Preserving Boxwood, Part 2

Staged Boxwood 1

To recap, I put cut stems from the boxwood bushes in front of our house into a solution of glycerin, water, citric acid and green floral dye. You can read about that process here.

After a couple of weeks I removed the stems from the solution at the sink. I wasn’t interested in taking a chance on drips from the dye accidently staining our furniture. I rinsed each stem completely, paying extra attention to the wet dye at the base.

I gently shook off the water, blotted the stems dry and bundled them into two bunches. I grabbed a spool of red ribbon and tied each bunch, leaving a long tail to hang it. The next stop: out to our screened-in porch where I hung them from immobile fan blades.

Boxwood on Porch

They stayed on the porch a bit over a week, until we had a few days of rain. I didn’t want them to soak up the moisture again so I brought them into the house and strung them up for another several days.

I took both my painted containers to Michaels to make sure I bought the right sized foam bricks. The choices almost paralyzed me: shelves on both sides brimming with rectangular bricks, spheres, half spheres, narrow ones, wide, flat, thick, wet foam, dry foam, styrofoam, green, white. I went with the package of 6 dry foam bricks and headed for the cashier with my coupon in hand. It came to less than $3.

Two bricks fit the rectangular container perfectly.

Foam in Container

Now the arranging began in earnest — and it wasn’t pretty. I tried three times before I was satisfied. These are issues I encountered:

1. I had waited for the solutions in the glass vase and plastic container to evaporate but that never happened. I bit the bullet and stopped waiting. I’d read stories about fuzzy moss beginning to grow and wanted to avoid that experience.

2. Some of the stems were more like branches and the dye just didn’t make it all the way up to the tips. This resulted in the robust leaves on the bottom  half of the branch being dark green while the yellowing upper leaves curled dryly. I learned to be more careful in performing the cuttings on the bush, selecting stems and not branches.

Don't cut your stems as thick as these. The solution won't reach the leaves.

Don’t cut your stems as thick as these. The solution won’t reach the leaves.

3. I must not have placed a couple of stems properly in the solution. I could have blamed the quick evaporation of the liquid, but since that never happened, I believe I failed to immerse them — make contact with — the solution when I shoved them in. The result was predictable: yellowing, dry leaves.

4. My stems were wildly uneven. This can be advantageous when arranging flowers but it was a mess with boxwood. I had to snip and prune the the jumble into a quasi-uniform height. That meant aggressively pruning the tall, thick branches and then stripping leaves off the bases so I could easily place them in the foam.

Boxwood Yellowing leaves

5. My four cats loved the dyed boxwood. They jumped onto my  work table and gnawed the stems. Or they knocked them to the floor and tried to drag them off. That made me crazy. I worried the dye would poison them. David asked me to look up the answer on Google but I only got as far as discovering the Cat Fanciers’ Association lists boxwood as toxic to felines. So, I didn’t need to worry about their eating the dyed  boxwood because just plain boxwood could  potentially be lethal or, at least, cause diarrhea and vomiting. I rounded our cats up, put them in the bedroom and closed the door.

I finished my arrangement on my third attempt, at which time I decided I could live with it. High praise, indeed. The stems don’t look uniform like the ones in magazine photos or shown below in an advertisement. My arrangement has a hint of wildness that works for me.

11.5" Preserved Boxwood available at Silks Are Forever

11.5″ Preserved Boxwood available at Silks Are Forever

I put my arrangement up on the refrigerator, hoping the cats would forget about it. After few weeks I reintroduced it. So far, they ignore it. If they decide to munch on the leaves, my preserved boxwood will make a lovely gift.

And what of my second container? I used up the preserved boxwood in my first attempt. I still plan to craft the foam from those remaining bricks into a semicircle, but the second one sits empty as an attractively painted bowl.

I’ll need to buy another 8 oz. bottle of glycerin but I have plenty of floral dye and citric acid left. To say nothing of my boxwood bushes. Further efforts, however, will depend on our cats: Boston, Heidi, Starbuck and Pepper Popcorn.

I’ll leave you with an image of our boxwood bushes all dolled up for Christmas.

Boxwood With Xmas Lights

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3 thoughts on “Preserving Boxwood, Part 2

  1. Great tips to know! I have one little boxwood, so I wouldn’t be able to trim too much, but I’ve wanted to try this myself. I am pinning to refer back to it.

  2. Camp Cammidge says:

    As an added bonus (if you needed one!) your boxwood shrubs will grow back in spades – ready for your next boxwood marathon! I’m jealous, actually. I have the Oregon boxwood (which is Paxistima myrsinites) only. Similar, but not quite the same. Florists use the wild crafted sprigs in floral arrangements.

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