2,000 years ago the Roman naturalist Gaius Plinius the elder described the common box in his work Naturalis historia. The Romans used this beautiful evergreen shrub in their gardens and patios and also in their medicines. It was a recommended cough medicine, despite being highly toxic. A little carelessness with the dosage and the patient was cured – and not only of his cough!
This dense shrub’s success story continued in the baroque gardens of European courts where it was used to divide the area into smaller sections. It is still popular in central and southern Europe for low hedging and topiary. The hard wood has been used in the making of wind instruments, for example.
Based on fossil findings, the genus Buxus is thought to date back to the warm peak of the Eocene about 50 million years ago. The warm moist climate favoured evergreens, which were general throughout Europe. As the climate cooled the various boxwood species withdrew to the south, and nowadays this species grows naturally only round the Mediterranean.
In Finland it is winter tender and demands semi-shade and wind protection. At Mustila the low shrubs survive thanks to the deep snow cover.