Backyard Envy's James DeSantis shares the one plant that elevates every garden – whatever its size

The celebrity garden landscaper 'can't say enough' about this plant, which works in gardens of all sizes and in all climates

Backyard Envy’s James DeSantis versatile planting tips
(Image credit: Dane Tashima)

Globally-renowned garden designer James DeSantis has built a career upon his ingenious garden tips and tricks – but this might be his most invaluable advice yet. 

Alongside Garrett Magee and Melissa Brasier – better known as The Manscapers – James has crafted urban exterior spaces for the likes of Calvin Klein and Diane von Furstenberg. However, wherever he is, James's go-to greenery remains the same. 

See more backyard ideas in our dedicated guide

In an exclusive interview with H&G, he revealed the versatile plant that will work in every type of exterior space – whatever the climate – and whatever the size. 

Backyard Envy’s James DeSantis versatile planting tips

(Image credit: Dane Tashima)

Which plant will work in every garden – according to The Manscapers?

Backyard Envy’s James DeSantis versatile planting tips

(Image credit: Dane Tashima)

'A boxwood definitely works in every single setting. We use them constantly in country gardens, in English-style gardens, on city rooftops. We use them in LA, San Francisco – they are just a universal shrub that can be shaped and molded any way,' James shares. 

After praising the boxwood's versatility, James continued, admiring the plant's other qualities – from its durability to evergreen qualities. 

'Sometimes, if you're designing a natural garden, boxwood can add some structure. If you want something that's more of an English-style garden, they can create more formal shapes. They're durable; they're hardy, they're evergreen,' he says.

See: Patio ideas – for living and dining outdoors, stylishly

Backyard Envy’s James DeSantis versatile planting tips

(Image credit: Dane Tashima)

See: Deck planting ideas – using beds, planters and living walls

'Boxwoods continue to grow over years and years, and they're not too high-maintenance. I just can't say enough about a common boxwood and how many uses and varieties they can have.'

While boxwoods inject the ambiance of a lush country garden throughout all exterior spaces, James also offered further plant suggestions that he uses to bring elements of the country to a small space. 

'If you're limited space-wise, it's hard to get that luxe, country feel. The way we would do that would be in the planting. We would build large planter boxes that are high up and then plant tall grass and wildflowers that will help shade some of the surroundings, so you feel enveloped in plants,' he explains. 

James DeSantis plant

(Image credit: Dane Tashima)

See: Patio planting ideas – add life to your outdoor space with plants

For more tips from James and the entire Manscapers team, catch up with Backyard Envy and look out for their new book Take it Outside.

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.