February 5, 2017
Big House Boxwood – Part One
Diseased and/or overgrown boxwood
In late 2015, the garden staff undertook an experiment to save the boxwood on the carriage entrance side of the Big House. The shrubs were extremely old, overgreen and diseased but, because of their age, it was determined worthwhile to work to save them and also make the landscape more aesthetically pleasing.
The original idea was to rip out all the plant material in front of the Big House and spread gravel right up to the foundation. Research in photo albums and drawing books in the archives, however, revealed several images depicting boxwood from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Yes, there were plantings in front of the Big House. In particular there are upright boxwood in the picture (see title image and below). It is believed that the large boxwood on the corner of the library is indeed the one in the picture from about 1910. This is the American Boxwood know as Buxus sempervirens “aborescens.”
Library wing including upright boxwood
After much discussion, it has been decided to try to retain the boxwood in front of the Big House. Our current plan is to continue to treat the boxwood for insect problems, clean and deadwood as needed, test the soil ph and nutrients and treat accordingly. We will also be removing the ground cover and only using a leaf mulch. The ground cover can hold a lot of the diseased leaves and it is better to use a mulch that breaks down quicker on the sensitive roots. The brick edging will be moved out further to accommodate the current boxwood properly. We will also be adding a mix of resistant boxwood and Japanese hollies to fill in the empty spaces and create a more unified look. Stay tuned for updates.
Big House with old boxwood, summer 2016.
William Fuchs, Head Gardener