The Boxwood Blight is serious, very prevalent right now after a hot wet summer and early fall in the east, and should be treated with the respect it deserves. It is caused by the fungus Cylindrocladium buxicola, and if you care about the boxwoods under your care you need to know about it. The quickest and easiest way that I have seen to learn is in this Power Point on the Saunders Brothers website. Pictures and everthing! Saunders Brothers, by the way is a leading nursery on the East Coast and they do a huge boxwood trade.
You need to know about the Boxwood Blight, and you should care about the Boxwood Blight. It is not, however, the end of gardening as we know it. They have been dealing with it in the UK for over 25 years, and it can be controlled.
So Keep Calm and Read On.
1. It is air born, easily transmitted, hard to treat, and impossible to eradicate. It’s also almost impossible to detect if it’s latent. You may have it on your property with asymptomatic shrubs. Oh goody, just what you need.
2. It won’t be spread easily at all if you take some simple precautions.
3. There is no way to make it so there is NO CHANCE of spreading it. Sorry, but you should still Keep Calm. Even more so, knowing that.
4. If you take the simple precautions, the chances of spreading it are greatly reduced.
An anecdotal comparison: If you are in a minor car accident while wearing a seatbelt, the chances of injury are GREATLY reduced, but not completely eliminated. That’s the ‘taking the simple precautions’ scenario. If you don’t wear a seatbelt, well that’s just silly, like not taking simple precautions about your boxwoods.
Your simple precautions:
1. Check your boxwood for any signs of stress. If you see a problem that you can’t identify, call a Certified Arborist or Professional Landscaper who has experience with this disease to some diagnose it. Or, take some samples to your local extension office.
2. If boxwoods are a large (and therefore pricey) part of your landscaping, don’t wait for signs of stress. Get a qualified company to come treat your collection prophylactically. It will be money well spent compared to replacing shrubs.
3. If you hire landscapers or gardeners to work in your yard, talk to them. Make certain that they know exactly what this problem is, and how to deal with it. They should be disinfecting their tools and themselves before arriving at your property if they have come from a property known to have blight or if there is blight in the area. If there is blight on your property, make sure they know where it is and to steer clear of the area, and they should not use blowers nearby. Even in the case of no known blight at either location, they should disinfect tools between boxwoods when pruning.
4. If you are your own landscaper on a blight free property, you should still disinfect your own tools between pruning shrubs.
What to use to disinfect? Clorox wipes, Clorox spray (1:10), Lysol, rubbing alcohol. Easy stuff!
But just like the seatbelt comparison, you just can’t possibly be certain that your boxwoods are going to be completely safe. What if a neighborhood child or dog touches your shrubs after touching boxwood with the blight? What if a landscaping crew from 3 doors down blows the spores into the air, and when they come down, they unluckily land on your boxwood? What if a family member unknowingly touches an infected shrub and then touches yours later?
These are things you can’t control. But you can control not living in fear, so please realize that the Boxwood Blight is a problem, but it’s a rather first world problem, wouldn’t you agree? So keep it in perspective, realize what you can and cannot control (the latter category is RATHER large) and continue to enjoy your gardening.