Modern Box trees, that is, those grown for the trade in Holland and Belgium, no matter how carefully they have been trimmed, cannot give the same feeling to a new yard as a few venerable specimens ruthlessly torn from the garden of an old farmhouse, where for a hundred years they have been the features as their more fantastically clipped prototypes were the features of Pliny's elaborate plaisance. The Box trees grown in the gardens of long ago were propagated from stock of Buxus sempervirens obtained in England and Holland. It is quite different in appearance from most of the specimens offered in the nurseries today, which are varieties of the old shrub, but generally quite dissimilar in character from their common ancestor. It was used for hedges and edgings, and as its habit of growth was more compact, the leaves smaller and lying closer together, and the colour richer, when carefully pleached it presented the smooth surface so much admired and sought for. The old Buxus sempervirens was used also for specimens on the lawn or in front of the house, and if allowed to grow freely it developed into the most picturesque tree of peculiar conformation. On page 121 is a picture of an old hedge of Buxus sempervirens and a specimen tree of the same variety that was probably planted at the same time.
There is one on each side of the porch steps of this old farmhouse in Westchester County. It has taken many, many years for them to reach so large a size. Buxus sempervirens var. arborescens is the Tree Box that is grown in large quantities in Europe. If used for edging it will be found to develop much more rapidly that the old variety, although the colour is not so good nor the growth so compact. In Washington, D. C, arborescens has been much used in the public squares where it has grown to the height of ten or twelve feet.
Modern Box resembles the low-toned, scarred antiques about as much as machine-made furniture reproduced to-day from the designs of Hepple-white and Sheraton resembles the time-softened maple and mahogany of the eighteenth century. The reproducer unconsciously adds a touch or two of his own which spoils the effect. Yet good reproductions of old furniture are not to be ignored when one cannot obtain originals, and modern Box is far better than no Box at all, and should be plentifully used in the garden and on the grounds. Buy forms that you can shape yourself more or less after the patterns of the old shrubs, and the rounder they are the better they will look, for old Box was generally either dumpy and plethoric and appeared as if it were a crinoline, or it was shaped like an inverted pyramid. The clipped pyramidal forms are the least desirable and are usually the most plentiful and cheap.
Box and Yew in an English Garden.
The old specimens are of great assistance to anyone who is trying to produce the effect of an old yard and garden, but unfortunately the supply is limited. The revival of garden-making during the past few years has stripped the nurseries of the few old and attractive specimens that they once possessed, and the owners of good Box trees in the small towns and villages are fast becoming educated to the value of their long neglected heirlooms. The bargainer will have to be diplomatic and persistent and possessed of a well-filled purse, for when the expenses of lifting and moving and replanting are added to the original bill of sale the figures will tot up to a considerable sum.
The moving of these old specimens should be entrusted to men of experience, for the operation is by no means a simple one and the risk is great. Many nurserymen make a specialty of moving Box for their rich patrons, and they have been quite successful, although it seems to be more or less a matter of luck. Small trees can be successfully moved in late October after the first really sharp frost, and they should be reset in the same quality of soil as that to which they have been used, a light loam. Good drainage should be provided, for the accumulation of water around the roots is fatal. Avoid setting them in heavy, clayey soil that holds moisture and freezes like a rock, or in cuppy ground where the water is apt to collect around their butts. Care should be taken not to break the tap roots, and to keep the wind and air from drying out any of the roots while in transportation. When setting the tree, puddle the loam as it is thrown back into the excavation, as that will settle it more closely about the roots than the most careful tamping. Be sure to protect the roots by a liberal dressing of coarse litter, and when that is removed in the Spring substitute a good mulch of fine, well-rotted manure.
As Box is such a greedy feeder it should be watered through the Summer with manure water, and if this is done the results will not only please but surprise you. December, after the ground is well frozen, is the best time to move large and very old specimens, for then a good ball may be lifted with the roots very much as if they were potted. The condition of the trees, the quality of the soil in which they are reestablished and the care and intelligence with which the transplantation is effected seem to have more to do with successful moving than anything else.
Another good evergreen, a native of northeastern America, is the Arbor Vitae (Thuja oc-cidentalis), a White Cedar of quicker growth than the Red. It is a tapering tree twenty to fifty feet high, with close, dense foliage that bears clipping well. It is extensively used in America in formal work for hedges, arches and screens, in fact it is the only tree we have that can be grown and trimmed into solid looking walls as the Yew is so extensively trained and trimmed in English gardens. Thuja pyramidalis is a variety of more marked pyramidal form that may be used in semi-formal work to take the place of Red Cedar, for it has much the same appearance although it is a more living green in colour. Arbor Vitae occi-dentalis is perfectly hardy. The best screen that I have ever seen made with it is located on the summit of a high, exposed ridge in northern Connecticut, where it is buffeted by all the Winter winds that blow; where the mercury often gets and stays below zero. This screen is twelve or fourteen feet high and has doorways cut through it.
It is very old and must have been closely clipped for generations, yet it is apparently in perfect condition, effectively sheltering an old farmhouse.
The best trees to use in planting a small estate, in the order given, are:
Deciduous Pin Oak White Oak Red Oak
Use White Pine and Hemlock with Pin Oak and the Maples; Nordmann's Fir and Red Cedar with Elms and White and Red Oaks; Arbor Vita) and Cedar with the Pin Oaks; Norway Spruce with the Oaks, Elms, or Maples, but sparingly.
The Oaks may all be planted together or with Hickory and Chestnut; the Swamp Maple with the other Maples and with Pin Oak; the Elm is better by itself, as also the Linden, Copper Beech and Whitewood. Lombardy Poplars are to be used very sparingly in connection with the house and the garden.