I have been keeping something from you. It was for your own good. The last three weeks have been a worrying time for us at Cliffe as we had a suspected case of Phytophera ramorum, widely known as Sudden Oak Death. If not this despicable disease it may have been its cousin Phytophera kernoviae (so named as it was first detected in Kernow/Cornwall). The consequences of either of these diseases is not good, including words like burning, disinfectant and weeping. The list of trees and shrubs it affects runs to several pages, most of which we have in the garden, including magnolia, camellia, viburnum, eucalyptus, larch. It is spread by wind, animal, shoes, on new plants. The spores can remain viable in the soil for many years. There is no effective cure at present. Beam me up Scottie. The story began when I noticed some ominous looking die-back on the above outrageous Rhododendron (Loderi Group). After checking for any physical reason, I did my duty and contacted The Powers That Be. Shortly after we visited by the man from FERA, the agency employed by the government to detect these things. Think of him as a horticultural Mulder and Scully, without the Scully or the gun*. For those of you who read this blog regularly you have seen this man before, in a different guise. Actually you only saw his pen marked finger on which a rather splendid beetle was balanced. A very thorough survey ensued, with seventeen samples over five acres, from boundary to boundary. It was probably inappropriate on such an occasion but I had a great day, helping/hindering and chatting to a thoroughly professional but sympathetic gent, whose aim is not to steamroller but to work with the public to try and control the devastation. Three long weeks later and we have been told by the Beetle Whisperer that we are clear, jubilation! I would also have confessed if it was bad news, I suppose it would have made a good story, but I prefer the happy ending in this one.
*of this I cannot be sure, as far as I could ascertain a black marker pen was the most dangerous object he had with him. It was particularly impressive marker pen though.