June 1, 2013

An Oops Averted

On the first of each month I share a gardening mistake I have made, show you pictures of it, and then try to carry on.

Joene sponsors this meme on her blog, where you can check out other gardening oops posts.

But this month I am happy to tell you that I averted a mistake.

I almost made an oops, but then I did some research, and you would be amazed at how information can help when you are about to make a blindly precipitous decision about something you know nothing about.

The background:
Boxwood blight, a newly discovered fungus, infects all boxood (Buxus) types and there is no cure. Infected plants die, and often quite suddenly. They have to be removed and discarded, and it can wipe out most of a nursery's stock, or wreck a carefully designed home garden. We are on high alert here in Connecticut, where the disease is spreading.

The situation:
As I pruned my Buxus microphylla 'Winter Gem' in early spring, I discovered brown leaves.

The solution:
Aaack. Dig up the boxwood. Where's the shovel? Jim, come help me take it out right this minute before any of my other boxwoods get it. This infected plant must be discarded NOW. Not the transplant shovel, go get the big shovel, quickly.

The Oops:
It didn't have boxwood blight. Research on the internet showed me that the discoloration I saw on my boxwood's older leaves was not the blackened stems or the lesions on new leaves that indicate blight.
Boxwood blight. Note the lesions on stems too. (*)
Boxwood blight diseased leaf (*)

My boxwood plant had winter burn. Older leaves were dried out in places at the front of the plant, but new leaves were fresh and green and healthy. The stems looked fine.
A stem from my plant. This is winter burn.

The Oops Averted:
I was this close to taking out the whole plant, but I did not. It still lives in my garden, a little winter burned, but ok.

Just to be sure, I talked to Bartlett Tree Experts. Chris came out, looked at the leaves and said there were no signs of the dreaded blight here. He checked all my other Buxus plants too. Several have psyllid, a little critter that sucks on the leaves (making the tiny boxwood leaves curl cup shaped), but it is an insect that does no real damage, and has minimal ornamental effects.

 

(* the photos of boxwood blight came from an internet image search and were posted and reposted many times from county ag documents and university sites --- but the repostings lost track of where the original images were from)

28 comments:

  1. Hi Laurrie....so glad an "oops" was averted! I have never heard of Boxwood blight (there's always something isn't there!) until now. I have several Boxwoods so I'll be on alert. However a couple of years ago one of mine an entire stem that was brown right in the middle. I just pruned it out and the Boxwood recovered nicely.

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    1. Christy, Boxwood blight is not affecting everywhere, but it is a problem here in Connecticut, so that's why we've been super sensitive to looking for it.

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  2. Wow, I'm sure you were glad you waited to use that shovel! I have never heard of Boxwood blight before, so I appreciate the heads-up. I tend to be a wait-and-see kind of person with plants--right now I have a climbing rose that I'm 99% sure didn't make it through the winter, but I haven't dug it out yet, just in case it makes a miraculous recovery:)

    It seems like there's a new plant disease going around every week!

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    1. Rose, wait and see can work sometimes. There are several plants I thought were goners, but they weren't. I hope your climber recovers!

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  3. Well, I'm probably never going to have to worry about boxwood blight here, since I won't plant them (too stinky!), but the lesson is a good one, to make sure before you act. I'm glad you had someone who could confirm what you thought.

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    1. Alison, I felt much better when the professional from the tree company confirmed my diagnosis!

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  4. Am I the only one who thinks you need a Ph.D in plant biology to be a really successful gardener? It's so hard to what the problem is, and how to treat it. Thank goodness for the internet (although there's a lot of bad information floating around there too). Without it, you have no more boxwoods!

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    1. Sarah, Just when you think you know how to care for the plants in your garden, new (and scary) pests show up and you have to learn about them. I enjoy the science and figuring things out, but I hate the anxiety over what to do about it.

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  5. I've done that before, too! Sometimes I get shovel happy and then think, "Uh oh!" Glad your boxwoods are okay. I'm battling black spot on my roses. Grrr... Thanks for your kind comments about my video and garden. I don't think I"ll be quitting my day job to head to Hollywood any time soon!

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    1. Tammy, "shovel happy" is a danger and I have succumbed before. Not this time.

      Loved the video on your blog!

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  6. Whew! Not for the faint of heart, this business!

    Thank you so much for your kind words on my blog. I found them very soothing :)

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    1. Larkspur, for sure, courage (and a little discretion) are needed in gardening at all times.

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  7. Good work looking before you leaped, or dug. I haven't always had the patience.

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    1. Jason, Gardening has been a real learning experience -- not just about the specifics of plants, but about how to control impulses and proceed with caution : )

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  8. Good for you for stepping back, taking a breath, and doing some research before removing your boxwood. This was a tough winter for boxwood and many broadleaf evergreens. I've had many questions this spring about winter-burned leaves on such shrubbery.

    Thanks, as always, for playing in the GOOPs sandbox.

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    1. Joene, thanks. This winter did do more damage to plants that held their leaves than I remember in the past. For some reason it hit boxwoods hard.

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  9. At first I thought oh no..I might have this although had not heard of it in this area...we get every blight here...but then I recognized it as winter burn...whew!! Glad to hear yours are safe.

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    1. Donna, I'm glad you recognized it right away. It took me some research to know what I was looking at, but now I know what winter burn looks like.

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  10. Good advice. Helpful and informative post! (Even though I don't like boxwoods much, I can see why they're useful.)

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    1. Aaron, thanks. There appear to be two camps regarding boxwoods, those who love them and those who don't! Nobody in the middle about boxwoods.

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  11. Always good to avoid an oops!

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    1. Lyn, I aim to avoid as many oops as possible -- and I'm getting better.

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  12. What a fine piece of detective work, Laurrie. Just in the nick.

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    1. Lee, I learned something -- research first, before reaching for the shovel : )

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  13. Until I read about it in the weekly Natureworks e-mail, I had never heard of Boxwood blight. So far the few I have appear to be OK. Lily leaf beetle, Hibiscus sawfly...it's always something isn't it?

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    1. Sue, yes, it's always something, and it always seems to be something new (and terrible). Sheesh.

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  14. Very informative post!
    Thank goodness, you didn't dig her out!

    Cheers!
    Linda :o)

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    1. Linda, thanks. I am relieved every time I pass by this boxwood that I didn't do anything drastic!

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