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As our solar year near’s its end, and those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, at least, watch the life appear to drain out of our gardens, we also celebrate the tenacity of  life!

All “evergreen” plants shine during this passage of time.  They fade back into the landscape all summer long, barely noticed.

And then when the tree limbs are bare, and our lawns have faded to brown, “The Holly and the Ivy” glow green with vitality.


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This is another of the paperback mulberry trees found along the eastern end of Francis Street, near the Colonial Capitol building, on the edge of Colonial Williamsburg.  I always wonder how long these trees have grown here, and who originally planted them.


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It is far from politically correct these days to admit that you like ivy; or that you plant it yourself.

I’ve eavesdropped on a native plant enthusiast doing her best to dissuade a local nurseryman from even stocking the genus.  Yes, ivy can become invasive.  Yes, after many decades it can fairly well cover a mature tree.  Yes, it may crowd out other species.  But ivy has its gifts to give, too.



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Its first and most important gift, to me, is its beauty.  I love its lovely leaves and eager, delicate stems growing on through the coldest of winters.  It provides berries, when mature, enjoyed by birds.  It also provides important cover for birds and insects.


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Ivy is a useful shade tolerant ground cover which protects and holds the soil.  It is especially prized in areas which are hard to mow or too shady to support a lawn.

And it is gloriously alive and long lived.  Every little bit of it will send out roots and continue to grow.  Once established, it is there “forever.”


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Perhaps it is my own decade in life.  But my respect and love for my elders grows with each passing year.


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They have tenacity.  They have learned secrets of survival and endurance which I can only admire.

These elder trees must have some long and entertaining stories to tell, if only we could hear them.


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They have survived here for uncounted years.  And against all odds, they are still gloriously, vibrantly,  Alive! 

That is very comforting, somehow, in the middle of December.


Woodland Gnome 2014


Native Live Oak

Native Live Oak

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside Bruton Parish Churchyard

Bruton Parish church yard, as seen from Duke of Gloucester Street.

Bruton Parish church yard, as seen from Duke of Gloucester Street.

The church we know today as Bruton Parish was established during the first century of settlement here in Virginia.  It grew from the consolidation of several existing parishes in this area.

It was formally recognized, and its first rector named, in 1674.  Land  for building the church was donated in 1678 by Col. John Page.   The original Gothic style brick church was completed in  1683.

The original church's foundation, inside ethe church yard.

The original church’s foundation, inside the church yard.

Only about 60×24 feet, the original Bruton Parish church was located to the north and west of the present building, in what is now the church yard.

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This new church served the needs of the growing population here in Virginia, and became very important in the life of the colony.

After the College of William and Mary was founded in 1693, and the Governor and his entourage began attending the church when the capitol was moved from Jamestown to Middle Plantation in 1699; the new church proved much too small for the growing community.  The town’s name had by now been changed to Williamsburg.

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By 1706 the church vestry had begun to discuss building a larger church.  The Church of England had a firm hand in all community and  governmental affairs, and everyone in the community was expected to maintain a relationship with the Parish.

Everyone was required to not only belong to a Parish, but to support it financially and show up regularly for worship. The Parish was responsible for all baptisms, marriages, funerals, confirmations, and communion.

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Crepe Myrtle and ivy grow in this corner of the church yard.  Boxwood shrubs grow beyond this portion of the wall.

Religious freedom wasn’t born until the time of the American Revolution.

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The original church was simply not large enough for all those who attended, especially when the House of Burgesses was in session.

Governor Alexander Spotswood designed the new church building.  His design was 75 feet long by 28 feet wide, the first cross shaped church in Virginia.  The new building was completed in 1715.  The original small brick church’s foundation can be found today in the church yard of the present church.

This is a particularly interesting tomb.  Notice the symbols, reminicent of Shakespear's plays.

This is a particularly interesting tomb. Notice the symbols, reminiscent of Shakespear’s plays.

Some of the oldest marked graves in Virginia are found within this cemetery, now enclosed by a wall.  There are those who read much history from a well kept church yard.

Another view of the same bomb.

Another view of the same bomb.

The body of young Mathew Whaley, the 9 year old boy who died quite suddenly of pneumonia in 1675, lies here in a prominent grave, beside his father.  Our neighborhood  elementary school, just a short distance away, is named for little Mathew.

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This church has witnessed the history of our nation.   It was disenfranchised from the Anglican Church of England in 1776 and lost its tax support.  It became an Episcopalian church, and remains one today.

The main entrance to Bruton Parish, inside the church yard wall.

The main entrance to Bruton Parish, inside the church yard wall.

It lost many members when state government moved to Richmond in  1780. But the church has remained important in the life of the community, and in the life of the College.  Faculty and students are an important part of the congregation, and the church’s Rector has, from time to time, also been President of the College.

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Bruton Parish witnessed both the American Revolution in the Eighteenth Century, and the American Civil War in the 1860’s.  The church was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers in 1862, after The Battle of Williamsburg.

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Ivy and daffodils brighten the early spring garden in the Bruton Parish church yard.

As you might expect, this important and historic church houses many historical treasures, many gifts from the wealthy and powerful.  Through all or the changes this church has experienced during the last 340 years, its true treasure is its strong congregation.

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Live oak tree growing by the churchyard wall

A vital part of our community today, just as it was in the 17th century; this church, churchyard, and congregation remain important to our community here in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The church opens its doors to visitors for tours, concerts, meetings, and worship.  Community groups use its Parish house, and Bruton Paris maintains many ministries in the community.

Here you will find living history, even inside the church yard.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

“If the freedom of religion, guaranteed to us by law in theory, can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion,

then and only then, will truth prevail over fanaticism.

Thomas Jefferson

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Bruton Parish Episcopal Church

One’s Own Back Garden

The Trees’ Knees

Signs of Spring in Colonial Williamsburg

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