Box blight & other fun­gal dis­eases


I clipped my box hedges this week and was de­lighted to see them look­ing in such good health. Well rea­son­ably so, as for the last three years I have been wag­ing war on the dreaded box blight fun­gus.

Fun­gal dis­eases seem to be be­com­ing more and more preva­lent and vir­u­lent in re­cent years which prob­a­bly has a lot to do with the mild damp­ness we seem to ex­pe­ri­ence nearly all year round. Dutch elm dis­ease was a warn­ing decades ago. A com­mon mis­con­cep­tion is that the elm trees were killed by bee­tles but they just act as trans­port for the fun­gal in­fec­tion. Ash trees are now fac­ing a sim­i­lar fate al­beit in­fected by air borne spores and ma­chan­i­cal con­tact.

To stop the spread of the fun­gus both trees block their in­fected wa­ter and nu­tri­ent car­ry­ing ves­sels that are har­bour­ing the fu­gus. In do­ing so, and un­wit­tingly, the trees cut off their life sup­ply and die. The in­jec­tion into the tree of a fungi­cide is the only cure and is just not fea­si­ble on a na- tional scale. That said in Brighton Eng­land the coun­cil took it upon it­self to treat its many elm street trees and it is now one of the last places in Bri­tain and Ire­land to see ma­ture elms.

Es­cal­lo­nia, a com­mon gar­den plant, has also fallen foul of a mod­ern day fun­gal in­fec­tion. Dur­ing the sum­mer months it seem rel­a­tively heathly but come win­ter this ev­er­green de­fo­li­ates leav­ing a very sorry look­ing scrawny plant. There is noth­ing avail­able to the gar­dener cur­rently to treat this dis­ease and while un­like Dutch elm and ash die back it doesn’t ap­pear to kill es­cal­lo­nia as it is only a leaf in­fec­tion. But it leaves a pretty un­de­sir­able for a large por­tion of the year.

Get­ting back to my beloved box hedge I read fre­quently a few years ago that once in­fected the best thing was to dig up and de­stroy your box. Now it ap­pears that the gar­dener is be­ing en­cour­aged to fight back and not suc­cumb or at least not eas­ily to the fun­gal in­va­sion.

Since I first saw signs of in­fec­tion a few years ago I struck up and stuck to a regime of feed­ing, spray­ing and clean­li­ness that seems to be at least con­trol­ing the in­fec­tion. From the very ear­li­est spring, early March I ap­ply via spray­ing a prod­uct called ‘ Top Buxus’. It fo­liar feeds and with­out chem­i­cals, it uses cop­per, wards off box blight.

Or so it claims but I was us­ing this solely when I first saw signs of in­fec­tion so I also use a fungi­cide rec­om­mended by the RHS called Te­bu­cona­zole in the form of Bay­ers Fun­gus Fighter or an al­ter­na­tive is Fun­gus Clear Ul­tra which con­tains Triti­cona­zole. This early pre­ven­ta­tive spray­ing is highly ad­vis­able as post in­fec­tion is much harder to treat. I also ap­ply a top­dress­ing of fer­tiliser at this time of blood ,fish and bone. I then cut my hedge twice a year once at end of May to start of June depend­ing on the spring and then again in Septem­ber.

All for­mal hedges re­ally are bet­ter cut twice a year this way, it keeps them thicker and helps to stop bar­ing at the bases. I lay down sheets to catch as much clip­pings as pos­si­ble, as box has small leaves clean­ing up off grass or gravel is not very easy, this way there are less po­ten­tially in­fected or spore habour­ing leaves left lay­ing around. I then re­peat my spray­ing process of the box hedge with Top Buxus and Fun­gus fighter and I also spray with Fun­gus Fighter the soil around the base of the hedge where leaves and any spores might still be lurk­ing.

Early July I go through the process again, some­times I give an ad­di­tional Fun­gus Fighter spray if the weather is hu­mid or ex­ces­sively wet in be­tween times. Then in Septem­ber ,when I clip the hedge again, I re­peat what I did af­ter the first cut­ting in May/June. With the way the weather sys­tems are th­ese days Septem­ber can be bet­ter weather wise than July so I feel the hedge has plenty of time to harden off be­fore the real cold tem­per­a­ture come along.

My beloved box hedges.

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