Fighting back: Box Blight

Project
Box Blight east wing

Background

In early 2015 one of our Gardeners’ discovered evidence of Box Blight at Ickworth. This is something that we had experienced before, with small sections of hedging being removed and replaced with Yew, however the extent of the Blight this time was widespread, affecting the Italianate Garden, Walled Garden and Albana hedges; almost 3km of hedging altogether. Over the last two years we have been working on a plan on how best to deal with the outbreak.

The main issue is that there is no current permanent or effective cure for blight; spraying, different trimming routines, and cutting back are thought to have little impact in the long term. Whilst the hedging may not actually look ‘too bad’ at present and we could try and save all the hedges using these techniques, this is only delaying the inevitable, and we have to consider our Italianate Garden over the long term.

What did we do?

So if there is no cure, where did this leave us? The RHS advice is to remove and burn the hedge, dig out the roots and soil. We could then technically replant with Box. However, the fungal spores that cause blight can live in the soil for up to 15 years and are spread by water, wind as well as by people, animals and tools. Given the widespread nature of the disease across Ickworth and the country this would be a waste of resources, and add into this the other threat of the Box Tree Caterpillar as well, we have decided to replant with the more resilient Yew. Box has provided the structure of the gardens for 200 years, creating the garden rooms and evergreen Italianate feel, however the gardens have always been evolving over the generations and must do it again!

Read more about our timeline of phases and how we were able to fight against the blight.