Thursday, 19 February 2015

Paradise Lost

The fungus Cylindrocladium buxicola, or Volutella buxi, may be both, has settled in our garden over the last few months - commonly known as Box blight. It is believed to have arrived in the UK during 1994 from Central America  
Along with lawns, Buxus sempervirens is the green structure in our garden, it forms cuffs around the trees, edges pathways, we have balls and cones large and small everywhere. 
It is the green element that graces our garden all year round and holds the design together. 

We are devastated but slowly coming to terms with the fact that the only answer is to destroy and burn the lot.
This fungus blight is not picky it has also devastated Prince Charles's garden. As the crow flies his Highgrove garden is just a short distance from us.

There is another garden that shares our hilltop eerie, whose owners are equally passionate about box and  topiary.
She happens to be a leading light in The European Boxwood & Topiary Society. Do we tell them? or let them continue to live happily in ignorant bliss? May be the wretched fungus will pass their garden by!  

To finish on a positive note, lets just check out what is flowering in the garden at the moment

86 comments:

  1. Dear Rosemary,

    I am so sorry about the blight in your garden....although it still appears beautiful to me. I actually had to look that boxwood disease up. We planted small boxwoods in our flower beds...the very few that we have.
    I am so looking forward to Spring....I will bet that you are too. have a wonderful day.....Janey

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    1. Dear Janey - those photos of the Box look fine because they are from last year. At the moment we have brown patches on some of the balls and on an octagonal feature that we made. We shall just have to adjust to a new look in the garden as we shall not be replacing it.

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  2. Oh Rosemary, this is so sad. I hope that you can sort things out in the best way possible. It is such a big feature of your garden and obviously looks wonderful and provides great structure when in full health, but it is no good if it is sick is it. Hopefully you will find joy in whatever you do to replace it. xx

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    1. Most of our box plants have been grown from cuttings - it takes time for them to mature and become established. I think that the hedging and globes had reached the best ever, but we must bid it all farewell.

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  3. Hello Rosemary, Box is one of the handsomest and most traditional of hedges, and this loss must cut you to the quick, destroying the very foundation of your beautiful garden. I never knew that box blight was becoming so virulent, or that there was no treatment for it.

    In the northern U.S., in the last 100 years or so, there have been major blights of elm, American chestnut and white birch, which have destroyed entire forests as well as individual gardens and landscapes. Furthermore, there are various blights affecting fruit trees for which similarly, the only solution is to dig out and burn the plantings, even if these are of historic varieties or importance. I know that horticultural science is always improving, but all this shows how this field must be supported, so that plant diseases like these can be treated in the future.
    --Jim

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    1. Dear Jim - all of these blights and diseases are frightening. When the UK got Dutch Elm disease it completely changed our landscape.
      We are endeavouring to put the whole situation into context - it is plants that we are in the processing of loosing, it could be something worse.
      The garden will certainly take on a completely different appearance.

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  4. Oh Rosemary - what a shame. Lots of the gardens I visited during 2013 were hit with this disease and it seems there is no coming back from it. Your garden will still be beautiful though - just different. Perhaps you could find some other plant to take its place - though I don't know of one that can be topiaried in the same way. (Not sure if topiaried is a word?)

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    1. Elaine, topiaried sounds a good description to me, but the computer spell check seems to have a problem with it!!! We are hoping that some of the plants growing in the vicinity will spread and fill the gaps. May be two years down the line will be a good opportunity for a reassessment.

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  5. Hello Rosemary,

    Oh dear. We are very sad for you.

    We know only too well the devastating effects of Box blight. Many friends of ours have had large areas of their gardens affected and, try as they might, replace with blight resistant varieties as they might, nothing has really worked. Frighteningly but, most probably, sensibly, it will all have to go and not be replaced.

    As you say, Box makes for the most flexible of green structures. It can edge, punctuate and hold together borders making for a strong structure and interest throughout the year. The fresh green foliage when it first appears is dynamic and the dark green of mature bushes adds solidity without being too formal. It will be a very tough act to follow.

    But, take this as a sign for a new direction. New ideas, new designs and yet using your most wonderful plant collection. The Phoenix will rise again......

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    1. Hello Jane and Lance - we have taken great pleasure in seeing how we have been able to evolve interesting shapes from a simple stem of box, and although we would not have chosen for this to happen things do move on. Hopefully as you say the Phoenix will rise again.

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  6. So sad of your lovely boxwood gardens, Box makes such a beautiful evergreen structure for the garden, but the blight is a real nuisance, we have it in our country too. When infected boxwood is removed, your garden will change, it is not otherwise. Let´s say your garden get a new start.

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    1. I think that we shall have to remove it in stages, I couldn't cope with the whole lot being taken out in one go. We shall just have to work with the blight, leave the good bits and remove the bad.

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  7. Sorry to hear about the box blight in your garden. I hope the drastic measures you have to take will eradicate it completely.

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    1. This particular fungus only affects the box and we shall not be planting anymore.

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  8. I could weep for you, I love box, so sorry you're going to have to destroy it. What a lovely garden you have, it's easy to see it's well loved.

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    1. Realistically we are telling ourselves that it is only a plant, far more worse things can happen and do.

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  9. I'm so sorry to hear that you've got to destroy all the box in your garden after growing from cuttings, but I know it has to be done. We have box hedges in our Italian garden on either side of the drive and bought small plants from a nursery at different times. We must have two different varieties as one side is green and bushy, but the other has golden leaves and looks woody. I don't think it has blight as the other hedge has been healthy over many years. After years of growing and trimming it would be upsetting if we had to get rid of the boxwood and start again with an alternative such as rosemary bushes or lavender. I hope some other design solution to replace your box hedges and box balls can be found as you have such a beautiful garden.

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    1. I dont think that you have anything to worry about Linda, you would know if you have blight. The leaves turn brown and then drop and you are left with bare wood. Sadly I don't think that we can face replanting with something else, we shall hope that the plants that grow nearby will grow over and gradually fill the gaps.

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  10. There can be nothing sadder as the need for the destruction of perennial plants because of the plague. I'm sorry. Regards.

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    1. Diseases in plants and trees seem to be becoming much more prevalent it is a worry for us all.

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  11. Mój Boże jaki macie prześliczny ogród :)
    A grzyba to chyba powinno się czymś pryskać .
    Przebiśniegi i irysy już u Was kwitną , ja już się nie mogę doczekać i u Nas wiosny .
    Pozdrawiam :)

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    1. Dziękujemy Państwu za komentarz. Niestety i niestety nie wiadomo, w sprayu, które zabić grzyba. Życzymy było. Twoje rośliny wiosenne wkrótce ponownie pojawiając wkrótce.

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  12. what a wonderful garden ! and very nice photos Rosemary ! thanks for sharing with us !

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    1. It is lovely to see the spring flowers emerging again - thank you for visiting Massimo

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  13. Dear Rosemary,

    I am so sorry to hear about box blight, and that it has befallen your own garden. I can't fully imagine how it must distress, but I can tell you that I grew up in a neighborhood that lost ALL its trees to Dutch Elm disease. When I revisited the neighborhood ten years later, it was still bare. So I hope that your trims can be replaced with something just as beautiful. That leads me to a question: Do you wait a period of time before you plant anything else, or do you feel confident that another species of trim will do fine?

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    1. Dear Mark - we will not be planting anymore Box of any type. The fungus only affects Box so there will be no problems with any other plants that we put in the garden. We shall hope that the various heathers and other plants in the garden will eventually colonise the bare areas, and then make fresh decisions when we see how it looks in may be a couple of years time.

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  14. Oh Rosemary, I'm sorry. It's so sad given how long it takes to grow and shape topiary features. But your garden will look wonderful again, in a different way, of that I am sure.

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    1. It is very disappointing Jessica, but as I keep telling myself they are only plants. It has taken us a good 15 years to get the Box into the shape it is at the moment. It will be different in the future, but I shall have the photos to remember how it was.

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  15. Dear Rosemary, that is absolutely terrible that the Box Blight has found its way into your garden! How sad!
    I don't recall that you have ever shown so many photos from your garden. It is a dream! I see how much the boxwood hedges, spheres and topiaries add structure and a green back bone to your garden. It is hard to imagine it without boxwood. I truly hope that you and your husband find a good solution to deal with the problem, even though you might have to take the boxwood out.
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. I do wonder how it got here Christina as we live on a very high hilltop and quite remote, but apparently it is thought that it might be transmitted by birds. That really seems the most likely answer given the circumstances.
      The Box definitely has to be removed and incinerated, but we will do it bit by bit. Thank you for your kind thoughts.

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  16. This is horrible. Fortunately small victories will come, like the snowdrops, and you will find joy in your garden.

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    1. You are right Susan, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

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  17. Oh no! How dreadful to have this blight your beautiful garden :-( At least Spring is almost upon us and with it, the joy of blooming bulbs....

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    1. It always pays to look for the positives.

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  18. I'm so very sorry that this awful blight has hit your gorgeous garden! Is there any other tiny leaved evergreen box look alike that is immune and could take it's place?

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    1. There are several small leafed plants that we could use, but at this stage I don't think we have the heart to begin again. It took 16 years to get these to the stage they are at now. Quite a lot of the box has heathers and ornamental grasses around it and we are hoping that they will eventually colonise the bare areas.

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  19. I am so sorry this awful blight has attacked your garden, Rosemary; your wonderful photos show us how beautiful your garden is, and what a special feature you have in the box hedges and topiaries. I guess if there was a solution to the blight, Prince Charles would have found it! He seems to be an excellent gardener also. It will be sad to burn the diseased plants, but I know you will find something lovely to transition to, you have a fantastic knowledge of plants and gardens.

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    1. We have come to terms with the problem Patricia, but not the practicalities. There is no remedy so we just have to press on with it. At least H and I will have the photos which I have taken - I have never shown so many of them together before - this post could be called 'English ode to Box'

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  20. Dear Rosemary, oh, that is so, so sad! And it is absolutely necessary to finish on a positive note - though that seems a drop of water - or a tear - in the big sea of sorrow...
    On my balcony one box is destroyed by it - at first I wondered: I had given enough water to both - one was looking like burning from within. drying, turning yellow. I destroyed it - the other - two years later - lives brightly green.
    You have such a lot of wonderful box in your garden - I might cry at the thought of destroying that! (Can't you just wait a bit - maybe they are behaving like mine, meaning some might survive; or maybe someone finds a remedy? Remember the year when many many bamboos flowered to death? Butl some remained...
    In our garden in Hildesheim it would be a catastrophe too, when all the box borders would die: they are giving structure to wildly romping flowers - and in winter, as you write, they are such a lovely sight looking up from under the snow... Ah - and I love their smell in the sun. So: I wish you with all my heart that your loss will only be partial!

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    1. Dear Britta - I appreciate your very kind and encouraging words of hope.
      If you can completely remove and destroy the original source from the site then it is sometimes possible, as you have found, to stop the fungus spread. Unfortunately we have nowhere or the energy to remove all the Box in our garden. It is just possible that the Box in the front of the garden may be saved we will just have to wait and see. I understand that the problem could be birds spreading it on their wings and feet. We will continue to persevere with each plant until each succumbs. We have about 50 very large Box balls which would each cost at least £100 to buy in a Nursery so the price too is high.

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  21. Oh that is a real shame...your box hedges are beautiful, they do take a long time to grow as you well know. Each section is a room in your garden, furnished with wonderful plants. Good luck with the bus us and hope you don't lose too much.

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    1. Sadly we are resigned to the fact that the fungus will claim it all - it is unlikely that any will survive.

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  22. Dear Rosemary,
    It is just too painful to think that your beautiful paradise should be lost, or at the least be without the precious boxwood plants.
    A blogger in Germany, www.gartenbuddelei.blogspot.com has many boxwood plants in her garden and discovered the blight on some of them in 2011. She immediately sprayed all of them with anti fungal spray and says that even the bare branches started new leaves the following spring. It may be worth a try to get more information from her.
    The best of luck to you and warmest greetings from Texas, Sieglinde

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    1. Dear Sieglinde - Thank you very much for your help and visit, I shall certainly take a look at her blog and seek her advice.

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  23. you must get tears in your eyes when you see your own photo's, I would. I have it also in the boxhedge between me and my neighbourgh next door. In the 18 years I live here I never saw it and suddenly out of nowhere it came. The leaves turn on yellow.
    Your garden is so gorgeous. A feast to the eyes.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

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    1. At least I have the photos Marijke - I have to be realistic and remind myself that they are only plants. As I remember from reading your blog much, much worse things can happen.

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  24. What a great shame Rosemary ! I had this fungus attack a few years ago in my little city garden populated with Buxus, I cut all the sick branches off and miraculously the plants have recovered, but maybe I was just lucky !

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    1. Thank you Jane - some messages of hope have now arrived. I will show my husband yours - perhaps we should take our time and watch carefully just to see what transpires.

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  25. I want summer here - just now :)
    Your photos are so wonderful.
    Have a happy weekend

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  26. Hello Rosemary,
    Your garden is beautiful and I love the images you shared. How horrible that this blight is attacking your boxwood plants, which is an important element of the architecture of your garden. I like the expression "the Phoenix will rise again"
    Hope you get a spring like sunny weekend
    Helen xx

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    1. Hello Helen - well your hope has come true, this morning is beautiful, a perfect spring day. It seems there is nothing we can do about the blight so we will just have to grit our teeth and take what comes.

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  27. Dear Rosemary, I am so very sorry to hear that you have got the box blight ~ how devastating for you. Your garden is just magnificent, but then I suppose nothing is permanent but change, and it seems like there may be a few changes for you, but reading some of the comments above, you may be luckier than you think. Your spring flowers are a picture!

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    1. Thank you Jane - we anticipate the worst and any salvation will be a bonus. We are hopeful that bare areas will be quickly colonised by other nearby growing plants.

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  28. Good Morning Rosemary,
    I'm sad to see such beauty and know it must be removed. Boxwood is so lovely. Your photos of your garden are stunning! You have such a positive attitude towards this decision. However, I too have read some of the comments above and hopefully there may come yet another solution. Wishing you all the best. Keep us posted.
    Hugs
    Rosemary

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment Rosemary - at first we found it difficult to think or talk about it - my husband would still rather keep his head in the sand, he put a lot of work into creating it all. Having now written about it, I have found that a problem shared with bloggers becomes a lesser problem. What will be will be and we wait to see how things develop.

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  29. I'm so sorry about the Box blight, Rosemary. You know that we have plenty of English Boxwood in our garden. It is also "the glue" of our various gardens. The blight is a devastating problem here in States. We've been so nervous about bringing in new plants, mulch, etc. Tom and I do all of our own gardening, but if we had to employ gardeners, we would ask them to use our tools which have been sanitized.

    Do you know how the blight came to your property?

    And what a shame about the blight at Highgrove. That is such a beautiful property. When I toured it about 5 or 6 years ago, they had already replaced the Box edging in the potager with Nepeta

    Thank you for sharing more of your garden - so beautiful.

    What's blooming in DC? Nothing! It's snowing AGAIN. And we've been enduring frigid temps for weeks now.

    Cheers

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    1. Dear Loi - it is not really known how the fungus arrives but it probably came via birds or just in the air. We have not brought any new Box into the garden for at least 16 years ago. It is all our own home grown from tiny seedlings, and the only person that touches it is H. The mulch we use in the garden is also our own. At the moment there is no sign of the disease in the front garden, it is just in the back.

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  30. So sorry to hear about the box blight ........

    On a positive note the snowdrops and iris look great.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment Jan

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  31. Dear Rosemary,
    Well that's sad. Having box edging in out own garden I decided to check if the blight was present in Australia and of course it is. Around here we are experiencing cedar canker which is killing off the grand cedar trees that dot the landscape or form windbreaks on farming land. There is nothing to be done apparently.
    Those irises look nice. I just bought some deep purple ones for the front garden.
    Bye for now,
    Kirk

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    1. Dear Kirk - it is lovely to hear from you again.
      I have read all kinds of tales about what you can and can't do when you have blight, we shall just have to wait and see what happens. I have read that if you cut it right down to ground level it can regrow again, but having taken nearly 20 years for it to reach this stage, I doubt if we have another 20 years left in us!!!

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  32. Dear Rosemary - Without reading, I wouldn’t have noticed the disease of your boxwood in your photos. The garden itself looks beautiful but to look carefully, the boxwood looks a little yellowish. It’s so sad that such important components of your beautiful garden have a horrible disease. But I like the way you finish the post on positive note. Cheer up.

    I didn’t know the English name “boxwood” and then found “tsuge” in Japanese. Neither so with “blight”. What a difference with one letter difference; “l” and “r”. Excuse me if my reaction sounds strange; as an English learner, I’m always interested in the new word. Well, I have three Japanese boxwood, uxus microphylla var. japonica, standing along the fence like three fat men facing the street.

    Yoko

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    1. Dear Yoko - These photos were taken last year before the blight hit us. I should have taken a photo of the blight then you would have noticed it straightaway. The leaves turn dark brown and then dropped leaving bare stems. I will photograph it at some stage in the future but it is a bit disheartening to see at the moment.

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  33. I can only admire your strength to deal with a huge problem in your gorgeous garden. I am so sorry, Rosemary ...

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    1. Somehow we will manage to resolve it Dani - thank you for your kind visit.

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  34. Rosemary - this is heartbreaking. I cannot be as heartbroken as you. It makes me SO angry that the lack of regulation and care in the recent past has caused and continues to cause so much devastation. Ash, elm horse chestnut we know about. I had no idea box was also involved. I know someone who farms bananas in the tropics who is also very anxious about the blight affecting bananas. In Florida we saw acres of oranges being grubbed up because of a virus that attacks the roots.

    Truly mankind is idiotic.

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    1. Our natural world is certainly under stress and one does wonder what will happen in the future if these diseases and blights continue.

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  35. As for your neighbour - perhaps you should mention it although she probably already knows. But if not then perhaps she would have ideas about what to do. She will certainly have heard OF it and thought about it.

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    1. She will be well informed and know all about the blight because she is on the Boxwood Society committee. The problem is that there is absolutely no protection you can give yourself or in fact anything at all that you can do about it.

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  36. I was so sad to read about your box it looks so lovely in your pictures and it must have given you so much pleasure over the years nurturing it and making it look so good. It will be a hard and long job to remove. We have a topiary nursery close by it will be devastating for them if they too are affected. Sarah x

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    1. It was fortuitous that I took a lot of photos last year, at least we shall still have those. We are going to play it by ear and not remove everything until we see how it goes. I have read that someone who cut theirs right down found that it did in fact grow back again. That is what we shall do with ours, it would be too much for us to dig it all out.

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  37. oh dear, there always seems to be something under threat in our gardens and countryside.
    xxx

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    1. I would love the fungus to have come nowhere near us, but sadly it has.

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  38. A lovely paradise Rosemary....
    Love,
    Titti

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    1. In the interim we are fearful as to how it is going to look, but hopefully in time the garden will readjust itself.

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  39. Ow Rosemary this is so terrible. Your garden is gorgeous!!! I used to have several buxus in containers but two years ago, something just happended to them and they weren't doing well and eventually we had to get rid of them all. I haven't bought other ones yet. The ones we had to destroy were all from cuttings I grew years ago and had become large buxus. Of course a buxus in a pot isn't the same as in your beautiful garden where it gives structure. But on a positive note, the blooms that are popping up are so pretty. Isn't it wonderful to see signs of spring everywhere? Our garden btw has been under water all winter again, and still is, so not much popping up and don't think the hydrangeas, that weren't looking that well last year, will have survived. The very last bulbs in there will probably have rotten now as well, so we discussed it and because I'm the only one interested in a garden but my husband really detests doing any garden work, we will just get rid of everything and the garden won't be much of a garden anymore. my husband hopes grass will grow where there was a border now that I have been struggling in to have anything survive for sixteen years without success, only disappointment and a very bad back to live with now, also why I'm not able anymore to do all the garden work by myself. Some Narcissus in a container are showing though, so ending on a positive note ;) Really hope there will be a solution for your gorgeous garden.
    Lots of love,
    Marian

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    1. It is so lovely to hear from you Marian, I have been wondering if all was well with you.
      There will be no more buxus plants for me in the garden Marian, we will bide our time with the plants we have and see what happens. It is quite frightening the amount of plants and trees that are suffering from diseases and blights these days.
      If your garden is so boggy, perhaps you could consider filling it with bog plants that are happy to have their feet wet so much of the time. Our garden is the complete opposite. Because we life high up on oolithic limestone as soon as it rains the water drains straight down the hills and the limestone soaks it up like a sponge.
      Hope that you will come back blogging soon Marian♡

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  40. Hey Rosemary, so much has been boing on, not the most happy things, so I haven't had the energy to blog or even follow blogs, but it really felt good to have a look in blogcountry again last monday. Who knows, maybe I will blog again soon, we'll see.
    The problem with our garden is, it's so very wet most of the time but during summer it's hard as a stone, with cracks in the soil, so very dry. It's difficult to find plants that can have that. Every summer I used to water the whole garden every day but that's become too much work really; We've tried to improve the soil but without success. The claysoil always wins the battle. The only option I think would be to remove the soil, dig very deep and then bring good soil in the place but that is something we really can't afford. But there are worse things than a difficult garden, so we'll live with it.
    Marian

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    1. Sorry to learn that you have been having difficult things going on - however, we shall all still be here if and when you do decide to return.
      I can understand your garden problem, but I hadn't considered the fact that the clay becomes dry and cracked in the summer months. Perhaps you could make a garden with gravel and pretty coloured paving stones then have your pots sitting on the gravel filled with plants.
      Take care Marian - you are missed.

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  41. Oh, Rosemary, what a devastating blow for you after all the hard work and care you've put into creating and maintaining your glorious garden. I'm so sorry. I do hope that cutting the box back will do the trick and when it grows back the fungus will have died out. I'm glad you took so many photos in last year's lovely summer. Thank you for sharing them with us.

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    1. The garden will certainly take on a different appearance Perpetua, but we will not be replicating the clipped box with another plant - it took 16 years to get to this stage, so we would be unlikely to see it mature.

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  42. Dear Rosemary, This is very sad news. Your beautifully designed garden, your garden that has been, for you and all of us, such a pleasure to watch throughout the seasons! So much dedication and so much hard work! All lost. How devastating.

    I do know how you feel, Our 800 foot long Alée to our house has been hit with a disease. We have lost more than a third of our trees. It was a glorious path to our house, photographed by passerby's and painted by many artists.

    Friends of ours, in the northwestern part of France, have also been hit by this boxwood disease. The beauty of their formal garden also relied on the structure of boxwood design. Of course, knowing this, does not make it any easier for you. I am so very sorry. ox, Gina

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    1. Thank you Gina for your kind words. I am resigned to the demise of the Boxwood now, we shall have to see how it all develops. Hopefully other plants growing in the vicinity will migrate and fill up any gaps - it will certainly be less work for H without having to do all of the clipping each year.
      Sorry to learn about the loss of some of your trees down the long Alée too.

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  43. It must feel devastating to lose such an integral part of your garden. I find whenever I fall in LOVE with something and decide to make a good solid row out of it, only then will a problem appear. (It's some kind of law of gardening.)

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    1. We are keeping a close eye on it and will watch developments, sadly there is no treatment for it.

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