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The American Boxwood Society

58th Annual Boxwood Symposium in Virginia
June 1 and 2, 2018

Virginia! Home to eight U.S. Presidents, countless historical sites, a wide range of accents, and the most hospitable people in the world. We are delighted to invite you to the Old Dominion State for the 2018 American Boxwood Society’s Annual Symposium.



Friday, June 1

The first day of tours is centered in Charlottesville and environs. Even if you have visited this area before, we are determined to show you some treasures you have not yet seen! We begin by heading a few miles west to Whilton Farm owned by Courtnay (The Garden Conservancy Board member) and Terry Daniels. A Wall Street Journal article described these spectacular private gardens as containing “one of the largest collections of rare plants in the country.”


On our way back to Charlottesville for lunch, we will stop at the recently-refurbished Rotunda at the University of Virginia and stroll the famed UVA Lawn. “The Lawn” is the grassy field around which Thomas Jefferson designed the original university buildings. The 54 student rooms on The Lawn are greatly coveted as senior residences despite having no air conditioning or bathrooms. Faculty and their families reside in the Lawn Pavilions, but their gardens are open to the public.

On to historic Michie Tavern, ca. 1784, where we will enjoy an 18th century bill-of-fare lunch offered by servers in period attire. Feel free to tour the Tavern and outbuildings after lunch. The Armory & Artifacts Shop, established around 1790, specializes in antique firearms as well as battlefield relics, musical instruments and military accoutrements. Interestingly, this single-room log cabin was built from first-growth trees harvested near Saunders Brothers property in Nelson County.

Just a short ride distant we will take a “not your mama’s tour” of Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello and tour during the peak of garden showiness. A discussion of Jefferson’s experiments in plant breeding as recorded in his meticulous notes promises to be of particular interest.

We will also experience the recently-created Slavery at Monticello walking tour. We’ll hear how the 5,000 acre plantation was managed, and details about the lives of the enslaved workers who cultivated tobacco and other cash crops to provide sustenance for them all.

Rest up during the 10-minute ride that will take us more than 400 feet higher in elevation to Carter Mountain Orchard, rated by “Southern Living” magazine as one of the top 20 apple orchards in the entire South. The farm on Carter Mountain is celebrated for having the most spectacular view of Charlottesville from anywhere except outer space! Here we will finish up the day with a cocktail hour, auction, and catered meal. The wine-tasting room offers a variety of delicious fruit wines, and the tasting fees go to charity. Win-win!






Saturday, June 2

Hold on to your cavalier hats because we have much to see today! Our first stop will be the Quarry Gardens in Schuyler (if you pronounce it SKY-ler, no one will suspect you’re not a native), a privately-funded natural area and botanical garden buffered by 400 wooded acres.

At its peak in the 1920s, Schuyler was home to America’s largest soapstone quarry and employed about 2,000 people. Soapstone was used in numerous applications, but most of the demand was for washtubs, roofing tiles, and the chemistry lab tops you remember from high school. The town of Schuyler boasted its own hospital, company store, post office, and worker housing. Alberene Soapstone Company continues in operation today, the only remaining producer of soapstone in the United States.


There are six quarries that comprise the 40-acre Quarry Gardens. These quarries were mined for about 30 years, then used as dump-sites and eventually abandoned. Under the guidance, vision, and a quarter-century of clean-up efforts by Baltimore retirees Bernice and Armand Thieblot, these eyesores have been transformed into a showcase for native plants, providing nature trails and a fascinating peek into the century-old industry of soapstone mining in Nelson County. The Quarry Gardens are home to nearly 400 species of plants in its 14 eco-zones. Also of interest will be the demonstration garden showing how native plants can be used in landscaping.

A [soap]stone’s throw from the Quarry Gardens is Walton Mountain Museum. The museum is located across the road from the home where Earl Hamner, creator of the popular TV show “The Waltons”, grew up.  We’ll have a brief stop here.

Lunch today will be at Pharsalia, a historic gem in Nelson County with stunning views of nearby DePriest Mountain. This plantation home was built in 1814 and once sat on a tract of more than 10,000 acres. Owner Foxie Morgan will be our hostess. The fried chicken we’ll be having for lunch is from Mac’s Country Store, owned by Foxie’s sister Betty. In 2016 an unsuspecting writer for “Saveur”, the global food magazine, stopped at Mac’s to get fuel, and decided to grab a bite to eat. Boy, was he in for a culinary surprise! He described Betty’s chicken as “out of this world – as crisp and juicy as you could hope for.” Yup, that’s what you’ll be eating while your soul is feasting on the breath-taking mountain views. We will be touring the house at Pharsalia after lunch, and you will be able to browse the Pharsalia Flower Farm which offers floral design events throughout the year.

The afternoon hours will be dedicated to tours of the two Saunders Brothers, Inc. farms: the container nursery at Tye Brook and the field-grown nursery and orchards at Harewood. The Farm Market will be open, featuring in-season fruit and baked goods, as well as locally-made ice cream.  

Saunders Brothers began in 1915 when five brothers (one of whom was Paul Saunders’ father, Sam) formed a farming partnership which expanded to include a cattle herd and a peach orchard. When Paul was 14 in 1947, he propagated his first boxwood with the encouragement of his science teacher and under the tutelage of his mother. Of those 77 boxwood slips, 25 rooted. To encourage Paul’s interest further, his father fenced off a corner of the barnlot for the fledgling nursery. Soon the nursery grew to include container plants, and the rest, as they say, is history. Four of Paul and Tatum’s seven sons work in the business.

You will have worked up a good appetite by dinner time, so get ready to enjoy a BBQ dinner at Harewood, the home of Bennett and Lynn Saunders. The original house was built in 1798 and has been in the Saunders family since 1877; it is the site where the original five Saunders brothers grew up. The property also includes a restored ice house, smokehouse and log cabin. Harewood, surrounded by apple orchards, peach orchards and field-grown boxwood, has been the headquarters for a large working farm for over 200 years.


Dinner will be catered by the BBQ Connection. Owner John Atkins has won the State BBQ Championships five times and finished as one of the top 50 BBQs in the entire country. You will enjoy a finger-licking good dinner as you listen to the Little Mountain Boys, a local bluegrass band that is popular even outside our area.

We have some extra surprises planned, but now you have the basic outline. We hope that we have whetted your appetite for an interesting and informative trip to central Virginia in June!

Y’all come on now, ‘hear?

Click here to download the full itinerary.