill in the blank). But I suspect our criticisms of boxwoods are based primarily on the way they're traditionally grown - pruned to soldierly uniformity, despite the less than robust good health enjoyed by plants thus brutalized by shearers. (The poor plants must whimper in dread when they see gardeners approaching with the damn things.)
So I offer an alternative - the Natural Boxwood. Here are two 'Green Ice' boxwoods I planted smack dab in front of my front porch, replacing the existing (and hideously misplaced) large azaleas in this brutal southwest exposure. Here's what the tag says: "Buxus x 'Green Ice' - deep glossy green foliage that maintains its color throughout winter. A solid, semi-compact plant with vigorous new growth. Extremely hardy. A soft and sturdy plant." And it's proven to be all of that. Boxwoods even tolerate significant amounts of shade. And do I need to remind the reader it's EVERGREEN? No, I didn't think so. On the right is a Spirea 'Goldmound', sporting chartreuse foliage all season and brassy fuchsia flowers in June.
The key to natural boxwood growth is to stop shearing and start thinning. Removing some of the extra thickness keeps the plant nice and open so that more air, light and rainwater can reach the plant's interior. The correct pruning technique is often referred to as punching holes in the foliage but if done right, you'd never know that little green globs have been removed because the plant still looks so natural, so unpruned. The best pruning is unnoticeable, a standard that unfortunately can't be met when corrective pruning is finally undertaken after years of mispruning or a total lack thereof. In those cases the natural look can't be achieved immediately but will follow, in time. Yet another lesson in patience.
I'm hoping to convince Elizabeth Doyle (of the Yankee Clippers) to create a how-to video on the subject of shrub pruning because she's a full-time professional pruner and a proven public speaker to boot! Update to follow.