Protecting your hedges from box blight

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If you have any box hedging or topiary in your garden, you may have a constant feeling of dread that your beautiful plants could be affected by the airborne fungal infection known as box blight

Box blight a disease that was relatively unknown in the UK before the mid 1990s, and no one is quite sure where it came from. It has certainly got quite a hold now, and this is down in part to the warm damp summers that we have been experiencing.  Box blight has certainly been one of the garden plant issues that I have met often, but have hitherto felt rather inadequate in offering up a cast-iron solution to combat the airborne fungus called box blight. That is until now.

The plant
Buxus sempervirens or common box is the plant normally used for small formal hedges or topiary shapes within a garden, if your wish is to create an Italianate style.   Box is extremely slow growing, so it’s relatively easy to keep it controlled in a clean clipped manner. However, because box plants are clipped tightly for years, not allowing much air to circulate through the plant, this makes the plant vulnerable.  Box blight loves this airless and humid environment.

The disease
Box blight is a disease of box leaves and stems caused by two fungi, Cylindrocladium buxicola and Volutella buxi. The two are often found together. The bad news has been that there are no fungicides available to amateurs with specific recommendations for use against box blight.  My normal advice has been to carefully remove and dispose of any affected plants immediately; then to spray the neighbouring box plants with a general fungicide, available at any good garden centre (with fingers tightly crossed).

If you have to remove one of many plants then this can leave quite a hole in your display. A fully trained box ball or spiral, or any other shape for the matter, tend to be quite expensive as expert hands have been manipulating the plant for some time.

The good news
There is a product that’s fairly new to the market that is described as a ‘health-mix’ that is having some great results in combatting this awful disease in box. I haven’t yet seen it in garden centres, but it’s available online. Often box blight is not identified until the disease has got a grip. This ‘health-mix’ works on the theory that it prevents the fungal spores penetrating in the first place, and it’s recommended that the spray is used five times a year.  The reviews from professional head gardeners up and down the land are extremely encouraging.  For more information visit topbuxus.co.uk

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