For Garden Bloggers Foliage Day I usually encourage you to share some particularly beautiful foliage in your garden at present or describe how you use foliage to enhance your garden.
As my regular readers will know I depend heavily on foliage to give form, structure and texture to my garden. Foliage is the most important feature during the middle of summer when few plants are flowering. The formal garden is basically composed of three plants, Lavender hedging, Perovskia in the centre and Box cut-off pyramids at the corners.
The box was planted before almost anything else, and during the last couple of years has started to look solid and important in the garden.
In 2011 I added some box spheres behind the pomegranate to add a calm area to the view from the east side of the terrace.
Those of you in the UK will be well aware of the Box blight which has been causing huge problems in northern Europe but luckily was not a great problem in the dryer climate the part of Italy where I live; I wasn’t feeling smug, but just grateful.
Alas, another problem for the poor box plants has arrived here and also in the UK and for that reason I felt it worth bringing to your attention so that you can act more quickly than I did and thereby save your box plants.
In this image the caterpillar looks a lot like the cabbage white caterpillar but in reality it is smaller and darker and usually hidden by the web of fibres it surrounds itself with.
Here is some information taken from the RHS site, you can find more information here.
Common name: Box (Buxus) tree caterpillar (Cydalima perspectalis)
Main symptoms Foliage is eaten and covered in webbing
“It is native to East Asia and it became established in Europe in 2007. Although adult moths were first found in the UK in light traps in 2008, it was not until 2011 that larvae were reported in private gardens in the home counties. By the end of 2014 the moth had become established in parts of London and surrounding counties; in many cases the caterpillars had caused severe defoliation indicating that the moth is likely to become a serious problem.”
To be honest a friend said she thought there was a problem at the end of last year and I carefully looked at the damaged foliage for signs of the caterpillars but I could see any. My mistake was that I was looking at the damaged leaves but the caterpillars had moved on and were very well camouflaged on the dark green leaves. The warm weather has obviously brought a new wave of the moths and caterpillars and shockingly in the space of a couple of weeks a couple of my smaller box have been completely defoliated and will, I’m sure, die. All the Box in my garden has varying degrees of damage but the box spheres are the worst affected.
So what are my options?
- The organic nematode doesn’t sound particularly suited to Italy as it needs to be used on dull moist days and it isn’t likely there will be many of those now that spring has arrived. Plus nematodes are not available for sale here and if they have to come from abroad it is likely they will be dead before they arrive.
- The chemical offered to me by my local gardening supplier was, in fact, a banned chemical because it is believed that it can adversely affect the bee population. I DO NOT wish to cause any damage to any of the bees that visit my garden. I don’t use chemicals in the garden, not even those considered harmless.
- Dig out all the box in the garden and burn it and think of a replacement.
I think I have made my decision and so will spend the summer trying to decide which other plant will provide the structure I want. Your ideas will be greatly appreciated.
This moth comes from Asia and demonstrates the issues caused by the movements of plants around the world. Growing plants in other climate areas because they will grow more quickly and can therefore be produced at a lower cost may be one cause of this introduction.
How many more plants will it be impossible to grow in the future? In this area there are historic gardens with centuries old Box parterres; of course they will have to do everything they can to save their plants but at what cost to the wider environment?
I hope you have some more positive aspects of foliage to share with us today. Please join GBFD by linking your post in a comment here and by including a link back here. Please feel free to re-blog this to spread the warning. Prompt action might have saved my box, it could save yours!
To finish on a happier note, here is the view of the Upper Drive Border, the forms of the Cistus and other evergreens are creating just the look I want!