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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.