Changing seasons and Box Tree Moth
Another note about the dreaded Box Tree Moth
Last week’s (German) blog seems to have hit the spot: it was read by thousands. Just where I had announced that luckily, we did not have any box tree moth at the Garden Academy yet, our luck ran out. We have spotted the first signs: tips of shoots spun together in creamy white silk thread. Upon further inspection, we have found one adult moth, one pupae and one fully grown caterpillar as well. All three are now sitting on my desk, trapped under a glass. Fortunately, this was after hours of painstaking searching, so it’s not the big invasion yet.
I hope we have removed the culprits early enough and have put up pheromone traps and hope to stave off the big devastation which several of our clients have witnessed these past weeks. It will hopefully give us time to think up plan B. Fortunately we used box for only part of our hedging: we also have yew, beach and hornbeam. For many other gardens it is a much bigger disaster though. There are numerous hidden courtyards in Berlin that are planted with nothing but box, not to speak of all the historic gardens that heavily rely on this plant for their formal displays.
Enough depressing news. Regardless of where you have been these past weeks or months, struggling with scorching temperatures or moping about in jumpers having to cancel yet another garden event, one fact can no longer be denied: Summer is drawing to an end and autumn is lurking around the corner. The light has changed dramatically. I love the crisp, clear morning skies at this time of year with the mellow sunlight slanting through the sides of our glasshouses.
Wherever I look. new spider webs appear overnight, they are extraordinary feats of engineering, beautifully constructed. Every time I need to destroy one I feel guilty, thinking of all the hard work that has just been invested, in the hope of catching a meal. Often is this meal some insect I am glad to see the back of in my garden. I admire their skills persistently weaving silk threads many meters long that I have to disturb every morning. But it is the fine, tightly woven webs that lay on the grass and in hedges that are particularly noticeable at this time of year as the heavy morning dew shows them up so clearly.
Whilst Thea our Head Gardener was looking for the dreaded Box beasts she disturbed several nursery nests of baby-spiders that go scuttling off when disturbed, and soon come trooping back when all is quiet. Do not mistake these for Box Tree Moths, they are valuable allies!
Befitting the change in light is also the subtle shift of colours in the garden. This is the time for Asters with their pastel tones, Anemones, Sedums complimented by grasses. I make a point of walking down the border on the first of September to make a list of what has just started flowering or what is still to flower. It is nice to see that, despite the autumn announcing itself, the season is far from over.
Late Phloxes bring a lot of joy also, though I often find them rather solid in the border. A wonderful lighter, finer alternative is Phlox ‘Hesperis’ and P. ‘Jeana’. Both very similar, have the height and appearance of conventional Phlox varieties, except they have much smaller flowers.
The Daisy family
Still flowering is Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’ a wonderfully reliable, undemanding long-flowering aster relative. Like Aster x frikartii ‘Mönch’ with its lovely large blue flowers it flowers from the end of July, through to the end of October. They will be joined by at least another half dozen asters in the coming months.
Giving great height in the border and just starting to colour is Vernonia crinita. Their intense colour is a good antidote to the predominant softer pastels. It is remarkable as despite its great height of about 1,70m, the foliage down the length of the stems stays green, unlike many asters that develop brown legs by the time they start flowering. Later their seedheads are like little soft pink teddybears in the border.
Adding a fresh note of lemony yellow is the tall Helianthus microcephalus ‘Lemon Queen’. This is an old favourite of mine which we only added to the border this year as part of the planned shift in colour palette. It brought great joy many years in my English garden, and it feels now like meeting a much-loved old friend again.
More great height comes from Leucanthemella serotina. This Daisy flowers late September when it adds great freshness to the border. Each spring I harder with myself as it tends to be a bit too invasive to my liking so the temptation is to throw it out. I end up compromising and reduce the clump. The result is great joy when the white and yellow daisy heads tower above my head radiating freshness as the garden slowly sinks into its autumnal melancholy.
I am looking forward to a long, lovely, sunny autumn season with all its colour and glory still to come!
Isabelle Van Groeningen