Visitors to Rosemoor over the past few weeks will have noticed that the box hedges in the centre of the Queen Mother’s Rose Garden have been removed. The hedges had been showing symptoms of box blight for a while, but the amount of die-back had recently reached the point where the hedges were looking unsightly and the decision to remove them had to be made.
Box blight is a disease of box plants caused by two different fungi. In all cases the leaves will turn brown and fall, leaving bare patches. In some cases black streaks will appear on the young stems and they will then die back.
Unfortunately, the only certain way to control the disease is to dig out and burn affected plants. All fallen leaves should be collected and burned and the surface of the top soil removed and replaced with fresh soil. If you have a mature and highly valued box plant you might want to try cutting out the diseased areas of the plant first in an effort to save it.
With the box hedges in the Queen Mother’s Rose Garden our only option was complete removal of the hedges. A small team of us dug out the plants and they were then removed from the garden and burned at our bonfire site. The leaf litter beneath and adjacent to the hedges and the surface layer of top soil were also removed and replaced with fresh top soil.
We will be replacing the hedges in the Rose Garden using an alternative hedging plant as soon as possible. The following plants all have small leaves and can be tightly clipped to form a neat and compact hedge: Lonicera nitida, Ilex crenata, Osmanthus delavayi AGM and Lavandula angustifolia. A more comprehensive list of alternative hedging plants and more detailed information about box blight can be found at http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/Profile.aspx?pid=96.