Mar 14, 2012

Don't BOX Me In


Metro Hort
March 13, 2012

Andrea Fillippone is obsessed with a plant, I don't care for.  She is an expert on all things boxwood.  Andrea propagates it, goes on plant expeditions searching for it, and uses it in all its forms and cultivars in her own garden and others she designs.

I understand obsession.  I sympathize with anyone who has a plant compulsion, infatuation or mania.  Fixating on 'Glencoe', 'Green Beauty', 'Green Mound', 'Green Velvet', or 'Wintergreen'; I can relate.  When I worked as a graphic designer, I often challenged myself to use one typeface and only one typeface on a job.  When a typeface is well designed, it has myriad possibilities, even though it's ONE typeface.  I suppose the same can be said of one genus, which has 70 species. 
Andrea Fillippone lives on a large estate in New Jersey.  Her gardens are traditional.  She uses boxwood as designers have for hundreds of years, to define areas, create edges and add winter color.  She also uses 'Dee Runk', 'Green Pillow', 'Morris Dwarf', Morris Midget', 'Jensen' and her favorite, 'Justin Brouwers' in unusual ways.  She is not a big shearer.  She groups cultivars -  very dwarf, upright and medium together. She enjoys the variety of leaf, density and color(yes, boxwoods have different shades of green). And perhaps, most importantly she treats all her gardens organically.
Andrea's  passion for boxwood could be infectious, but I have a strong immune system.  In my mind, even unclipped; it's still a plant wrapped in formality, with a history it can't escape.  In the hands of a more unconventional designer, boxwood might be used in a way that makes me stand up and take notice.

After the Metrohort meeting, I walked up Fifth Avenue to get my bus crosstown.  Almost every single "garden" in front of the apartment houses on Fifth, contain 90% boxwood.  Some are sheared into rows, some are rounded, a few are fastigiata, but all maintain that look of neatness and uniformity demanded by the street.  Craving order, but living in chaos, I can't wrap my head around Buxus.


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