A Note from Paul Saunders - Dec. 22, 2011

December 22, 2011

A note from Paul Saunders 

I have been growing boxwood for over sixty years.  Our nursery pioneered the boxwood variety trials across the United States the past 15 years.  In early November, we (Saunders Brothers) were made aware of a boxwood disease called boxwood blight (cyclindrocladium buxicola).  This disease had not been identified positively in the United States until this fall. 

Since hearing of the disease we have spent many hours talking to nurserymen and researchers here and overseas.  We have sent some of our personnel to Europe to study the disease and they have returned with their observations. 

Obviously when we heard of how serious it can be, we were scared.   It affected boxwood which have been a bread and butter item for us since our nursery began in the late 1940s. Since we have had a chance to get our breath, and really think about it, maybe the disease is not quite so bad, as we are learning the nature of the beast.  It seems that the disease will be in the United States almost regardless, but we can control it and lessen its bite if we take steps so as to not provide the environment where it develops, the environment of high humidity, wet foliage, warm temps, and little air movement.

As an old peach grower, I think that I liken it to the peach disease, brown rot, which really is almost in all peach orchard environments.  The brown rot spores were there all the time, waiting until the environmental conditions were right and the fruit was not protected by a spray.  I have seen a chronic infection one year, then the problem did not affect the orchard ever again. From what I can understand, the boxwood blight spores may be in many landscapes in Europe.  They have learned to live with it through periodic inspections of the plants and minimizing environmental conditions that are favorable to it.  When found, they immediately spray the infected plants and in many cases, the plants were able to remain in the landscape or production setting. 

I realize that boxwood blight is not good.  I, also, realize there is not a lot of good in fire-blight that affects apples, root rot in rhododendron, or the diseases we have to deal with as human beings.  Ultimately, we know that no shrub can come close to providing the landscape value as the families of boxwood.  Thus, we want you to know that Saunders Brothers will continue to test, to evaluate, and to experiment in any means possible to find more answers to controlling and stopping this disease.  We have written a summary of what we have learned over the past several weeks. We hope this will better help you understand the disease.  Please take a moment to read it. 

Have a Merry Christmas and we hope to see many of you in Baltimore at the Mid-Atlantic Show.  

Paul Saunders

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