Clipped evergreens provide great structure and year-round interest, creating a contrast to blowsy summer perennials, and also distracting from less well cared for areas. But don't rush in and get a couple of box balls, Buxus semperivens – there are a myriad of different options, including good alternatives to box if blight is a problem in your area. Ilex crenata or Hebe rakaiensis can be clipped to create rounded evergreen balls or domes similar to box or yew. For something simpler, consider narrow leaf Portuguese Laurel, Prunus lusitanica, easy to grow and happy in most situations or, more radically, deciduous beech, great for beehive shapes and bigger forms. Finally, my favorourite, Osmanthus x burwoodii with glossy dark green leaves and highly scented, jasmine-like white flowers, it's the ultimate alternative to box, very hardy, happy in shade and tolerant of most soils.
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