cloth, 343 p., $110
For anyone who associates boxwood only with the formal hedges seen in Williamsburg or stately homes in Virginia, this book is a revelation as to the amazing varieties of this ancient plant. Lynn Batdorf is the Boxwood Registrar for the American Boxwood Society as well as the curator of the National Boxwood Collection at the United States National Arboretum in Washington. In the 18 years he spent compiling the information for this book, he traveled widely throughout this country and Europe. This has resulted in a "definitive guide that will assist both the professional and layman in proper identification and understanding of this much loved shrub." There are 335 photographs, as well as detailed descriptions of each plant and instructions for care and warnings of pests to which the plant is susceptible.
The history of this plant, cultivated for 6,000 years, its economic uses, customs and lore were of particular interest to me. The botanical name "buxus" refers to the Latin for box since the wood was used to make small boxes in which to store various precious items. In recent years, boxwood has increased in popularity in this country because deer will not eat it except when no other food is available. It is also prized for its durability and adaptability. As Batdorf points out, "one reason why boxwood has been so successful for thousands of years, is its natural ability to persevere under adverse conditions." For those readers who find the musky smell of some varieties of boxwood offensive, Batdorf offers a suggestion. He tells of the discovery by monks around 1000 that if they "covered their cups with a small sprig of boxwood, the flies found the smell offensive and were repelled by it."
This book may provide you with more than you ever need to know about boxwood, but you can just read the history and browse through the pictures for an interesting overview.
— Joan Richards, volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden