Buxus sempervirens otherwise know as Box trees and shrubs is widely grown as a low growing ornamental hedge. Box plants are also frequently cut into ball or pyramid shapes and grown in pots around the front door. For topiary enthusiasts the box plant makes the ideal specimen to work with in shaping all kinds of intricate designs from birds to bi-planes!
In recent years the buxus population here in the UK has been decimated by two pests – namely the Box Tree Caterpillar – Cydalima perspectalis and Box Blight – Cylindrocladium buxicola.
Like most “modern” or should I say millennial pests and diseases these never used to be a problem in the United Kingdom and gardeners could enjoy fantastic lush lines of box hedging and intricate topiary shapes with nary a thought of caterpillar infestation and fungal infection. However due to the decline of coal powered power stations and gas powered central heating replacing the old coal fire there is far less sulphur in our atmosphere hence acid rain which used to plague us here in the UK has almost disappeared. Now you may think this is a good thing and on the whole it is – there is less building erosion and we are living in an overall healthier climate but every silver lining has a cloud 🙂 and we are now getting more garden fungal infections which were previously kept at bay by the sulphuric acid rain falling on our garden plants.
It will not surprise you to discover that the buxus caterpillar was introduced from abroad and joins a long list of other invasive species previously unknown on these shores happily munching their way through the British flora and fauna – who knows perhaps they will all return to mainland Europe on the 31st of October if Boris Johnson has his way!! There are large established populations of Cydalima perspectalis in the South of England but they have steadily been creeping Northwards and can now be found eating Scottish buxus.
Elizabeth & Mark Braimbridge created a National Collection of Buxus plants at their plant Nursery in Langley, Wiltshire. A few years after the collection was passed on to a new owner, the collection fell into neglect and lost its “national collection” status. The only other national collection of buxus was located in Ickworth, East Anglia which also lost it’s status when it was affected by blight in 2015, this meant that the UK had no official Buxus collections.
After a lot of hard work and help from premium box grower “Topbuxus”, Andrew Napier and his wife Lena, along with Ashley Brunning, the current owner of the Langley collection regained “national Collection” status in November 2017. In my next article I will explore the methods they used to grow splendid buxus and how they combated the two pest mentioned above.