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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Cable-Alexander

How old could the box hedge in our garden possiby be?

Unravelling the mystery of our leggy garden beauty. A prize for anyone who can give us the correct answer.

When was this box hedge planted?
Can you guess the age of our marvelous box hedge?

I often wonder how old our box hedge is and figure that it might be the same age as the house as it is rare to see one that has grown to that size. Over the years we have had guests staying who have lived in the house in the distant past as children or known the family who owned it. The photos they've brought with them show the box hedge as well as an old walnut true which is no longer there as it succumbed to honey fungus, which lives in wood and can be a killer of shrubs, perennials and trees. The box has survived however in all it's leggy glory and a quick search of google reveals that such hedges can live on for up to 200 years.

How old can oue bodge hedge possibly be?
Can you tell the age of our box hedge by its marvellously leggy legs?

Our house, together with the property next door which mirrors Ellesmere and is the other half of the overall building, was built by a Victorian industrialist around the 1870s for his family to be together but apart. One set of his family lived on one side and rest on the other with Ellesmere having a drive and coach house alongside it that served the two houses. Even to this day there are signs of the interlinking elements of the properties including traces of a door that linked what is now bathroom to the other side. Thank goodness it is no longer there otherwise someone might be in for a shock. There is also a small carved wooden door in our kitchen sink area where the local shopkeepers would make their deliveries (see below).

A Victorian wooden panelled tiny door
Not quite Amazon style delivery! The tiny door in our kitchen where the butcher, baker and grocer used to leave their goods

The question is was the box planted with the house when the industrialist's family moved in? The oldest photographs we have seen date back to the 1950s and show the box hedge already at a considerable size which makes us think the box must have been planted when the house was built. Does anyone agree?

An ancient box hedge cloud cut into shape
We think the hedge might have been planted when the house was built in the 1870s

We cut the hedge once a year around Derby Day in June, the day traditionally box hedges are snipped for that was the day when in the past landowners would disappear off to the Derby leaving gardeners free to get on with their work. It is also said to be a day that is good to choose to clip box to avoid its arch enemy, box blight.

Honesty plants and foxgloves under an old box hedge
The hedge is a haven for wildflowers and wildlife

The hedge provides a fantastic backdrop for plants including one of my favourites Honesty which transform into wonderfully silvery displays in winter - great for flower arranging in Spring and Winter. Foxgloves adore the setting too. We've also tried to plant another favourite of mine under the hedge, Lily of the Valley, but it has never taken. Today we let nature take its course and the burst of Honesty this year is the best we have ever seen.

Wildlife adores burrowing in or under the hedges two. There's a family of pigeons that come back and next in the laurel hedge at the end of the line of box year in year out which our Italian greyhound/whippet cross, Willow, loves trying leap up and chase though from our photo of her here she doesn't look as if butter would melt in her mouth! Beyond the you can see the Newt in Somerset's diggers at work, laying the new route which will link the main gardens of the hotel to Lodge Hill - the hill behind our house.

We asked Willow to pose for us by the hedge to give an idea of its size and age. So if anyone can give us a correct idea of when the box was planted we would be delighted to hear and offer a 10% discount on a night's stay at Ellesmere as a prize. Get calculating!

Italian greyhound in sunny garden alongside box hedge and Italian olive urn
Willow practicsing "Sit" And "Stay" alongside the hedge to give an idea of its size. So far it is about 10ft hight. Our gardener has to use a tall latter to trim it every year

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