I may have been over-hasty in my last (note 182) when I suggested that Box had gone out of favour in the second half of the 18th century, simply because it had become too popular and was making its way down through the social classes – a progress that hardly surprises when one considers how readily it takes from cuttings.
In defence of my suggestion however, I find the same case made for English Broom (Genista anglica) by the enthusiastic Brownian William Marshall: ‘DWARF ENGLISH BROOM has many beauties to recommend it to the gardener, though it grows common on many of our barren heaths. In these places, it goes by the cant name of Petty Whin. All the sorts of our choicest cultivated plants grow wild in some parts of the globe, but lose nothing of their value because they appear thus spontaneously: Why then should this, because it is common in some parts of England, be denied admittance into gardens, especially those that are at a remote distance from such places, as it has many natural beauties to recommend it?’
Given his enthusiasm for the art of the apogeal Capability Brown, we might then ask of Marshall whether his complaint that we should not dismiss plants just because they are common, or indigenous was a complaint against Brown, or a defence of Brown in the face of increasing pressure to use exotic and expensive plants in design.
This is not a question I am at present able to answer – the plant is too short-lived to have survived for 250 years in a relict shrubbery.