Wineka column: 183-year-old boxwood no ordinary shrub
In honor of former presidents ó the Bushes, that is ó I recently visited the Brown-Wiseman Boxwood.
The impressive boxwood stands about 35 strides off Old Mocksville Road not far from the entrance to Polo Commons. Back yards of homes in Country Club Hills form part of the rear boundary.
A friendly dog watched me walk around the boxwood’s circumference, twist my way inside the bush and take some photographs from there and back along the road.
Like most dogs who know a good tree when they sniff one, he probably appreciated all the attention I was giving the boxwood. So he respectfully left me alone.
The city sign marking the Brown-Wiseman Boxwood’s location notes that it’s a giant specimen of buxussempervirens planted by Letitia Brown around 1826. The Brown and Wiseman families “owned and nurtured” the boxwood for 175 years before Eva Antoinette Wiseman donated the boxwood and its little slip of land to the city in 2001.
The boxwood has always intrigued me, given its size and family connection to former Post employee Sylvia Wiseman, who I still see at breakfast on occasion.
As a kid, if I had had family access to a boxwood such as this, my cousins and I would have spent plenty of time here. It could have served as some kind of exotic fort, or we could have lugged out our sleeping bags and flashlights to spend nights inside the unique, enclosed jungle it creates.
The family dog would have loved it, too.
I’m not sure what the protocol for visitors to the boxwood is. I parked on a gravel drive just off Old Mocksville Road, but I wasn’t sure I was on city property.
I also felt like a trespasser just walking toward the bush on the grassy area that resembles a side yard more than a park.
Since I’m talking in strides, I walked around the whole boxwood and it took me a good 70 paces.
I found a nice spot to enter and walked upright to the middle of the boxwood, where it seemed like another world.
The temperature dropped about 10 degrees. I could see patches of blue sky through the top branches, which I judged to be almost 30 feet high.
The boxwood’s numerous trunks come out of the ground like gnarled fingers of a spider or octopus. Some of the limbs are pitted with holes, and a lime green moss or mold covers the branches like a first coat of paint.
My stuffy nose may have prevented me from being overwhelmed by the familiar scent of boxwoods ó a smell I associate with places such as the Hall House, Old Salem and Williamsburg.
From inside the boxwood, I could hear the cars speeding by on Old Mocksville Road, but I’m pretty sure they couldn’t see me.
What do you do with an enormous 183-year-old boxwood?
The city doesn’t really have a long-range plan. Planning and Community Development Director Joe Morris says the immediate goal simply is to preserve the boxwood.
Maybe the future will hold some additional plantings, a small parking area and a protective fence around the boxwood to keep people like me from walking inside.
Morris says there are boxwoods in the country, in areas such as New England and Virginia, that are more than 300 years old. Ancient ones also can be found in Great Britain, he says.
The Brown-Wiseman Boxwood “certainly is one of the largest specimens in this part of the country,” Morris reports.
I can’t dispute that. It’s buxus ó and beautiful. Any dog worth his salt will tell you this isn’t your ordinary shrub.