Couldn’t help noticing how the box hedging in the Admiral Phillip’s Memorial Garden – adjoining the Assembly Rooms – is dying through what looks like a fungal attack from the dreaded Box Blight.
I am no gardening expert but know we have lost box hedging to this disease too.
However, there is another natural enemy these hedges have to face as Paul Bennett explained:
‘We are being over run with the Box Caterpillar this year. They climb up the front of the house and, if a window or door is open, they are in like a shot.
Please is there someone out there who knows how to kill the critters?’
Thanks for the photos too Paul.
According to the Royal Horticultural Society box tree caterpillar was the number one garden pest back in 2017 while box blight was named one of the top ten worst diseases.
I also took a look at the BBC’s Gardeners’ World Magazine website – https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/grow-plants/box-tree-caterpillar/ – where it states:
“Box tree caterpillars are a relatively new pest. Native to east Asia, they’re thought to have hitched a ride on imported plants to Europe, where they were first spotted in 2007. The first moths were found in private gardens in Britain in 2011, initially in the south east, where they are now a major problem.
They’re also now spreading across the UK. The caterpillars cause most of their damage between March and October. A box ball can be destroyed within a week if action is not taken.
There have been reports of birds such as blue tits and jackdaws feeding on the caterpillars but it’s not yet known if this will have any serious effect on numbers.”
Keith Rowe, who is the Parks Department manager for B&NES, told me: “The box caterpillar is proving to be very damaging to a lot of the formal box hedges.
We’ve avoided using chemical treatment by seeking to replace them with other plant species that hedge well.
There is also a Japanese box that is less susceptible, but the plants are expensive and hard to source (due to demand!).”
Hopefully, someone who knows more about gardening – without the use of harsh chemicals – is reading this.
I have had success combating box caterpillar and box blight with products developed by a specialist box nursery in the Netherlands sold under the brand name TopBuxus (see website). XenTari is a biological control for box caterpillar – a sachet of powder which you dissolve in water then spray onto the plant. Health-Mix is a foliage feed for box blight. The same nursery has also developed some blight-resistant box plants which are now available in the UK. Bunny Guiness has some helpful videos about caring for box on her YouTube channel which is where I first found out about these products. I have also been wondering whether neem might be effective against box caterpillar larvae though haven’t tried it yet.
We first ran into this problem two years ago on First Avenue and we too went for XenTari. The hedge was looking very sorry for itself when we finally set to to deal with it and we thought we were going to lose it. We sprayed it and fed it in June and again in September and applied the treatment in May and September last year. This year I have just done it again and it’s looking good. Fresh and green but I shall be keeping a close eye on it. I believe it can be saved and will continue to apply the treatment as required.