Obviously I mean the plant not the container. If we were without boxes (cardboard, wooden or metal) then we would be in serious trouble with loose matches, washing powder, chocolates, teabags and the newly deceased rattling around the place uncontained by any sort of box. We would also be very limited in that we would be left with just the envelope outside of which to think.*
No: as you are fully aware, I am talking about Buxus (both suffruticosa and sempervirens: the former being the short one used as a border edge) and its place in our gardens. Without box the formal garden would be up the creek (as we are discovering now that box blight has taken many miles of formal hedging and all the alternatives are a bit, well, rubbish). For topiary we would be limited to yew which is fine but lacks that fresh lettucey colour in its new leaves. Our woodlands would be short of winter evergreen and the Christmas wreath industry would have no alternative to holly.
Box came here with the Romans (another one of the things the Romans did for us along with aqueducts, roads, central heating, larks tongues, Kennedy’s primer, Cotta, tagliatelle and the bunga-bunga party) who used it in much the same way as we do, for hedging and topiary – the Latin for landscape gardener is a Toparius.
It is a particularly useful plant as not only can it be clipped into submission but can also be grown as a shaggier shrub or even a relatively substantial tree. The wood is just the thing you need if you want to make a musical instrument or a chess piece. However, as it is one of the few woods which is denser than water, it is probably a bad idea to use a box tree for a dug out canoe.
In conclusion, it is a pretty invaluable shrub whose only disadvantages are its susceptibility to box blight (B.suffruticosa should be avoided) and the unfortunate fact that the leaves do smell of cat pee.
*That is a rather convoluted, though strangely elegant, sentence. It harps back to school when it was drummed into me that you should never end a sentence with a preposition. That was a situation up with which they would not put.