The Box of Shame

One of the earliest gardening lessons I learnt was that every garden should have winter structure and being a fairly traditional gardener, it was clear to me that box hedging and clipped box structures not only give year round structure but are a wonderful foil, allowing other plants to shine against the rich, dark background of box. We have numerous box hedges around the garden and various other shapes but not having the budget to install these, ready grown, most of them have been grown from cuttings or very young plants. As such, there is a deeper attachment to these little green structures than there might otherwise be. They are clipped and cosseted, fed regularly and I have real nightmares that one day the dreaded box blight will arrive and shatter this cosy existence. 

That said, clipped box is pretty high maintenance, even if I do take a great pride in it’s appearance. It seems that try as you might, finding the precise atmospheric conditions in which to trim your hedges is nigh on impossible. You shouldn’t clip on a sunny day, for fear of leaf scorch but neither should you clip in damp conditions because of the fear of encouraging the fungal growth of blight. So a dry, overcast day is ideal, preferably in the morning. Try and find one of those this spring, when it has been mediteranean sun or tropical rain for months now. Of course, there is also the debate about when to clip your box, once a year, twice a year, in May before Derby Day, June, July or just September. Everyone seems to have their preferred routine but I just do it when I have time because clipping all our box takes between two and three days. Granted, I do it all by hand, no machinery used and I also lay out sheets either side of the hedges so that collecting the clippings is made easier. It is a labour of love. This year, I have done most of the hedges in late May and as far as possible in ideal conditions. Why then are there areas where the leaves have turned brown? It’s just a bit patchy. Initially I panicked and started checking for blight but no – it’s just a bit discoloured. Luckily, there has been no one here to see it other than me and Mr P, the postman putting parcels in the woodshed or the fishmonger coming to deliver the monthly supply of yummies. I can only pray that neither of the latter are topiary aficianados or I will be hiding in my box of shame until the summer has passed. 

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