Think Outside The Box
Gardeners World|August 2019
Think Outside The Box

Blighted by problems with your box hedges or topiary? Alan Titchmarsh offers advice on keeping yours healthy and shares ten trouble-free alternatives.

Alan Titchmarsh

Thinking creatively is something we’ve had to do over the past few years, thanks to the dynamic duo of box blight and box tree caterpillar, which seem intent on laying waste to our dwarf hedges and our carefully crafted topiary. The trouble is that box (Buxus sempervirens) in all its varieties is such a useful evergreen shrub when it comes to malleability and year-round smartness. Its rounded, evergreen leaves are a great foil for bright flowers and the dwarf variety ‘Suffruticosa’ is the go-to plant for anyone making a parterre or creating a kerb around beds, borders and vegetable patches. And when it comes to complex to pair specimens, there seems to be no shape into which it cannot be crafted with a pair of niftily wielded shears.

Box blight is a fungal disease that appeared in Britain in the mid-1990s. It is at its most rampant in wet weather, and causes browning and discolouration of leaves and eventual defoliation. Box hedges develop bare patches – the stems die back and become straw-coloured – and the effect is very unsightly. The roots are not killed, which means that recovery is often possible, but you’ll need perseverance to get your hedge back into tip-top order.

Keep control


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August 2019