The Cottage Smallholder

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Black Monday: Box Blight

box blightEvery now and then my sister Sara and I treat ourselves to a deluxe garden tour. I don’t know how we discovered Border Lines but found that we liked them. The tours suited us. Every now and then when we are feeling flush, we embark on another adventure.

The best garden tours seem pricey but having visited three amazing gardens in one day and enjoyed an excellent lunch, the Border Lines tours seem wonderful value. The memories stay with you for years afterwards.

We first started garden touring about fifteen years ago. A high points were being shown around Christopher Lloyd’s garden by the man himself and a coterie of dachshunds. But every single garden that we have visited on these tours has been memorable.

The best for me was the tour of three outstanding gardens in Herefordshire that we took last year. Booked in January, dreamt about and enjoyed months later. And that expectation is a large part of the pleasure.

The first stop was at the the garden that holds The National Collection of Pinks. Besides the plethora of pinks, the garden was wonderful with an amazing pond and a cleverly designed tunnel that led one through to a window that opened onto the pond. Suddenly I was gazing at the pond inches above the surface of the water. An amazing Alice in Wonderland experience.

We then travelled (lux coach) to Brockhampton Cottage, Brockhampton. The home of Peter Clay, one of the founders of (a massive garden resource web site). The sizeable cottage was set in several acres that fell gently to the river in the valley below. A marvelous spot, with fabulous views.

The informal planting around the house was clean and clear with just enough to keep you absorbed before looking up and enjoying the sweep of the valley to the river. He had planted a copse when his son was born – Jacob’s Wood. This touched me and also gave an instant pointer to the scale of gardening.

Good planting can exist for years after you have passed on to that great garden in the sky. One day Jacob’s Wood will be full of mature trees and wildlife coexisting with Jacob the man. I loved it, the young trees and their potential. He had also planted a Perry orchard and the year before had harvested his first crop. Exciting stuff.

After an excellent lunch we were driven to The Lasket in Much Birch. Home of Sir Roy Strong (author, broadcaster, former Director of the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum) and his late wife Julia Trevelyan Oman – a talented television, theatre and film designer. Both major greats of the past 50 years.

I have always had a bit of a soft spot for Sir Roy and am passionate about stylish, architectural gardens. I had heard about this garden, created from fields and worked on for over thirty years. So this garden was potentially the highlight of the tour for me.

The garden at The Laskett was amazing. I have even dreamt about it since my visit. Long vistas leading to fabulous, imaginative harbours that celebrated high points in their marriage and lives. It was moving, uplifting, intriguing and totally inspirational.

I had read about the very romantic parterre that they had created in front of the house, celebrating their marriage. Now the space was bare.
“Our box hedging was victim to Box Blight,” Sir Roy explained. They removed the infected plants but it ate away. Eventually the entire parterre was dug up and burned.

Tootling down our garden this morning I noticed that the mature box hedge on the round border in the first garden had large brownish patches. We have Box Blight (Voltella) too. It is a fungal disease that loves extended periods of wet weather. There is no treatment.

I called up to The Rat room and Danny was down in seconds. He ran his hand gently along the hedge, his face was grim when he heard the prognosis.
“We can live with tomato or potato blight. There’s always next year. But I love these box hedges. Fifteen years of growth destroyed in a month. This is Black Monday.”

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  1. I work at a wholesale nursery and we sell masses of Topbuxus Health Mix to Landscapers and Garden Designers in the Cotswolds area. Apparently is it very effective at dealing with Box Blight.

  2. Christine

    Dear Fiona, I am very sorry to read your story about the box blight in your garden. Maybe a helpfull hint for gardens who suffer the same problem. In Holland, we treated the box hedging, who suffered of a beginning box blight (Cylindrocladium buxicola), with Pireco, a Dutch biological crop care (, with good results. Now I remain giving this product as a preventative, which makes the plants stronger and less vulnerable.It seems to work quit well. I add the liquid solution on the soil (whole year around, to avoid activity of the mycelium) and spray the leaves as well, each four weeks during growing season.
    Further on it is absolutely necessary to remove alle fallen leaves and the surface of the ground; important to prune as less as possible, to water only on the ground and to desinfect prunning materials. Regards, Christine van Zijl, a Dutch Garden Designer.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Christine

      Thank you so much for this information. I was only thinking today how much I hate this problem. Now I’ve had good advice and know what to do.

      Thank you!

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