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2 trees & nearby part of hedge have gradually died - honey fungus or drought?

Over the last year or so, 2 trees at the bottom of my garden have gradually died, along with sections of the nearby privet hedge, and most of a small shrub. If just the hedge, I’d have put it down to old age, but with them all dying in a small area, I suspect something else. I can’t see any classic signs of honey fungus; I’ve dug around looking for rhizomes (how deep do I need to go?) & scraping off the bark doesn’t reveal any obvious white fungal mat. However the tree on the right has some white patches on the bark. The left tree is now well dead & rotting in situ - I plan to remove both as soon as I can gather my courage with the chain saw! I assume I should remove all dead material (which will leave a big gap in the hedge). Any thoughts on what it may be & the best course of action? 

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  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,639
    Honey fungus is not that easy to observe. I guess, over two years of ailing shrubs, could be a combination of age and also possible canker on your tree that has caused it to die slowly. Privet can go bald in areas and may need rejuvenating with pruning/re-training, and feeding. Coupled that with last year's drought conditions, it's quite likely a weak plant will not pull through. See what others think.
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 11,336
    edited May 2019
    I agree with Borderline, the tree damage looks like canker rather than HF, so may be unrelated to the hedge issue which may well be caused by HF, phytophthora or a combination of weaknees and drought.  Whatever the problem turns out to be, I would recommend that the roots are dug or ground out just in case HF is involved, otherwise the stumps will act as a home for the fungus which will radiate out from them. 

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • sara.lloydsara.lloyd Posts: 4
    Thanks! I’ll get rid of both the trees & their roots, but am not sure what to do with the hedge. If I remove all the dead plants & branches I will have a big hole through to the park behind me, which I really don’t want, as I’ll need to put another barrier in. Could I train the adjacent plants (& any smaller plants I can find) across the dead branches to maintain a barrier or am I really best clearing it all out including the roots?
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 11,336
    You could try planting something native in the gap after the roots are removed.  I believe Hawthorn tolerates HF, just in case that is present.  If you can replace the soil where the dead parts grew with some from elsewhere in your garden, that might be best but could be a waste of effort if neither HF or phytophthora are present.  Hedging plants are cheap so if they also die, you can use that as an indicator that the soil needs replacing.
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • sara.lloydsara.lloyd Posts: 4
    Is there anything I could use to treat the soil with before replanting? Can you still get Armillatox? 
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 11,336
    There is nothing available to home gardeners.  Products like you mention were banned as soil sterilizers several years ago.  They kill the good guys as well as the bad ones (many soil fungi are vital to keep soil healthy) so they end-up destabilising the soil causing other problems.  I have Honey fungus in my garden and find I can live with it.  Regular cultivation of the soil bounding suspected areas will stop it spreading. It doesn't seem to like areas which have well-rotted farmyard manure dug in, but that's just my experience.  :)
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 SomersetPosts: 9,271
    I suggest you erect a trellis square across the gap in the hedge and replant with possibly hawthorn as already suggested. It looks similar to privet and can be pruned to fit the hedge. I have tried training adjoining privet branches across the gap but it hasn't worked terribly well so am going to try my own advice! 
  • sara.lloydsara.lloyd Posts: 4
    That’s a good idea, I think I’ll just have to brave pulling it all out.....
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