Regular visitors to the National Trust’s Avebury Manor will be familiar with the immaculately kept and tranquil garden, which was designed in the early 20th century, as a series of rooms, each with a different aspect that people can freely explore and enjoy.
Last year suspicions were confirmed that, like many other properties throughout the country, many of the ornamental hedges and topiary around the garden had contracted box blight.
Box blight is a disease of the leaves and stems of the plant and is spread by two types of fungi (Cylindrocladium buxicola and Pseudonectria buxi). This causes the leaves to go brown and fall off, leading to unsightly bare patches. In an ornamental garden such as Avebury Manor garden, this could have been potentially devastating.
Prompt and drastic action by the gardening team of National Trust staff and volunteers, and some severe pruning, has meant that the spread of the disease has been slowed down. Unfortunately, this action hasn’t been able to stop it altogether, but it does mean that the changes now needed can be phased in a planned and logical way.
“This is very sad news because it means that we will have to, eventually, replace most of the box in the garden.”said Simon Brooks, Avebury Manor Head Gardener.
After their initial dismay, the team have worked together to redesign parts of the garden and are looking at it as a long term management project. Alternative species will have to be used as box blight can persist on leaf debris for up to six years.
Simon added: “Avebury Manor garden has gone through many stages over its 500 year history, including significant additions in the early 18th century, again in the 1870s and finally a completely new planting design in the early 20th century, so although we are keeping to that 20th Century design with some different plants, we have come to look at this as just another phase in the garden’s history.”
“One of the first things we have done is remove and burn the box from the Monks Garden. We’ve put in new timber edges to the paths and are replanting the garden with a colourful annual and ornamental vegetable display. In the longer term this area will become a potager/knot garden with herb edging. In the topiary garden we shall be keeping the same basic layout, which echoes the ceiling pattern in the Tudor bedroom in Avebury Manor.”
Visitors are encouraged to ask questions of the highly knowledgeable gardeners about the box blight as well as any other aspect of the garden. Information will be available throughout the year showing the changes and plans for the future.
Simon added:”I’m really pleased with the way the gardening team has pulled together. Regular visitors have already expressed great interest in the plans we have and have enjoyed seeing the progress we are making.”
On warm spring and summer days, visitors will also find steamer chairs and picnic blankets around the garden, so that they can relax, read a book or just enjoy the tranquillity of this peaceful haven.
More information is available on www.nationaltrust.org.uk/avebury