A Very Bad Day

by AnneWareham on January 17, 2013

removal of box balls, Veddw

It’s snowing and I’m feeling heartbroken. And Jeff, our gardener,( he comes one day a week and is indispensable – see sidebar.) is out there, in the snow, working so hard. Digging up the box balls in our front garden.

What to say? We’ve been putting off this dreadful decision for about two years now, ever since box blight arrived in the front garden. We are just about keeping blight under control and bits of the plants would die off then start cheerfully – but so slowly, – sprouting healthy new growth.

So we kept thinking it might recover, or a miracle would happen, or we’d stop noticing..

It’s called denial and finally we’ve stopped now and the miserable job is being done. There’s only Billy who doesn’t mind…

Billy (Jeff's dog) at Veddw, copyright Anne Wareham

 And now it’s even stopped snowing – I thought it might at least brighten a bleak picture up for us….

The front garden will have to have a revamp and we have exciting plans. But for for some time we will be looking at a very bleak space with major absences.

Removal of Box Balls Veddw, 9, copyright Anne Wareham, Veddw


Removal of Box Balls Veddw, copyright Anne Wareham

I used to love the box balls covered in snow.

Front Garden in snow, with Box Balls, Veddw, copyright Charles Hawes

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Sue Beesley January 17, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Sorry to hear that Anne. Really hard to have to rip out what feels like a key element in a garden. Good luck with your new plans.

AnneWareham January 17, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Thanks, Sue. Feels very bleak right now..

Helen at Toronto Gardens January 17, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Gutted! The blight is taking hold over here, too, along with disfiguring psyllid infestations. The more people plant box, the more roosts these have to land and devastate. What a beautiful picture you created. And I’m sure you will again.

AnneWareham January 17, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Thanks, Helen – it will help when it’s not winter ….

Jennie Finney January 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Oh Anne, I’m so sorry to hear about this awful blight, no wonder you’re heart broken. The very best of luck with your new plans.

AnneWareham January 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Thank you, Jennie. The best thing about snow if we have some will be it will change the scene for a few days…

James Golden January 17, 2013 at 3:49 pm

How awful. Are any of the Asian box immune? I can’t wait to hear your plans for renewal.

AnneWareham January 17, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I don’t think any box are – I wouldn’t advise anyone to plant any (though we still have loads left to worry about!) kind of box now. Too risky. And in spite of what people say no-one actually knows how it spreads…I’ll get round to cheerful new plans sometime…!

Adam Hodge January 17, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Those gorgeous big Taxus balls have such presence you can afford to dispense with the Buxus. What will you do ..have pyramids clipped uber tight like Cypresses or do a Marqueyssac and create an assemblage of wonky shapes !

AnneWareham January 17, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Not sure. Will be adding a rail that fits with the pergola all the way round, and a new bird path, we hope (commissioned and we await a drawing) – but in corners by the bird bath – dunno yet… Important – it’s our constant view..

Rebecca Wells January 17, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Oh dear, Anne. It’s hard to dig up such magnificent, mature plants BUT Box gets Blight, can be trimmed only on a dull day to prevent leaf scorch AND (much worse) stinks of tom cats. So, OUT WITH IT, plan, scheme, research by the fire and replant gloriously and excitedly when the weather warms up and the sap begins to rise. If you decide on a similar plant, albeit a lighter, brighter green, may i suggest Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Golf Ball’ or, for a hint of purplish in the foliage, Country Park? Both are well-behaved, tolerant, disease-free and need less clipping.

AnneWareham January 17, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Hate to say this, Becky, but we still have about 3 miles of box hedging …(and I love the smell). AND (as well) thanks for your suggestions – I will check those out and I’m sure other people on here will appreciate the possibilities. XXX

emma reuss January 17, 2013 at 5:00 pm

so sorry anne

AnneWareham January 17, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Thank you, Emma.

Maggie Biss January 17, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Oh my gosh. I am sure you had to do it, but they still look so green and healthy from the distance of the photo. I don’t think i could have done it….you know me, every little plant has to get saved xxx

AnneWareham January 17, 2013 at 5:56 pm

They had great big gashes out of them where the blight had been. It will be better not looking at them and fretting all the time once we’ve got used to it.

Sarah January 17, 2013 at 6:05 pm

O dear – I actually feel quite queasy! I’d be gutted 🙁 Which isn’t very cheering for you, sorry. Winter before last I lost my standard privet lollipops – couldn’t bear to dig em out for a whole year so painted them white to make them a ghostly presence. Looked awful. Chin up. xxx

AnneWareham January 17, 2013 at 6:22 pm

I remember them. Shame it didn’t work – was good idea. *smiles grimly*

Sara Venn January 17, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Oh Anne that’s heartbreaking. It’s a horror once it gets in-we both know that and I think after last years wet you will not be alone in what you’ve had to do. But it is heartbreaking and I feel your pain. I truly do. xxxxx

AnneWareham January 17, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Thanks Sara. I hope we can make it all look a bit better for when you get here…

Marie McLeish January 17, 2013 at 6:35 pm

I hope the stark change in the front garden leads to an exciting opportunity in what to do next!
Lots of luck and creativity…

AnneWareham January 17, 2013 at 7:30 pm

I hope I can do it.. thanks.

Felicity January 17, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Bad news indeed – but I guess once the deed is done it,s best to start looking for the opportunities that open up.

I’ve had the same dilemma with yews which have failed to thrive (basically they’ve died). We’ve persevered…for 7 years and now have a patchy row of what should be formal columns. Should have given up in 2005 and done something completely different. Have wasted all that time when there are ideas just waiting to be excited about.

AnneWareham January 17, 2013 at 7:30 pm

It takes some people (who shall be nameless) a long time to grasp the nettle!

And now you mention our yews are finding the constant wet a bit much – the only thing they really hate. But we’re improving their drainage and hope that will help.. If you look through the gallery on this website you’ll see they are not easily discarded. So not easy, these decisions.

I do hope your alternative works and gives great pleasure..

John January 17, 2013 at 6:53 pm

All gardens must evolve: it is often too easy to become lazy, complacent, to miss the possibilities to improve what we have created. Sometimes we tweak around the edges. Sometimes something more drastic happens and we have to sacrifice treasured friends. And it hurts.

But, as you say, you have “exciting plans”. Out of the loss comes opportunity. So whilst sympathising with your loss, I look forward to the garden becoming better; to the phoenix rising from the ashes.

If needs be, think of the humble lonicera nitida. Once established (in a year or so), it offers loads of pruning and shaping opportunities and is very fast growing. Small leaved, available in green or gold. I have some that I’ve chopped to ground level and they’re three feet tall again within a year. Propagation’s a doddle too.

AnneWareham January 17, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Lonicera was there once – hated it – grew long whiskery bits whenever I turned my back! But I hope I’ll be able to rise to the challenge, John and please you on your next visit..

Fiona Clubb January 17, 2013 at 6:58 pm

In the middle of reading your book. Love it.
I thought you must be my twin until I read these blog comments
Way too much sentimentality for me. I lost a year old calf yesterday – squashed by its Aunties rushing to the feed wagon. Heartbreaking – a cruel twisted knife in the soul but the last thing I need is the sorrow to be prolonged by wonderful friends. Have animals -will die. Have plants -will die.
Enjoy extracting your next vision knowing that the death of your snow balls have given way to new life

AnneWareham January 17, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Well you may have to revise your opinion of me. But it’s not the plants, it’s the garden, and if I didn’t care deeply what the garden looks like, what the experience of the garden is like, I wouldn’t have bothered – nor wrote the book.

Fiona Clubb January 17, 2013 at 7:34 pm

I am equally passionate about my environment.
Your words are deep and penetrating. You are the first
person to ever respond to one of my comments and I thank you for that.
You are a rare person in a disturbingly fluffy world. All the best.

AnneWareham January 17, 2013 at 7:46 pm

And you just made me laugh! XXX

Fiona Clubb January 17, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Now – that is sad

margaret January 18, 2013 at 1:15 am

Anne I was sent your link by Jeff & Bethan (I am Jeffs Mum) and its too bad about the box having to come out! I am sure when your new plans take shape you will once again have a beauty of a front garden ( maybe with Jeffs help?) with regards to the snow its now 1.20 am and we have a little here so am sure you will have plenty there by now! (I dont always sleep well!) thus the time! Hope the snow improves the view!

AnneWareham January 18, 2013 at 9:18 am

Thank you Margaret – and it will all be made new with your Jeff’s help one day – but you are right: not today. There are already about 4 inches of snow outside and the garden looks pretty wonderful again, even without the box.

elizabethm January 18, 2013 at 9:49 am

That is not good. I loved them. It is not much consolation for you that I have been playing with the idea of introducing box here and think now that I won’t so you may have saved me the same experience. For that I am grateful. Very interested to know what comes next though.

AnneWareham January 18, 2013 at 10:04 am

Glad if some good comes of it! XXX

Elizabeth Buckley January 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm

So very sorry to hear this Anne, but you’ve done the right thing, hard as it is.
How is the box in the rest of the garden? Do you still have it in the ‘veg garden’?
I like the sound of ‘exciting plans’ & it’s a really great opportunity to re-design/reinvent the front garden – though it was absolutely glorious as it was!
Gradually the ‘plan’ will become out of date!
Sending you & Charles a huge hug – keep warm, snuggle up & dream of your plans for the garden.
L xx

AnneWareham January 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm

It’s not going to be that different Libby – but they are on your plan, so the plan is now out of date. But we have a new car park too… maybe we’ll have to have a new plan one day!
The rest of the box is struggling but we’re managing it without major damage so far, just bits of damage and we get slow regrowth… Fingers crossed….
Thanks for much needed hug.XXXXX

Paul Steer January 18, 2013 at 8:19 pm

See how many people care about Veddw ! I also agree with Fiona Clubb about your book. For me it has been the most honest and insightful book about a garden and gardening that I have read.

AnneWareham January 18, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Hey, Paul! This is a cheer-Anne-up Conspiracy!! (It’s working) XXXXXXX

Svend January 19, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Ooo-errr…. must have needed a large gulp of finest malt before making this decision!
For what it’s worth, I understand the NT have gone over to using Ilex crenata in place of Buxus, precisely because of the risk of blight. I doubt I could tell the difference between them.

AnneWareham January 19, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Thank you – sadly there is one very clear way of telling the difference: cost.

We grew our box from clippings we found when garden visiting after someone had just cut their hedge. Ilex crenata cost an arm and various other bits…NT must be richer than us..

Finest malt on duty for recovery from that exercise..xx

Wm. Martin. July 12, 2013 at 12:02 am

Ummm Elm/Ash/Box..your over populated Island is telling you something.

AnneWareham January 18, 2013 at 12:59 am

No it’s not – your ‘fluffy world’ is such a good expression, and you cheered me up. Thank you.

Fiona Clubb January 18, 2013 at 8:34 am

Thank you back for a great book. I share your memory issues and all the associated problems that creates with communicating with the “lingually learned”. x x x