Hebes: one class of plants barred for use in RHS shows after Chelsea in a bid to stop Xylella bacteria spreading to the UK

RHS bans 9 overseas plants from shows to stop Xylella

Drastic action to stop destructive bacteria reaching the UK

Nine plants grown overseas have been banned from all of the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) shows in 2018, beginning with the Chelsea Flower Show, in a bid to stop a devastating form of bacteria from reaching the UK.

If you haven’t heard of Xylella fastidiosa, it’s because it hasn’t reached our shores yet. Being imported through trade ornamental plants is seen as the most likely route into the country.

Show exhibitors have been told overseas high-risk Xylella specimens of hebe, rosemary, oleander, olives, lavender, polygala, coffee, Spanish broom and Prunus willed be barred. Only plants grown from seed in the UK or that have been here for at least a year are exempt.

The bacterium has the potential to cause disease in a wide range of woody garden and native favourites.

Symptoms of infection include leaf scorch, wilt, dieback, and death – all easily confused with frost damage and drought, or other diseases. Xylella is spread by insects which feed on infected plants.

Spread of Xylella infection in Europe

It is native to the Americas and was absent from Europe but in 2013, Xylella started to infect, and kill, olive trees in Italy. It has since been found in France, Germany, Spain, and the Balearic Islands, affecting oleander, polygala, numerous ornamental plants, cherry trees, and almonds.

Nurseries, designers, and the landscaping industry are concerned that all imported stock may have to be screened to prevent Xylella, with many implications on price, sourcing, selection, etc.

The arrival of Xylella in the UK would have a huge negative impact on the entire industry, right down to us gardeners, so it’s in everyone’s interests to be aware.

Chief Plant Health Officer’s plea

Professor Nicola Spence, Chief Plant Health Officer for the UK, has issued a plea to the horticultural industry to be vigilant.

She said: “The impact on the sector were Xylella to arrive in the UK would be significant – commercially and environmentally important trees and plants would be at risk, while restrictions would include a ban on movement of host plants from premises within 10km of an outbreak for at least five years.

“In the UK, we are carrying out inspections of all consignments of host plants of Xylella imported from outside the EU and have an inland surveillance programme, targeted at host plants being grown and traded. We are also disseminating publicity material, including information on the high-risk plants and guidance on sourcing plants.”

This is a complex and changing issue – more information and updates are available on https://www.gov.uk/guidance/protecting-plant-health-topical-issues. Also, the RHS has a very useful page for gardeners on new pests and diseases, with further links if you need them – https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/plant-health-in-gardens/protect-your-garden/new-pd-risks.

How to get rid of a moth infestation

Record numbers eating UK out of house and home

The common clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella)
The common clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella)

Are you suffering a moth infestation? We are and we’re not alone. Moth numbers have soared this year, thanks to a combination of a mild winter and warm spring.

Modern-day housekeeping habits aren’t what they were – in the past, people had few clothes, valued them more and we looked after them properly.

Now, thanks mainly to cheap fashion, we buy vast quantities of clothes and stuff them into wardrobes – dark, warm places where moths – silvery-brown, about a  can breed merrily undisturbed.

Moths can cost a fortune – the larvae eat carpets, wool, cashmere, cotton, etc – so how to get rid of them without calling in pest control? Continue reading “How to get rid of a moth infestation”

Should you keep cats indoors to save wildlife?

Does it have to be cat lovers v wildlife lovers?

George greenhouse
George – more interested in snoozing in the greenhouse – or is it all a front?

Do you, or would you, keep your cat indoors permanently to save garden animals? According to animal charity South Essex Wildlife Hospital, we should be doing so – I have a feeling many owners like me don’t want to think about the ‘true’ nature of our pets.

Judging by this Facebook post, they have a point (sic): “Todays hoard of sacrifices to the cat gods. 37 birds didn’t survive, another 22 along with a baby rabbit, a frog 2 slow worms, and a lizard are still fighting for their lives. Continue reading “Should you keep cats indoors to save wildlife?”

Bee-friendly non-pesticide range from ecofective

Don’t take chances with the health of our bees

Rose Defender
Rose Defender. Picture; ecofective

Do you care about bees? The recent study on the effects on bees of the use of neonicotinoids on agricultural seeds has not come to any firm conclusions but one British company can assure gardeners that its pest control products are safe for honey and bumble bees.

The non-pesticide range of Defender/Bug & Mildew Control products from ecofective will not harm these insects that pollinate nearly 85 per cent of our food crops. Continue reading “Bee-friendly non-pesticide range from ecofective”

TV preview – The British Garden: Life And Death On Your Lawn

BBC Four, Tuesday, July 11, 9pm-10.30pm

Chris Packham
Chris Packham stars in BBC Four’s The British Garden: Life and Death on Your Lawn. Picture; BBC Pictures

Are you convinced your garden is good for native flora and fauna?

In this 90-minute BBC film, naturalist Chris Packham and a team of experts spend a year exploring eight gardens on a suburban street to answer a vital question: how good for wildlife is the great British garden?
Beneath the groomed borders they reveal a beautiful and brutal world that’s far wilder than you might think.

Through all four seasons, Chris examines the secret lives of the gardens’ smallest residents, finding male crickets that bribe females with food during sex, colour-changing spiders that help them catch prey, and life-and-death battles in the compost heap.

There is also a different side to more familiar garden residents, showing that a robin’s red breast is actually war paint, and a single litter of foxes can have up to five different fathers.

In Spring, Chris witnesses a boiling ball of frogs in a once-in-a-year mating frenzy.

By the end of the year, with the help of a team from London’s Natural History Museum, as well as top naturalists, Chris reveals the sheer variety of wildlife living in the back gardens of just one street, and how good for wildlife our gardens really are.

Chris Packham: be tolerant towards slugs

Springwatch presenter’s Radio Times magazine interview

Chris Packham
Chris Packham – looking at the bigger picture ecologically

This may not go down too well with lovers of hostas and strawberries, but TV presenter Chris Packham has urged gardeners to “put yourself in the mind of the slug” and become tolerant towards the creatures.

The Springwatch host urged people to stop killing the garden pests in an interview in this week’s Radio Times magazine. “The slug’s been offered a free banquet. You have to expect it to eat it.

He said: “The slug’s been offered a free banquet. You have to expect it to eat it. If you’re planting a row of lettuces, you’re planting a free supermarket for molluscs. Continue reading “Chris Packham: be tolerant towards slugs”