Langley Gardening: Box blight spreading from England

Dear Anne,

“I have several boxwoods which I hope will grow together and make a small hedge one day. Most of them have some part of the bush now turning orange in colour. It started last year and is getting worse. I can’t see any bugs or webs on the bush. What is wrong, please?”

Pat Pryce, Maple Ridge

Orange leaves are a symptom of the fungal disease boxwood blight. It started in England, moved to the States and is now in B.C.

Sad to say, it’s considered incurable. The orange leaves will die and gradually fall off. Meanwhile, more leaves turn orange.

Box blight can spread around neighbourhoods by wind and rain (like other fungal diseases).

Fungicides can prevent it, but they can also mask it so that a bush may be infected but it seems to be okay.

To be successful with fungicides, you have to cover absolutely all the bush: including the stems and undersides of leaves.

Unfortunately, box is so dense that that is almost impossible to do.

There are other shrubs that might make a good replacement hedge, including Japanese holly (Ilex crenata), an evergreen shrub that produces masses of white flowers followed by black berries. It is very hardy.

Dwarf rhododendrons make a lovely hedge. The Yakushimanums usually have pink buds and pink or white flowers. They’re very easy to get.

Cryptomeria japonica (Globosa nana) is a dwarf, very rounded evergreen.

Dwarf salal is another possibility.

You might want to wait a bit and see how quickly the blight moves. But it has the reputation of being hard to deal with.

Sarcocca can also catch it, as can some other boxes, like Buxus microphylla.

It can lay dormant in fallen leaves of box for five years.

Dear Anne,

“My neighbour had a new lawn put in, and there are mushrooms growing here and there near the property line. It is north-facing and not helped by my neighbour’s three-storey house. How can I prevent the mushrooms from spreading onto my side of the yard. There is no fence there.”

Soo Chan, Vancouver

It’s very likely that your neighbour’s topsoil contained commercial mushroom compost from a mushroom farm. If so, they’re most unlikely to become established in the neighbour’s lawn or yours.

But to be absolutely certain, you could install an edging all the way along the property line. It should be deeper down in your soil than the depth of your neighbour’s new soil.

A garden centre would be able to sell you suitable edging.

Dear Anne,

“Can I stop fertilizing my petunias and geraniums now? They are in containers. I used the Shake and Feed just once when they were planted in May, and they looked gorgeous. Does it just need to be used once a season, as it’s quite expensive?”

Terry Wong, Burnaby

Shake and Feed fertilizer lasts about four months. So you won’t need any till the end of September – but by then nights are colder and annuals are getting older, tireder, and ready to be composted.

The best thing you can do is hold off applying it again. Shake and Feed is intended to last a whole season.

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