The video was filmed at Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania National Military Park and created in partnership by the National Park Service Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation; Park Historic Structures and Cultural Landscape Program; and Learning and Development Program-Facility Maintenance Academy.
Now that we’ve selected the cultivar to plant in the Fredricksburg Garden at Chatham, we’re going to now look for healthy plant material. So here’s a nice looking boxwood. You tell it’s got a nice green, dark green color, not a lot of dead on it. It looks very live and vigorous. We don’t see any signs of insects or disease within the plant so that’s a good sign for us. I stick my finger down in the plant and I can tell the plant is nice and moist so they’ve been watering it, so that’s good. These plants haven’t been drying out. Now if I squeeze the pot and take the plant out, I can take a look at the root mass.
And you can see on this plant, there are some girdling roots on it, but it’s got a lot of good live roots and nothing that we can’t fix in the field by a couple of cuts. Girdling roots form on the plant when it’s left in the pot for too long. The roots like to grow out, and when the roots can’t grow out, they start spinning around the pot and they wrap around the plant, and that girdles the plant. It could get up to the point where it would girdle the stem and kill the plant, but this is just not good. You don’t want plants that have been left in the pot for way too long. They should be potted up to the next size pot if they’ve been in the pot for a long time.
This morning we’re going to be planting boxwood in a hedge in the gardens here at Chatham. We’re going to be doing that in trenches to place the boxwood about one foot apart from one another on center. By that I mean that we’re going to actually be placing the boxwood 12 inches apart from center of plant to center of plant. We’ve prepared a trench to actually plant the boxwood and the trench was first dug with a pointed shovel to create the depth that we’re going to be planting the boxwood at and that will be about 5 inches below the existing grade of the garden.
After we rough dug the trench with a pointed shovel, we came in with a flat spade to actually cut the edge to create finer and more distinct lines. Then we graded out the trenches you can see its relatively level to about 5 inches again below the grade of the garden. Now when we plant the boxwood, they’re actually going to be coming out of their containers at different heights and when we remove the top portion of the soil to expose where the root flair or where the roots begin at the base or the stem of the boxwood. Those are going to be at slightly different levels from plant to plant so when we actually go to position the plant in the ground some of the plants we’re going to have to put some soil below these root balls in order to get them to the correct height. Others we may have to dig a little bit further into the trench to get them to the correct level. But this is how we’re going to prepare the remaining 3 trenches in the garden to plant out the complete hedge along each of these 4 garden beds.
We’re going to be planting a boxwood hedge in this pre-dug trench, and we want to make sure that each of the plants are 8 inches off of the edge of the existing garden bed, so using a tape measure I’m going to measure in 8 inches off of the existing edge and put a stake in at the beginning of the trench. From here I’ll put a second stake in midway down the center of the trench, and I’ll attach a string between this take and the next one down the row. So once this string is actually attached between the stakes at the center of the trench, we’ll use it as a guide to make sure that each of the plants is centered to one another and exactly 8 inches on center from the edge of the bed.
So now we’re placing the plants into the trench to layout the hedge and in order to plant them accurately within the row we have a few homemade tools that we’re using in order to properly space them. First, we have used some available staking bamboo to mark out 12 inch increments. Those 12 inch increments are being used from the center point of each plant to the center point of the next adjacent plant so we’re sure that they’re each 12 inches on center. Secondly, we have previously
installed a line that’s exactly 8 inches from the edge of the planting bed to the center point of each plant. So using these 2 tools, we’re able to make sure that we have plants spaced 12 inches apart and 8 inches in from the edge of the planting bed. In order to make sure that we’re planting at the proper depth, we’re using a garden stake to identify across the width of the trench that we have previously dug- the depth at which we want the plant to actually be installed into the ground.
The planting process involves taking the containerized plant and first step would be after removing the plant from the container is to remove the top soil that may have accumulated at the base of the stem, just to expose where the roots initiate from and that’s usually about, in the case of these boxwoods, about an inch or so from the top of the root ball as it came in from the nursery.
Then as we can see there are a number of circling roots around the base of the plant. All the roots are very healthy, but the circling root pattern will continue to grow that way unless we break it apart. So there are number of different ways we can do that. We can tease them apart with our fingers and pull them out and break up that circling, or we can a soil knife or utility knife and in 3 or 4 areas around the circumference of the root ball we can sever the roots as well.
From there, we place the plant using our story board, 12 inches distance from the prior plant that was
planted into the trench. And then we use the stake to make sure that we have the plant at the correct depth. And the depth we’re really looking for for these boxwoods is about an inch to an inch and a half above the grade line. So in this case I’ll move the stake to this side. You can see that we’re about an inch and a half above the stake which means that we’re about an inch and a half above the grade of the garden to either side. This is because the hole we dug as part of the trench isn’t very compact, and this soil will settle over time and as such the plant itself will settle into that planting hole.
So our intent is that the plant will settle to where it matches up with the existing grade of the garden over time. So that’s a good planting depth. It’s on the center line down the center of the hedge and it is 12 inches away from on center from the adjacent plant. So now we’re ready to fill in soil around it. The soil in this garden has a little bit of clay in it so it’s clumped up a little bit. Take that soil and we place it around the base of the boxwood and we firm it into place. And we’re ready to move onto the next one.
We just completed planting boxwood in a row to form a hedge along the edge of this garden border. Just prior to planting, a soil test was conducted to see if we needed to adjust any of the nutrient levels of Ph of the soil. It was determined that no adjustments were needed. However, there were a number of wood chips that remained in the garden bed that were incorporated into the soil that couldn’t be removed as the holes were being dug and the trench was being prepared for planting. When wood chips remain in the soil and they begin to decompose, they draw nitrogen from the soil and make it unavailable to the plants to feed the decomposition process.
In order to compensate for that, we are applying a 10/10/10 fertilizer, 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 10% potassium in order to support the decomposition process, or offset the nitrogen that’s used for the decomposition process while the wood chips are decomposing in the soil. So we’re just going to apply a very small amount of fertilizer around each plant and cultivate it into the top surface of the soil. This fertilizer will wash into the soil as the plants are irrigated. Once the fertilizer is applied, we will irrigate it in, water it in and also gently wash off the plants to make sure any fertilizer that may have ended up on the foliage is washed off.
After watering the plants in we’re going to then come in and apply a very thin layer of about one to one and a half inches of mulch to keep the weeds down and help the plants establish themselves by creating or developing good root systems in the soil. So we’ll continue to mulch the bed and the hedge route along the entire length and we’ll irrigate the plants in once more and let the plants grow and develop into a hedge.