Horticultural Hypochondria

aVEBURY House small

Last week I went to Avebury Manor, at Avebury in Wiltshire. It’s a fantastic house, constantly in very beautiful flux. A few years ago it was redesigned to show each room in as it would have been seen at various times in history – a fantastic idea. Visitors can touch anything in the house (with the exception of the wallpaper in one room, of all things) and it’s spectacular.

avebury small

The gardens are immaculate – and they’ve been justly famous for their topiary gardens in particular.

Recently though, they have been struck by the dreaded box blight. I’ve been following Monty’s misery on Gardeners World – he tries to put on a brave face but you can just tell he’s heartbroken. I find myself looking at every discoloured leaf on my own box hedging – I’m becoming a horticultural hypochondriac…

Low 5

I needed to see what blight looks like in all its hideous vileness  – and find out what the National Trust are doing to try to save the garden.

low 3

It is truly shocking. The outlines are all there but in some cases that’s all they are – outlines. Just the skeletons of the buxus sempervirens remain (the magnificent bird in the centre here is yew, which is unaffected by blight).

low 4

The area has been cordoned off, to prevent the spores (blight is a fungus) becoming attached to people’s clothes and spreading.

They do think they’ve caught it early enough, though, however extreme this looks.

Low 2

Looking at this picture I can see some new growth. Perhaps there is hope after all. I confess I’m taking no chances and when I replaced the hedge in my front garden this year, I opted for yew, even though it will take longer to grow.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on Avebury and I wish them well. In the meanwhile it looks as though the best way to deal with box is the same way we deal with human diseases – prevention is better than cure. Good hygiene, never trimming on a damp day and burning any infected material immediately seems to be the best line of defence.



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