Vintage landscape: boxwood drive

Boxwood hedge, by F.B. Johnston, Library of CongressDriveway, Castle Hill, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1926, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The original house on the plantation of Castle Hill was built in 1764 by Dr. Thomas Walker and his wife Mildred.  Walker was a friend of Peter Jefferson and later guardian to his son,Thomas.

At the time of this photo, the property was owned by his descendant, Amélie Louise Rives Troubetzkoy, a novelist married to a Russian prince who eventually ran somewhat short of funds.

By the fall of 1938, when future novelist Louis Auchincloss, then a law student at the University of Virginia, came to have tea with the aging princess, he found her living in “romantic, impoverished isolation in a decaying manor house.” To get to the house, he had to find his way through a double row of aromatic box hedges that rose up three stories high and were so enormous that his bulky Pontiac could barely pass through. The awe-inspiring hedges even became the subject of one of Amélie’s poems, which she wrote in middle age. She ends the poem with “Hedges of Box,/Hedges of Magic./…Behind your barrier of glad enchantment/I have rediscovered reality.” The reality Amélie envisioned had herself within the encircling wall of boxwood, still a young beauty of twenty-one, seated on the back of a unicorn.

— Donna M. Lucey, from “The Temptress of Castle Hill,” Garden and Gun

Today, the estate is still privately owned.  Its remaining 1,203 acres (from the original 15,000) have been permanently protected against development by a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy.

4 thoughts on “Vintage landscape: boxwood drive

  1. One look at the picture transported me to my childhood (in not-far-away Lexington). The walkway to and from church were bordered by huge boxwood hedges. A blight of some kind in the 1970s removed them, almost all the ones in the Stonewall Jackson cemetery, and the way-too-big box bushes in front of our house.

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