Ash Dieback & Horse Chestnut Moths



There are a number of diseases around which devastate trees and shrubs. Some, like the Sclerotinia fungus, which decimates Griselinia hedges is, as far as I am concerned, manna from heaven. Anything that will clear the suburbs of that horribly, nasty, shiny green-leaved bore of a plant is good news. There are a couple of very serious threats to our forest and decorative trees however that are extremely worrying and could be as catastrophic as Dutch Elm disease was in the late 1970s and 1980s. One affects the beloved horse chestnut and the other our native ash. You have probably heard a lot about Ash Dieback disease already. But to recap, this is a serious disease of the Ash (Fraxinus species) caused by a nasty fungus, Hymenoscyphus fraxineus affecting trees of any age in the wild, gardens and plant collections. The disease can be fatal, particularly among younger trees and leaves older trees looking very depressed indeed.   Ash is such a common tree in Ireland that there is great potential for this disease to forever alter the appearance and biodiversity of our hedgerows and woodlands. It is important to spot the symptoms of Ash Dieback early, and if you find an infected tree, it will need to be felled and burnt immediately. As a precaution don’t ever use the leaves of ash to make leaf-mould. If you have ash in your garden, try and collect and burn all fallen leaves. Symptoms to look out for are as follows:

  • Leaves which wilt during the summertime, turning black.
  • shoots die from the tip back to a branch
  • open wounds where a stalk meets the main stem of saplings
  • leaf discolouration and loss

Forest and land owners are asked to be vigilant for the disease and to report (with photographs, if possible) any sites where they have concerns about unusual ill health in ash, to the: Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, by e-mail or phone (01-607 2651).

The threat to horse chestnuts is the eponymous horse chestnut leaf-mining moth (Cameraria ohridella). The moths feed on the leaves of trees, turning them brown and causing them to drop in the late summer. Infested leaves are often brown and appear quite dry and make trees look very unsightly.

Although infestation itself does not kill the trees, it can weaken the tree’s immune system and make it vulnerable to other diseases, including bleeding canker, a bacterial disease that creates unsightly leaking lesions on the trunk.

If you spot the moths or their caterpillars on trees, or suspect you may have an infestation would love to hear from you and you should also contact the Department of Agriculture your local plant health inspector or contact:  The British Conker Tree Science project is urging people to record sightings of moth-infected trees on its website to help track the spread of disease.

For further information, visit: and



Jobs for Winter

Jobs for winter


January and February are usually the coldest months and the time to plan ahead for summer and autumn.

  • Soggy, bald lawns should be prodded with a fork and a bit of sand added to improve drainage
  • Cut back dead foliage that is looking droopy
  • Clear dead leaves and debris
  • Check stored dahlia tubers for mould or drying out. If they look very shrivelled you can plump them out again by plunging in water
  • Repot or top dress container plants
  • Order seeds and summer bulbs
  • Sow summer bedding under glass

Colour in the Winter Garden

January and February are the most challenging months in the garden and are the real test of a good gardener. Really, with a bit of money thrown at it, anyone’s garden can have a lively show in summer, but winter is where forward thinking and a little thought ensure that the winter garden need not be bereft of colour and interest. First published in 1957, Graham Stuart Thomas’s Colour in the Winter Garden is a classic of garden literature and still the greatest authority on creating year round interest in the garden and if you find a copy in your local library I urge you to borrow it. The winter garden is not flash or brash, rather it is subtle, relying on foliage, bark and gentle modest flowers to bring it to life. Here are some lists of plants to get you started:


Bergenia purpurascens: The large, waxy leaves of this great ground-cover plant turn deeper and deeper red the colder it gets.

Elaeagnus pungens ‘Dicksonii’: This evergreen shrub has lovely elliptical, shiny dark green leaves edged in yellow. Great for flower arrangements for the house.

Hedera canariensis ‘Gloire de Marengo’: really good ivy, with ripples of dark green and silver and edged with white.

Iris Foetidissima ‘Variegata’: the dreariest, stinkiest of plants has its Cinderella moment now, it has green and white variegated, strap shaped leaves and beautiful seed pods bursting with red fruits.

Arum italicum ‘Pictum’: lovely, crinkly spotted leaves make this arum a must for the winter garden, looks great with hellebores and snowdrops.

Mahonia ‘Heterophylla’: long spindly serrated leaves in russet brown – and the bonus of yellow flower spikes later on.


For berries try holly,  Pyracantha, Skimmia japonica and any of the Cotoneasters.


Winter wouldn’t be complete without snowdrops, there are lots of varieties, singles, doubles, large and small flowered, from the thick grey leaved Elwesii species, to the pretty small naturalised Nivalis, all are hardy and with time and lots of lovely hummus will bulk up into significant clumps in a few years. Delicate, tiny little Cyclamen coum are perfect partners for snowdrops.

Flowering shrubs:

Most winter flowering shrubs have the most delicious scent too, the best being Viburnum x bodnantense and Daphne mezereum and Skimmia.

Bark and stems:

Don’t forget that bare branches and lovely barks come into their own now. All the dogwoods are stunning right now, from bright red to yellow the Cornus stems will lift any garden.

Acers are famous for their beautiful bark, particular good examples are davidii, laxiflorum and griseum. Also good are silver birch, the brightest whites are Betula albo-sinensis, Betula nigra and Betula pendula