Brief History of Boxerwood
In 1952, General Practitioner Robert Munger and his wife, Elizabeth Evans Munger, built their home in a slightly overgrown pasture near Lexington, Virginia. At first, to provide shade for their home, Dr. Munger began garden and landscape with trees and shrubs. At some point, he became a passionate collector, embracing the philosophy of giving plants a good start in life and setting them free to develop, mature, age, die and decay with little human intervention. His main interests rested mainly in Dwarf Conifers, Dogwoods, Rhododendrons and Azaleas, Magnolias and Japanese Maples. These are the beginnings of Boxerwood, first a family home where three children were raised, thriving in a rich and beautiful landscape, and then continuing as a center for learning and stewardship.
The Mungers raised their three children at Boxerwood including their daughter the future Sally Mann today a well known photographer and author.
In over 30 years of collecting, Dr. Munger estimated that he had planted somewhere between 12,000 - 13,000 trees and shrubs. He suggested that he had probably lost about half those to "wrong tree-wrong place", disease, infestation, short life expectancy, among other reasons. His passion for his garden grew until his death in 1988. An inventory conducted shortly after Dr. Mungers' death revealed over 7,000 trees and shrubs attributable to him. Some 2,500 were labeled cultivars. Today, Boxerwood has over 7,000 trees and shrubs (including just over 1,300 cultivars of Dr. Munger's), but nature has done much of the planting.
In 1977, Dr. Munger retired to become his own full-time gardener. Beginning in 1984, he hired Karen "KB" Bailey to help with the garden as it matured. After his death, Elizabeth Munger asked KB to remain as the Garden's Steward.
In 1996, KB Bailey and Hunter Mohring bought a portion of the land and began exploring ways to save the garden and develop its full potential for the surrounding community. The gardens opened to the public in April 1997. The next year, an Oberlin College student majoring in environmental education created an elementary science curriculum that was aligned with the Virginia Standards of Learning. Shortly thereafter, the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council received an environmental education grant and RACC Board member Mollie Messimer settled on Boxerwood as the site for implementation. In the spring of 1999, Mollie began the Education Program with students from Central Elementary School and volunteer instructors from W&L and the community. The nonprofit Boxerwood Education Association was formed in 2000 with Hunter as Executive Steward; KB, Garden Steward; and Mollie, Education Steward.
Today the education program reaches all Rockbridge area elementary and middle schools, as well as to many areaPre-Kindergarden programs. Outside of these programs, area children love our innovative Play Trail orignially designed by KB, the community enjoys our seasonal special events, and many visitors enjoy the tranquil paths on a daily basis.
A dedicated team of staff and many volunteers continues to care for the garden. The current "core" staff members are: Bruce Bytnar, Managing Director; Elise Sheffield, Education Director; Jess Sullivan, Early Education Coordinator, Hannah, Klein, Program Educator & Family Programs; Faith Vosburgh, Horticulturalist; Ben Eland, Gardener & Educator; Emily Higgins, Communication.