Six on Saturday

If there’s one thing I have learned about gardening over the years, it is that it is full of disappointments. You have to learn to roll with the punches, take the rough with the smooth etc. I have had Box bushes in many forms, pyramids, balls, low hedges and spirals but now, they’re all dead or dying. The cause is the dreaded box tree moth caterpillar, which has rampaged through the entire area where I live in Gloucestershire leaving scenes like the one above in almost every garden.

These notorious caterpillars can eat their way through a box bush in double quick time leaving a trail of destruction behind them. Young caterpillars are just over an inch long and a greeny yellow colour with black and white striping. The older caterpillars protect themselves from predators by building a distinctive pale white tent of webbing when they feed. In winter the small caterpillars hibernate in an envelope of two box leaves that have been spun together the previous autumn.

The adult box moth, Cydalima perspectalis, which it becomes is a rather beautiful creature with white wings edged with brown and is just over an inch wide from wing tip to wing tip. It arrived in the UK from Asia in 2008 and has quickly spread to all parts of the country, including Scotland.

No point in spending vast sums of money on expensive treatments unless everybody for miles around does the same, otherwise it will be back next year! No, time for pragmatism, the Buxus has had it’s day and it’s time to find an attractive replacement. I always try to see things like this as an opportunity, not a problem.

I think, on balance, the most admired rose in the garden this year has been ‘Ebb Tide’. It’s colour and fragrance have attracted more comments of approval than all the others, even though it does not have the strongest scent or the best flowers. A strongly growing, healthy and trouble free rose, almost thornless and repeat flowering.

The recent heatwave and consequent drought has badly affected the Crocosmia ‘George Davison’ which is remarkable and disappointing. It has never happened before. I thought they were bombproof! I have certainly had a patch of the old Montbretia in the back garden which I have never done anything with, in dry poor soil, under a tree and they survive anything. Ah well, another opportunity beckons!

The beautiful flowers of Salvia uliginosa otherwise called Bog Sage! It certainly needs a constantly moist soil and lets you know when it needs a drink by drooping its flowerheads, which it does almost daily in this weather! Adored by bees, tall and willowy, it should be grown more in cottage style gardens.

The little Fox Grape, Vitis labrusca ‘Isabella’, has produced a great crop of fruit in just it’s second year. The grapes are becoming a darker shade of green and getting that musty bloom before they turn dark red with their characteristic pink flesh in the autumn. Learning how to prune them has been a revelation, not too dissimilar to wisteria in that you take off the whippy growth in the summer after the fruit has set and then a second harder prune in winter.

The fat red berries on the dark leaved Physocarpus ‘Diablo’ give this shrub an extra appeal at this time of year. Those who hard prune it miss out on this treat as they flower and fruit on the previous year’s wood, a bit like a Philadelphus or Cotinus. I now do a three stage prune to get new stems from the base, new stems from semi-pruned older branches and the height, flowers and fruit on untouched central branches. It seems to work!

Have a great weekend

David