Back in 2014, UGA’s Dr. Jean Woodward wrote about finding the first case of Boxwood Blight in Atlanta. Gardeners and landscapers who have followed that story have been taking the warnings about this plant disease seriously.
However, following sanitation guidelines to avoid spreading the disease, and then destroying any infected plants, is not convenient. These steps aren’t especially easy, either.
In yards and gardens that have been affected by this blight, alternative plants that can fill the same role are needed. Replanting more boxwood in those empty spaces is not a good idea!
UGA’s publication “Think Outside the Boxwood” (original link to webpage for this no longer works) lists some planting options to consider and some to avoid. The publication includes photos of some of the examples. These give readers an idea of how the substitutions could change the look of the landscape.
In a formal setting, such as a knot garden, the alternate plants may bring a whole new look. Can you imagine the knot as a string of Purple Pixie loropetalum twined with Pineapple guava? Or a string of upright Plum Yew with a spreading holly fern?
Those who love formal, clipped-boxwood hedges might not love some of the alternatives, but there is plenty of room for creativity, and there are some small-leaved, compact options (like the yaupon hollies) that can bring a close-enough appearance to the beloved knot. The substitutions may seem strange now, but they are are a good option for helping to reduce the spread of boxwood blight in Atlanta.