Gunston Hall Boxwoods | Abbeville Institute

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Gunston Hall, with its gardens, and boxwoods lining the walk down to the River. (From the linked article.)

The years when these boxwood sent their roots into the Virginia soil were the years the American republic took root on these shores.

Source: Gunston Hall Boxwoods | Abbeville Institute

“George Mason, like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, was happiest at home, either in the fields and woods, with a good book by the hearth, or entertaining neighbors and family. Living close to the soil, time was measured by the rhythms of nature. The flow of the seasons brought different activities: planting and harvesting, fishing and hunting, visiting neighbors in winter, and strolling through the gardens in summer. There was time for church, social gatherings, dances and parties, especially during the Christmas season. All took place in the community and around the home… Traditions ran deep, with kith and kin close by and entertainments mostly homemade.”

This would be my ideal life! I cannot conceive of a better. True, today we have advances like indoor plumbing, air conditioning (!), and advanced medicine (although the way it is organized, distributed, and administered has plenty of room for improvement); but was it really necessary to give up graciousness, in exchange for these benefits? I wonder, I truly do…

In any case:

“… for George Mason, home was Gunston Hall in Fairfax County, Virginia. … Mason and many of his contemporaries loved to experiment with plants and took pride in their gardens. Gunston Hall was noted for the beautiful English boxwood that lined the walk from the house to a beautiful view of the Potomac River…

“Visitors such as Washington, Jefferson, and other patriots, neighbors and family, walked down the garden paths, and guided by the boxwood, took in the vista of the distant Potomac River, the artery of trade in this region. As children played, talk of domestic concerns and the nature of American rights and liberties was heard on these grounds…

“Now the boxwood have fallen on hard times and the decision has been made to dig them up. Experts believe that at 230 years old, the plants may be at the end of their natural life. The boxwood was planted amidst such hope, as the Colonies won their independence, and went about the process of protecting their hard won liberties. Perhaps the boxwood just does not understand how a country with so much promise could go so far astray. Nor would George Mason.”

This is barely to scratch the surface of this excellent essay, which uses the boxwood of Gunston Hall as the backdrop for a tale of the rise and fall of the America our Founders intended: – ’tis a mere appetizer, to entice one to the feast. Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest! But this I will say, if the above is not sufficient enticement: might the imminent demise of Gunston Hall’s boxwood, beautiful as they have been for more than two centuries, be an emblem of the demise of other things, just as old – but things of much deeper import…? Again, I wonder!

Author: The Anglophilic Anglican

I am an ordained Anglican clergyman, published writer, former op-ed columnist, and experienced outdoor and informal educator. I am also a traditionalist: religiously, philosophically, politically, and socially. I seek to do my bit to promote and restore the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, in a world which has too-often lost touch with all three, and to help re-weave the connections between God, Nature, and humankind which our techno-industrial civilization has strained and broken.

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