Living in a box


This news will trouble many gardeners in Wanstead. It might be Wanstead Tree Week, but this is not good news.

There are literally hundreds of gardens in Wanstead which have lovingly tended box trees, slow-growing but faithfully green and maleable into orderly shapes for the patient gardener who is prepared to wait years.

The threat of box blight, a wind-borne fungus which according to Monty Don means certain doom, is ever present. But there is a new problem.

Something is eating its way through Wanstead’s box trees: the box tree caterpillar. It arrived in the UK in 2007, and has been spreading out across the Home Counties since then, the RHS reports. It leads to plants being stripped back to their stems, and a tell-tale sign, apart from actual caterpillars, is a multitude of couscous-like eggs in the trees.



Wansteadium reader Christine Bates is one of the gardeners already facing up to her hard choices.

I think blight is possibly treatable – clipping away infected bits, insuring air circulates freely around and into the plant etc. But this caterpillar is so invasive. Have a delve into your bushes and if you have the caterpillar, you will find caterpillars (which affect box exclusively – no other plants), also decayed clumps of leaves, plus lots of couscous type green eggs. Also look out for a webbing spreading across the outside of the plant – aaaarghhhh. I have reluctantly sprayed a few small bushes that I have in pots – it is possible to spray these effectively – but the larger established bushes are simply too big. So, the end of a beautiful friendship as far as I’m concerned!

Mas Beg, of Heads N Tails, is on behalf of Wansteadium researching what’s the best kind of pest spray to halt the caterpillar in its tracks. Anyone with solutions please do share them here…