Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Boxwood Dilemmas & Garden Delights

an older woman with a cane and a middle aged woman in a blue checked shirt standing behind a hedge row of boxwood

Hello fellow readers, What a joy to visit with Connie and Susan of Blairstown, NJ. I met Susan and her husband, Don, while walking Jolee. They are building a home nearby, and Jolee (and I) have grown to adore them. One day we spoke about her mom, who loves to garden. Susan said a few of her boxwood showed signs of disease, and I offered to come by primarily to meet her mom and witness their mother/daughter connection in the garden.

A mother, an elderly woman in a green sweater, and her daughter wearing a white and blue plaid shirt.

Susan Meagher and Connie Kleindienst

“We’ve always talked about plants together.”

Before visiting, I brushed off the cobwebs on boxwood dilemmas I’ve encountered, such as Boxwood Blight caused by a fungus. It can defoliate a plant in one week from infection while the branches remain green. Once they become infected, there is no cure, and the fungus can persist in leaf droppings, mulch, and soil for six years. So, it can be devasting.

Then there’s Boxwood Leaf Miner, also known as hotdog flies. Their larvae look like tiny orange hotdogs that you can view when you slit open a leaf. A bit of warning, they are wiggly. In spring, the adults emerge that look like tiny orange mosquitos. Fortunately, Leaf Miner, found early, is treatable with Neem oil– my go-to natural alternative to chemical pesticides. (Links to the Boxwood Leaf Miner and Boxwood Blight columns below)

an elderly woman and middle aged woman walking through an arbor Connie’s home welcomes you… 

Connie’s home welcomes you with a beautiful row of boxwood embracing the circular driveway. European Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) is hardy in zones 5 to 8, likes full sun to part shade, and grows five to fifteen feet tall and wide. Hers are primarily healthy, though there was a gap in the hedgerow where one died. She planted a baby boxwood about a foot tall in the vacant spot propagated from a cutting; how most of her boxwoods came to be.

She showed me her pots of new cuttings next to an arbor that Don and Susan crafted from the remnants of a gazebo that had served its time – a garden shed is now there because Connie had a vision that she needed one after all these years. It’s a lovely structure, like a mini barn next to a meandering creek. A white oak seeded itself in front of it, which led to a chat about our shared love of oaks.

Our shared love of Oaks 

looking up at a native oak with a deeply ridged trunk and green leaves“I put an acorn in the ground at church. It was 1998 when I put it. My friend said, what are you doing that for? You’ll never live to see that. And now…”

“It’s a big, beautiful tree,” Susan pipes in.

Connie’s likely Boxwood Dilemma – Volutella Blight 

Back to Connie’s boxwood, there are some with yellowing leaves. I suspect it’s Volutella Blight. Early signs are the stunting of new growth. Then the leaves turn yellow and darken to tan. Unlike Boxwood Blight, the infected leaves stay on the plant, but it’s also impossible to cure, so preventing spread is vital.

Fortunately, Connie’s dilemma is early, and the avid gardener, 89 years young, will be on top of the remedy. Spray copper-based fungicide following label instructions before the new growth emerges, after pruning, and again in summer and fall. Be sure to prune off diseased stems when the plant is dry and toss them in the garbage – not in the compost, as the fungus can live in debris for years.

Artful Garden Delights
a large mound of boulders stacked neatly on the edge of a garden.

“We have no name for the wood pile, but my rock pile is a Stone Dome. I just liked the way it sounds.”

a neatly stacked mound of firewood, twelve feet wide and five feet high with a bark roof.

There are many treasures to admire in the garden tour, such as how Susan stacked the wood and piled the stones found on the site making majestic artwork out of them. And the plentiful foxgloves.

“You should see it in the spring. By the time the foxglove finish blooming, the Cleome comes in, so there’s always something blooming,” Connie said.

Her hot pink Cleome is still going strong despite the October date. While an annual, it self-seeds readily from year to year. I’d love to see her garden during the peak growing season, and Connie invited me to do just that.

“Just come by; I’ll be in the garden.”

Garden Dilemmas? and your favorite Podcast App.

Enjoy much more to the story in Episode 78 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast:

Links to related columns: 

Boxwood Blight Coming to Town?

Boxwood Leaf Miner 

More about Boxwood Volutella Blight 



Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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