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Box

March 8, 2015

The garden is looking vibrant and fresh and every week it gets a little greener as new leaves emerge on the climbers and herbaceous perennials .  All winter I’ve enjoyed the contrast of the two evergreen box parterres with the rusty, orange leaves of the pleached beech hedge that cuts through the symmetry halfway down the garden.
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So it was with some horror that I noticed last weekend what looks worryingly like box blight on one of the tall, square boxes on the first parterre.

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Anyone with a box hedge or box topiary will be aware of this disease and Monty Don highlighted it in Gardener’s World last autumn when he lost his extensive 20-year-old box hedges to box blight. It’s caused by a fungus the spores of which thrive in warm, wet conditions especially prevalent in mild and rainy winters as of the last two years. All the advice can be found on the RHS website www.rhs.org.uk with images on what to look out for.  Sadly, whilst not as advanced as this disease can be, there seems little doubt that I have the beginning of it on a large box plant – the first thing you see when you come into the garden. It’s the one and only patch and shows no signs of the characteristic spores on the underside of the leaves but it does have the brown and bare stems associated with the disease. So I lifted the whole plant out (the parterre looked like a small child that had lost two front teeth) and replaced it with a box ball that was in the bed I’m redesigning. I removed as much of the surrounding top soil as I could and replaced it with fresh compost. It felt a bit cavalier because if it is box blight then this plant too will succumb but I am prepared to take the risk.

Golden Gourmet

The weather was unexpectedly sunny last week so I made a trip to the allotment to plant some Golden Gourmet shallots.  I covered the row with a cloche to prevent the birds pulling out the green shoots as they emerge over the next few weeks. It was lovely down there but the ground was noticeably heavy and wet and when I weeded out the odd clump of grass a huge clod of earth clung to it and refused to be shaken off. A good reason not to disturb the soil too much until it dries out and is easier to work.

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In the garden I pruned the dead flowers, left over from last year, on the Hydrangea petiolaris that lines most of the walls. New leaves are emerging and it will be in full leaf in a few weeks followed by lovely cream flowers in May and June.DSCN4093

 

Helleborus argutifolius has been flowering since November but the plants are rather tall and out of scale in a bed of crocus and miniature daffodils.  So I picked two and held the cut stem over a gas flame for 60 seconds and they’ve remained upright in a vase for the last five days.  I now feel justified in picking more in order to encourage new leaves at the base of the plants.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 8, 2015 11:30 pm

    It’s so sad to see box succumb to blight. It really does seem to be taking a hold everywhere now.

  2. March 9, 2015 10:25 am

    I’m trying to be philosophical and in the scheme of things of course it’s manageable but not sure how I’d make the garden look as exciting in winter without box hedges.

  3. March 10, 2015 7:44 am

    I fear I may have it too. Also on a mature, shaped box ball that I grew and shaped myself. And just as the adjoining hedge is starting to knit together and look like a hedge. And just as I’ve finished the hedge on the other side of the path, too! So far, I’m in denial and keep cutting out the affected branches, but I think I’ll have to face facts soon. I’ll be interested to see how yours fares.

  4. March 10, 2015 9:51 am

    I have to admit I spotted signs last year and told myself it was damage from knocking it with the wheelie bin. I am obsessively doing the rounds every morning and so far no further signs. I will of course blog it over the year and wish you luck with your poorly box.

  5. March 10, 2015 1:19 pm

    I’m so sorry about your Box; in Italy, because it is so dry blight doesn’t seem to be such a big issue however there is a caterpillar which eats only Box and has a similar effect on the plants. they are voracious creatures but very small so difficult to see, they only seem to eat the new tender foliage but they can devastate the plants, I found some of my plants effected last year and will have to be vigilant this year as the new fresh growth appears.

  6. March 10, 2015 4:22 pm

    Well today, because we’ve had a few days of rain, all the box is looking very green and bursting into new leaf, so I’ve cheered up.

  7. March 16, 2015 1:49 pm

    Have you thought about using Ilex crenata instead? I know that it can be shaped like box (in fact it’s quite hard to tell them apart) and more disease resistant so it could be a good replacement for you. It must have been quite soul destroying to have to lose such a lovely big plant but at least you can hope that it won’t spread now.

    • March 16, 2015 2:41 pm

      That’s a comforting possibility having just googled it and I like its form. At the moment all the box is putting on fresh new leaf and is looking healthy so fingers are crossed. Maybe it was one poorly plant rather than the whole garden sickening and maybe I will have caught it early enough.

  8. April 9, 2015 9:16 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about the box-blight. Unfortunately it is in Australia as well. Lonicera nitida (the box leaf honeysuckle) is also a reasonable substitute and is tolerant of UK conditions. Fingers crossed that the box-blight was contained to that one plant

  9. April 10, 2015 10:14 am

    So far it appears to have been limited to the one plant and I plan to be vigilant from now on.

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