Dwarf Box hedging (its official name is Buxus sempervirens Suffruticosa - which means "shrubby evergreen box") was first propagated in the 1750's and, although the name of its breeder have been lost in the intervening centuries, his or her brainchild has made its name in history as probably the smallest hedge plant in the world. Like its big brother, Dwarf Box hedging is an ideal plant for ornamental displays, with shiny and dense little leaves that clip very well and the fact that it grows so slowly (and I really do mean slowly - about 2 inches per year in a sunny or shady spot) means that it doesn't need much attention.
There are two classic uses for it that can be seen on show in just about any famous English garden. The good news is that you don't need a famous garden (or gardener!) to get the same effects in your own garden for a minimum of effort.
The first is as low hedging - usually so low that edging is a more accurate description - typically around roses, alongside a path or as part of a geometric display (known as knot gardens or parterres). Think of Dwarf Box hedging as a sumptuous frame, fit for the beautiful painting that is your flower bed. The most common way of making this frame is to keep the hedge strictly trimmed into a perfect square or rectangle - even a triangle, if you like - which can easily be achieved by tying a piece of string between two sticks to guide you as you trim.
With the possible exception of a wild country garden flower bed, this type of edging will look good with just about any border arrangement. If a precise shape doesn't fit into your scheme, you can get rid of the guiding string and just let the plants grow naturally, gently trimming out any straggly growth (it takes at least a full year of unchecked growth before your plants produce anything that could realistically be called a straggle) to keep a rounded shape that will fit in anywhere and can look fantastic when planted beside a flag stone paved path, with the rounded form of the plants bulging slightly over the straight edges of the stones.
The second popular use of dwarf box plants is to make them into globes. These can be deployed as an element of punctuation in parterres or at the corners of a box hedge but the most common place to see them is in containers - on a patio, in a window box, on either side of a doorway or even indoors. Because it is so small, Dwarf Box is an absolutely ideal plant for a container and, once it has reached its desired size, will very rarely need re-potting. It is great for a window box - you should be able to fit a row of three or four plants onto the average windowsill - and will do just fine on quite dark ledges.
With these simple shapes, you will be able to achieve a surprisingly wide range of effects in your garden - try experimenting with using different sizes of Box next to each other, perhaps as a miniature cloud hedge. If you have the patience, you can also get a bit more technical and use Dwarf Box to make delicate little topiary forms. Whichever shape you are going for, remember one piece of advice - you can always take a little more off, but you can't put it back on. With such a slow grower, it is always best to let it get to the height you want before you start getting stuck into trimming.
Anna Stenning is an expert on Dwarf box hedging having used these to edge her garden for a neat look.