Boxwood Blight – Replace Boxwoods with Holly

Classic boxwood hedgerows serve as the structural backdrop for many formal gardens but — from Burgundy to Buckhead — the hedges that have kept the fanciest gardens trim and tasteful for decades are under attack.

Boxwood blight, a fungal disease that attacks the time-honored shrubs, is destroying centuries-old hedgerows in some of the most famous gardens in Europe and the U.S. However, the ‘Emerald Colonnade’ holly, bred by College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences plant breeder John Ruter, is proving an excellent replacement for boxwoods due to its tiny leaves, rapid growth and modest water requirements.

When boxwood blight was found at the 100-year-old formal garden at the Swann House at the Atlanta History Center in 2018, garden curators used ‘Emerald Colonnade’ to replace the garden’s boxwoods, said Sarah Roberts, vice president of Goizueta Gardens and Living Collections at the Atlanta History Center. The plants proved an ideal solution that could be integrated into the existing garden design without much downtime for the popular event venue.