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Our work in the garden at Little Moreton Hall

Visitors walking through the gardens in August at Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire
Visitors at Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

Projects are under way to restore the Knot Garden, whose box hedging is affected by box blight, and to create a new orchard at the far side of the moat.

The Knot Garden project

A much-loved feature of Little Moreton Hall’s garden for 50 years, the Knot Garden is formed of box hedging spanning hundreds of metres. In 2019, it became affected by box blight and a long-term project to restore it is now under way.

Over the past few years, several attempts were made to rid the box plants of the fungal disease, including applying treatments of a fertiliser designed specifically for preventing box blight. However, this wasn’t successful and the disease has spread throughout the Knot Garden.

What is box blight?

Box blight has been ravaging Britain and Europe since the 1990s; no cure has yet been found. Its relentless spread has been helped by the milder weather and wetter ground conditions of recent years, a trend that climate scientists expect to continue.

Box blight is caused by two types of fungi, cylindrocladium buxicola and pseudonectria buxi. The blight causes leaves to go brown and fall off which leads to bare patches. Once present it spreads rapidly, turning lush, green growth into a mass of dead twigs. The disease can last up to six years and there is currently no cure.

Getting rid of the box blight

A long-term project began in June 2021 to protect the future of the Knot Garden and try to prevent box blight from returning.

Firstly, the box plants were trimmed to ground level and all infected material removed, including the leaves and soil. This was quite a dramatic change to how you might be used to seeing the Knot Garden, but unfortunately it was necessary.

Preventing box blight returning

Throughout the rest of 2021, the box plants were allowed to grow back. During this time, four different methods were used to identify the most effective way of preventing box blight from returning.

This included leaving the box plants to grow back untreated as a control; applying specialised fertiliser; applying mycorrhizal fungus; and applying a combination of mycorrhizal fungus, bonemeal and fertiliser.

How you can help

It’s natural to think that plants, particularly impressive features like the Knot Garden, are unchanging and will last forever. But unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

The gardeners at Little Moreton Hall work hard throughout the year to keep the garden healthy and projects like this need a lot of time and resources.

Every time you visit Little Moreton Hall, spend money in the tea room and pre-loved bookshop or become a National Trust member, it contributes towards this important work. Donations, big or small, are also welcome. With your help, the Knot Garden’s future can be protected.

A view of the moat surrounding Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire
A view of the moat surrounding Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire | © National Trust Images/John Millar
A family having a picnic on the lawn at Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire

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Everyone needs nature, now more than ever. Donate today and you could help people and nature to thrive at the places we care for.

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