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The Gardening Coach

Catharine Howard is the Gardening Coach. Contact her for gardening advice and visit www.thegardeningcoach.co.uk for more information.

Can yew combat box blight?

Yew edging at David Austin Roses

Box blight is becoming a  scourge.  I read a recent  article in the gardening press that offered alternatives to Buxus sempervirens.  None of the plants on the list did the trick for me. The thing about box is that it tolerates dry shade.  Lavender? catmint?  hyssop? Please – they all want sun.

Obedient to the topiarists scissors?  I don’t think so and despite the rumours, the murmurs and the full blown fear of blight getting its toehold round here, I went and bought bare rooted box plants to grow on and take cuttings from.  They make me feel the ticking a time bomb.  That blight is creeping every nearer.

And then it came to me in the middle of the night.  What about those neat little hard clipped hedgelets at David Austin Roses?   They are kept smaller than your average box edge to a bed – a veritable bonsai hedge.  See my photo -  my notebook which is 30 cm high matches the top height of the clipped yew.  I had gone there for a Design day – the taxus baccata doing its thing stole the show from the lovely roses.

And what about full blown buxom roundy shapes on a small show garden at Chelsea?  “So slow growing”   but I am sure that reputation is exaggerated.  Next time you pass a specimen of Taxus baccata bend forward and  and stare into the new season’s growth – so many shades from the green of cooked spinach to rusty brown.  Box you may languish as yew can do exactly what you can, only better.

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5 comments to Can yew combat box blight?

  • I didn’t realize there was a Boxwood blight. Yikes! They’re such lovely evergreen hedges–it would be a shame to lose a lot of them.

  • GeeGee Parrot

    Hello Catherine.
    Audley End, a Jacobean house near Saffron Waldren in Essex, is what is left from a medieval estate. In the woods opposite lived a much beloved friend of mine, we were walking in these woods and I remarked that there almost appeared to a tunnel made out of several HUGE Yew trees. She laughed and said that before the war, the estate woodsmen clipped and trained these trees so that there was a tunnel which enabled people to ride and walk without getting wet! I think this stopped approx 100 years ago due to WW1.
    This must have been an extraordinary sight.

  • I have the variety B. suffruticosa for my box balls and so far, touch wood, they are fine. I’m sure I read somewhere that they don’t get blight, I hope so!

  • “They make me feel the ticking a time bomb.”

    I can relate! Every time new reports come out about this or that, we anxious gardeners just have to wait… I am hoping the best for my Cornus florida, though everyone in the US warns not to plant them.

  • I know what you mean – I have just looked up a small and alluring plant from an italian garden only to find it on Invasive Species Register.. so between that and the pests, the time bomb ticks away.

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