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Living: Don't be boxed in by disease.

Byline: Howard Drury

BRITAIN'S heritage is dying - and yours truly has been getting to the root of the problem.

Box is often associated with the traditions of Britain. You'll find it in many of our historic gardens bordering more formal flower beds and even vegetable plots.

In our more modern gardens it's often used as an ornamental plant, or as a small hedging plant, but all over Britain they're dying.

The Royal Horticultural Society has carried out tests and identified a problem called cylindrocladium, which was found on all the common Box samples they looked at.

But there's worse to come.

I've been working on the internet for several weeks and I've found a connection between the fungus and a disease which gets in through the wounds caused by the first attack.

The result? All the tips of the young growths turn papery brown and straw-coloured.

If the tips of your Box develop blackish mould-like spots and then become straw coloured, even a year or two later - especially where it has been hard pruned back - you're in trouble.

Cultural

Botanists will tell you there's no cure but boffins in America have been working on the problem for some years and tell me that good hygiene and cultural conditions are very important.

Box is frequently attacked by root-rotting fungi, opening the door for the double disease whammy.

If you can avoid root rot, then there's a good chance you'll avoid trouble.

Don't let your Box grow too much before you give it a trim - three or four times during the season is best.

If you've got infected material, prune it completely back to healthy tissue, frequently cleaning your pruning tools with a suitable disinfectant such as Jeyes or Armillatox.

Then dispose of any infected material and don't leave it lying around the garden.

If you're using Armillatox, a 1 in 500 solution should prove very effective. It may need applying several times and should never be done when the plant is dry at the root or in bright sunshine.

The message here is don't delay. The threat to Box is as serious as Dutch Elm disease was for the British Elm.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jun 24, 2001
Words:360
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