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Box Bronzing: not blight!

  • Box Bronzing: not blight!
  • Box Bronzing: not blight!

It's late December, we've had a cold snap, and now a lot of people are asking me what is wrong with their Box, in hedges and particularly those in pots - instead of being a healthy green colour, they are turning a nasty orangey-brown shade, as you can see in the photos.

Well, I can tell you, in the words of Douglas Adams: Don't Panic!

This is called bronzing, and it's a perfectly natural phenomenon: it's a reaction to stress, which is usually a combination of cold weather, wind scorch, drought and a little bit of hunger. Plants in pots are particularly susceptible to it, as they don't get the same access to water within the soil that a Box hedge does, and they likewise lack access to pretty much any nutrients other than the ones we choose to give them - if we remember!

Come spring, these plants will need some feed and some watering: liquid seaweed feed is the best thing, both as a soil drench and as a foliar feed - and all that means is that you water it generously from above, splashing it all over the foliage as well as around the base. If you have any comfrey, then a well-diluted liquid comfrey feed would give them a treat: and if you have neither of those to hand, well, good old Growmore (or any other general purpose plant feed) will do.

During next summer, give them a good thick mulch of organic matter, with a fistful of Fish, Blood & Bone (which sounds like a particularly distasteful new boy band) beforehand, and make sure that - if they are in pots - they are well watered.

For now, there's not much you can do to help them, as there is no point encouraging them to put on new leaves now, just as the cold weather moves in: any new growth will just be ruined by the frost, and they will have used up their resources for nothing. Better to just take some photos to remind you that next year, they'll need some regular feeding through the summer to reduce the chances of it happening again!

Comments (2)

  1. Grower

    Rob Johnson, Green & Furry pet and garden care

    Blood, Sweat and Tears! some hippy band around about the time I Was born.
    That looks like a real cold blast to one side in particular. Last summer one of my customers box hedge started with blight, he was upset as was I, his pride and joy. He is a trustee of the Welsh Botanic Gardens, but after asking there, no answers were forthcoming on a remedy. We hav'nt done so bad with it so far here, then I spotted infected plants for sale at a local garden centre! Unbelievable. In my typical style I tackled them about it, after half an hour or so I was approached and a member of Staff, they said they will be alright, just a bit stressed, soon afterwards the superviser informed me they have been taken to the holding area and are no longer for sale, not admitting the blight bit, they just said it was under watering, even though they are quite thurough with that. I told my client and he was disgusted. These are the first sightings of box blight for me,the garden centre is about five miles for my customers house, so the spores could have easily reached in the prevailing wind, maybe. Ilex cremata grows well here, but it is no substitute really. It's not necessarily as a result of the garden centres practices, but I do t know what the answer is now, these are fantastic little hedges, interluded with balls and cones, they took years to achieve and I only reserve my own sharpest hand shears for them with normally great results.

  2. Grower

    Rob Johnson, Green & Furry pet and garden care

    Please correct,'I do not know what the answer is', sorry, doing it again.

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