TIME was when the only recommended solution to box blight was grubbing out infected plants and starting again with a species less prone to disease.

But thinking inside the box now suggests it may well be possible to preserve those precious hedges with sensible precautions against reinfection, even though it will take time for them to regain their former stature.

My box ‘in-box’ has been overflowing with as many observations and inquiries as in the summer, when tomato blight, which has the same effect, reached epidemic proportion.

Although it can affect boxwood (buxus) hedging of any age, it seems more established specimens are at greater risk.

Isle of Wight County Press: Remove and dispose of all infected foliage.

If your box has blight, you should remove and dispose of all infected foliage.

The bigger they are, the more likely they are to have spores landing upon them, I suppose.

A gardener at the top of my road reported many yards of box hedging he planted — and had nurtured for 20 years — has been decimated.

Imelda Koray, of Cowes, was equally upset having enjoyed the results of taking box cuttings two decades ago in her then new garden.

Last year, her hedging suffered a little disease, but this year has been devastating.

She wondered what to do about the problem — and the diseased prunings too.

Imelda can glean some comfort that by cutting heavily infected plants down to ground level — which should be done as soon as the sudden trademark leaf die-off and black-streaked stems are spotted — will reduce the risk of spread.

Prunings can be placed in green waste and can be composted by the council’s contractor because their high speed, high temperature, process will kill the spores.

Not ideal for a lot of householders is disposal on a bonfire — and definitely not recommended is putting them on the compost heap.

Spores can survive for many years and be wind borne and spread readily, especially in damp conditions.

The box blight fungus (Cylindrocladium buxicola) survives and reproduces in infected leaves and stems, including fallen leaves and dead stems.

Minor or isolated infections, especially in topiary, can be removed and the area treated with a fungicide.

This can be done at any time of year. The beauty of box is that it can very rarely be killed by harsh treatment and will fill in gaps.

Where more drastic action is needed, clean your tools with diluted bleach during use and after you have finished and wash the clothes you were wearing when tackling the infection — and your boots too.

Consider applying a fungicide before cutting — and again after two weeks.

Remove fallen leaves and dispose of them and contaminated soil, replacing with fresh topsoil and mulch.

Finally, have a good cry and live in hope...

  • If you don’t want to run the risk of losing your hedge to disease, think of alternatives like privet, Japanese holly (which is nearly as good as box for topiary), laurel, or if you want colour, go for forsythia, pyracantha or oleansta.
  • You can read more about the attractive-looking Box-tree Moth (Cydalima perspectalis), whose caterpillars feast on box hedging, by clicking here.


Hang any tomato and pepper plants with green fruits upside down indoors to ripen.

If you haven’t done so already, cut back the fruited canes of your summer fruiting raspberries.

Summer fruiting raspberries only fruit once on each stem, so they should be cut down to ground level and any suckers appearing away from the main stem should be grubbed out.

Move citrus trees indoors to a bright, frost-free position late this month away from cold draughts and radiators. Reduce watering in winter but don’t let the plant dry out completely.

If your greenhouse is all but empty, now’s a good time to clean and disinfect it. This lets in more light and helps prevent pests and diseases over-wintering.

Lift and divide overcrowded herbaceous perennials while the soil is still warm.

If you plan to grow peas and beans next year, start preparing the site by digging trenches and filling with manure and vegetable kitchen waste. They love rich, moisture-retentive conditions.

Are you an Isle of Wight gardener with a question for Richard? You can email him on richryde@tiscali.co.uk