English Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens, 'Suffruticosa') a cultivar of American Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens, 'Arborescens'), is a slower grower and more compact than the latter. "Man's oldest garden oriental" was first introduced to North America from Europe in the mid-1600's when it was brought to the Virginia colony on tall-masted sailing ships. Very old plantings may be seen on the historic James River plantations, at Monticello, Mount Vernon, and around Williamsburg.
The first time I saw the house, the overgrown shrubs in front dominated my vision. The enormous English Boxwoods had not been maintained in years, and we were a little overwhelmed by their size. Often, when people found out that we had purchased the home, the first question they asked was "What are you going to do with the boxwoods?" Everyone seemed to have an opinion — some saying the bushes had to go, or they were too far gone, while others insisted we must not get rid of them.
We were unsure of what we were going to do, as the interior of the house was our priority.
We were told that the boxwoods were planted when Mary Humphreys graduated from high school, which, I'm estimating, was around 1928. They really are a part of the home's history, and we knew we wanted to try our best to do what Mary would have wanted — keep them. As I mentioned last week, we found a local gardening expert who saw the value in pruning them, and propping them up. This week, he got to work and the pile of cut branches was larger then the shrubs that remained. They now look like small trees in front of the porch.
We look forward to seeing the new growth that will occur slowly over time, bringing the boxwoods back to life.