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2 new box topiary balls – box blight or transit stress/ frozen water droplet marks?

I’ve just received 2 new box topiary balls from an online retailer and am concerned they may have box blight – both plants look a bit patchy in places, have quite a number of leaves with brown spots on them and are shedding dry brown/black leaves at a pretty heavy rate. The retailer is adamant that they are healthy and say the leaf shedding is down to transit stress whilst the brown spots are due to the plants being watered when the weather has been freezing, causing water droplets to freeze and mark the leaves, then sent me a picture of a hedge with advanced box blight with a kind of “that’s not box blight, THIS is box blight” comment. I completely understand that plants get transit stress and will drop some leaves but this seems more than that, if it carries on this way they’ll both be half bald by the end of the week! Re the water droplets, my understanding is that box is pretty hardy, tho the website doesn’t specify the variety, just describes it as “premium quality buxus”. We live in the north and have a large, thriving box hedge at the front of our house in a very exposed spot, so it’s been through similar conditions to those described by the retailer and I can’t see the same brown spots as on the new plants. Here are 3 close-up photos, I’ve little to no experience so would be very grateful for any feedback – I don’t want to put them out near a healthy box if they may have box blight. Retailer is also saying if I want to return I can have a refund but will be liable for the return costs as “these are live plants and do recover once planted out, they are not faulty like a cd player which is not alive”. 

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  • PlantmindedPlantminded WirralPosts: 1,030
    They look very unwell to me, not what I would expect on arrival. If they have come from a retailer outside your area, particularly further south, I'd be concerned about my healthy box falling for the same symptoms. If you have paid by credit card, check with the credit card provider about their purchase protection cover.  Inform them that the retailer is insisting on return postage to be paid by you, despite the fact that the goods are clearly not of the quality you expected. They may be able to advise you on a suitable course of action. 
  • Thank you so much for your reply, I really appreciate it - they're based in Chelmsford. Unfortunately the plants cost less than the £100 threshold for PPC.
  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,630
    @tinacamilleh I have to say that most of the leaves look perfectly healthy to me, but that might be due to the particular photos you have attached. I can see some discolouration, but I have had Box which suffered from both Blight and Box caterpillar, and they looked much worse than your specimens. Perhaps attached some more photos over the next few weeks, if they get worse.

    I would make sure they are kept in a sheltered spot for Winter, even though they are hardy, and make sure they are kept moist, as pots can dry out in warm/windy Winters. If they survive until Spring, I would give them a weekly liquid feed, such as liquid seaweed. Ideally get them into the ground in Spring, as they do better than in pots. Box are hungry and thirsty plants, so if you do keep them in pots, make sure to water and feed regularly.

    Finally: if you do end up losing them, I would recommend not buying Box at all. Many of us on the forum have lost all of our Box plants, either due to Blight or Caterpillar. These are spreading across the UK, and difficult to impossible to control. There are lots of nice alternatives, and the forum members can give you some ideas about these. My personal favourite is Euonymus Green Spire.

  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 9,675
    I know the supplier that you mean. l'm not going to name them as l don't think it's fair to do that on a public forum, but when l saw your photos and the response you had, l thought that might be the case.
    It may be worth leaving a review on Trustpilot politely stating that you are disappointed with the plants but have taken note of the advice you have been given.

    Is it possible for you to take a broader photo of the plants just to give a general idea of the condition of them ?
    @KeenOnGreen 's advice is what l would follow in your situation. It looks as though they have been clipped into shape and not tided up properly afterwards. 
    As someone whose box plants were attacked by box caterpillars last year, l agree that if they don't survive it may be worth considering an alternative. 
    Fingers crossed that they pick up  :)
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,456
    I agree with @KeenOnGreen and @AnniD. It isn't terribly clear from your photos, but I don't think there's too much wrong in them, so it can be misleading.

    Potted plants that have been grown and transported, will always look different to a hedge already in situ and well established, so that isn't always a valid comparison.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Thanks all so much for your feedback, @AnniD I've attached 2 broader photos of of the plants, hopefully they're ok, I can't move them into a possible better spot at the moment as our cat is following me around trying to eat leaves every time I touch them and they shed all over the floor (box toxic to cats). I realise something that's just been transported isn't going to look as good as an established plant - I was more just trying to find the same kind of brown spots on my hedge that appear on some of the leaves of the new plants, just because of the retailer's frozen water droplets explanation - if the new plants were only a wee bit patchy and shedding leaves, I wouldn't be concerned, it's the combination of those things with the brown spots that worried me..... 
  • I realise (too late now) that Box plants come with issues - was looking at Ilex Crenata Green Glory as a possible alternative?
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,456
    Are they inside? That won't help  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • PlantmindedPlantminded WirralPosts: 1,030
    edited 18 January
    They do look better from that angle! I agree that following @KeenOnGreen's advice will be the best remedy.  In the meantime, you could simply use a dilution of seaweed extract now as a foliar feed, even though the plants are dormant.  I have found that this helps when any of my box plants look a bit worse for wear.  It should help your plants to recover from transport shock.  They are tough plants, as you probably already know!

    Just noticed - they appear to be bare rooted, or is that just extra packing? If bare rooted the plastic needs to come off and the plants put in a temporary pot before going into their final home.  (Sorry if I'm stating the obvious!)
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 9,675
    Must admit l didn't know that box was toxic for cats. 
    If l were you, l would get them outside and unwrap them, then sweep up any leaves. Check the compost to see how damp it is and water as necessary, then put them somewhere sheltered such as against a house wall and give them a chance to recover. 
    With regards to your query about ilex crenata, it is one of the varieties recommended as an alternative to box.
    https://www.seagravenurseries.co.uk/topiary-buxus-bay-trees-etc/ilex-crenata/balls?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIrICJ1LG79QIVmOvtCh0wRAUXEAAYAiAAEgIcgPD_BwE

    https://www.rhs.org.uk/my-account/articles/alternatives-to-box
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