Ash Die Back (Chalara) Disease. Here to Help!

Ash Die Back Disease (Chalara) Source EPPO (European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation)


Ash Die Back Disease (Chalara) Source EPPO (European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation)

Ash die back disease is a serious problem that has received prominent attention in the media recently. It is likely to have a devastating impact on the 3rd most common species of tree in Britain and a subsequent impact on biodiversity and the landscape. Creative Landscape Design are monitoring news about the spread of disease will pleased to provide an initial free consultation if landowners or gardeners in Thame, Aylesbury or Oxoford area who have any concerns about their trees and provide ongoing advice on how to manage the impact as well as producing a strategy to replaced lost woodland or trees.

Ash die back disease (the Chalara fungus infection) has arrived and is killing ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) in Britain.  The disease causes infected trees to die back and is thought to have killed 90% of the trees in Denmark.  COBRA held a crisis meeting and it would seem that the disease is now at large in the countryside.  Britain will probably lose most if it’s ash trees.

The English elm was also devastated by Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970’s. I remember seeing large areas of our local woodland clear felled in an attempt to halt the spread this disease that was carried by a beetle. Will the same fate happen to all our ash trees?

There are some important differences.  On the negative side: Ash Die Back disease is thought to be wind spread.  There are confirmed out breaks in Wales and central England, so the spores are likely to spread no matter what. Ash trees tend to breed from seed where as elm trees tend to renew by vegetative reproduction and re-grow from their stump.  This disease will kill and ash tree completely but ash are more genetically diverse, so there is a greater chance of individual trees becoming resistant to the fungus, serving and repopulating the countryside (all be it in a couple of centauries). The elm keeps making a comeback until it reaches a size where the beetle can find it.

The disease is probably going to have a devastating impact on our landscape and wildlife in teh short to medium term.  So what strategy should landowners and gardeners adopt?

The Forestry Commission and other bodies are currently trying to find out how far the disease has spread. At the time of writing there are now hundreds of infected sites.  There are confirmed cases in Bicester, Leyton Buzzard and Milton Keynes (the disease was first reported at a nursery in Buckinghamshire).  It is quite possible that the disease will spread to Thame in and Aylesbury Vale in the near future.

Vigilance is needed especially in recently planted trees. There are spotting guides available at and .

The import ban on new ash trees would appear to be too late.  The Landscape institute has advised that no further plating of any kind of ash.  Existing contracts may have to be renegotiated and replacement species found. Spread can be minimised by avoiding transport of ash leaf litter- compost or dispose of on site, avoiding transport of logs from site to site. This will slow the spread, but cannot prevent distribution of the disease by windblown spores.

Clear felling of large areas of woods to create a ‘fire break’ seems very unlikely to work (and was an abject failure in the case of Dutch elm disease) and comments from various conservation groups suggest that the action plan will not include such draconian measures. Besides all the material would need to be destroyed and the roots grubbed up to remove all of the infection since symptoms include bracket as basal  fruiting bodies It may make sense to remove recently planted trees or young saplings. The emphasis may be to breed or encourage resistance and removing otherwise healthy trees that may be counterproductive and mature trees to live as long as possible providing a habitat for a host of wildlife until a new resistant generation of ash trees provides new homes.

Landowners will need to monitor trees that are growing near buildings, highways, paths and other areas for safety to ensure that risk from falling deadwood or trees are minimised.  It would be wise to start to make some budget provisions for increased tree works.

Finally, landowners may wish to restock woodlands and replace feature trees with suitable specimens. A feature tree could be replaced with a semi mature specimen. Woodlands could be restocked with saplings of native trees. Given the course of recent events, it might be wise to source locally produced stock from the UK!

Whatever your concerns about managing your land or dealing with issues like ash dieback disease Creative Landscape Design are here to help!



Cortaderai selloana Pampus Grass/ Tussock Grass

The dramtic plumes and foliage Cortaderia selloana (Pampus or Tussock Grass) make this a great feature plant for and landsacpe or garden design.

Pampus or tussock grass (Cortaderia selloana) had the reputation for being passé when I was studying Landscape Architecture and Garden Design in the 1990’s. It was ranked alongside 70’s favourites such as flared trousers, side burns and paisley pattern ties. However the long panicles and architectural foliage  make it an ideal all year interest feature plant.

Pampus grass is a stately grass with large blooms growing to 2 ½ meters or so (about 8 feet), that add a touch of drama to the garden in the autumn and winter months and can also be used for drying. It has long razor blade like leaves that are about 2 metres (6-7 feet in length) that should be handled with care.

Pampus grass, a native of the South Americas, is best grown in a sunny position but is suited to most well drained soils.  It prefers a fertile soil but we used to have a huge specimen in the chalky garden where I grew up and it is equally at home in the rich, clay loam soils of Thame and the Aylesbury Vale.  It is frost hardy but the tender crowns could do with protection for the first year or so until the grass is firmly established. Crowns can be lifted and divided in spring.

This is a vigorous and easy to grow grass where space allows. Pruning by cutting back can be laborious and hazardous as the leaves can cut the gardener easier than sheers can cut it. Thick gloves and other protection are a must.  It is much simpler and more fun to prune with a match and burn out the dead grass every 5 years or so to simulate the frequent grass fires of its natural habitat. Just make sure there are no flammable objects or other plants in the locality and the smoke doesn’t cause the neighbours or the high way a problem.


Acer palmatum: Japanese Maples

Planting Palette 2

Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple)

A collection of Acers & Japanese Maples at the national collection in Westonbirt Arboretum.

The Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) and its varieties are some of my favourite small trees and shrubs for the garden. They are neat, compact and often rounded trees or shrubs which have interesting foliage and often provide dazzling displays of autumn colour.

Japanese Maples grow well in the shrub layer of an open woodland. They prefer a rich moist soil and benefit from a layer of organic mulch.  They are useful feature plants for damp shaded parts of the garden.

The species can reach up to 8m in height but tend to be slow growing and take a while for the nursery to produce.

Don’t be surprised to be asked for £30 for a decent sized (5L) specimen..  Some of the cultivars tend to be much smaller and more expensive.  However these are  high value focal points and are worth the investment.

Notable varieties include:

Acer palmatum

Acer palmatum (japanese Maple) in full autumn glory

The species grows to about 8m when mature and has a range of yellow to red autumn tints

Acer palmatum ‘Disectum’ Cut leaved Japanese Maple

This is a small to medium sized slow growing shrub and is suitable for the smaller garden.

Acer palmatumDisectum‘ Detail of a mature cut-leaved Japanese Maple

Acer palmatum ‘Kinshi’


The leaves of Acer palmatumKinshi‘ with their long, elegant lobes.

Another cut leaved form with graceful, elongated leaves. This tree only grows to 2 metres (6 feet) in ten years.

Acer palmatum ‘Matsumurae’ Deep Lobed Japanese Maple

A deeply lobed palmate leaf with great autumn colour. Grows to 4 – 5 m (12-15 feet).


Acer palmatum Matsumurae

Acer palmatumMatsumurae‘ leaf detail changing from green to gold to red.

Acer palmatum ‘Tsukubane’ Smooth Japanese Maple

This variety will eventually reach 5 or 6 metres in height. The leaves are less toothed, but no less brilliant in the autumn.


Planting Palette no 1: Parthenocissus (Oregon Grape and Virginnia Creeper)

Planting Palette no 1:

Parthenocissus (Boston Ivy and Virginia Creeper)

Parthenocissus tricuspidata (Boston Ivy) caught in the evening sun at Prebendal House, Thame, Oxfordshire

Oregon Grapes, Virginia creeper and other vines are producing blazing autumn colour this year and are an excellent way to add dazzling colour to a barren wall or fence.

These climbers are easy to grow but are less easy to control.  They are self supporting (although may require a little support to encourage them to grow in the desired direction) and will quickly cover a bare wall but will also block windows or invade the eaves of a house if not pruned regularly. Vines will also grow through a large tree adding and additional layer of colour.

Parthenocissus will grow in most fertile soils and many are fully hardy and are not troubled by few, if any, pest and diseases. Unfortunately their grape like fruit is more like to produce stomach ache rather than a fine vintage of red wine.

Pruning can be carried out whenever needed to keep the vines in their allotted space to prevent shading to windows or damage to structures and formative pruning can be carried out in late winter or early spring. A mobile platform of some kind may be needed to carry out this task safely.

Notable ornamental varieties include:

Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) burns from green to red and produces stunning autumn colour in the garden.

Parthenocissus tricuspidata (Boston Ivy) and the dark red to purple variety ‘Veitchii’. The name tricuspidata refers to three lobed leaves. This species will grow up to 20m (60 feet) in height.

Parthenocissus quinquifolia cascades trough a holy tree

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper) is similar but has a five (quin) lobed leave (folia), which is much more sharply toothed. It grows to a more modest 15m (45 feet) in height.

Parthenocissus thomsonii is from Chinese variety and may be worth a try if you want a vine that is easier to keep in check as it grows to a more diminutive 10m (30 feet).

Nature’s time for planting

The RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) recently launched an  autumn planting campaign to raise awareness that autumn is the best time to plant your garden.

Container grown plants ready for the Autumn Planting Season

There is no better time than Autumn and winter to give a garden a makeover especially if your garden has been a disappointment last season. A new planting scheme could have the same impact as giving a tired room a lick of paint and fresh wallpaper. It may look as though everything is dying off, but this period is the time of year when fruits, nuts and seeds ripen and fall to the ground ready to create new life in the spring.  Plants may look dormant but there is a lot going on beneath the surface and you can take advantage of this season to aid the establishment of your new plants.  So why not take advantage of nature’s way of doing things to  and a healthy selection of plants available from the nursery to transform your garden?

It is also the most effective time of year to treat some of the most difficult weeds and tree stumps because the weeds will draw down weed killer along with their food stores.

Container grown plants may be planted at any time of year but will require more maintenance if planted during the hot dry summer months- assuming that there will ever be a hot dry summer.  However a thrifty gardener can also obtained bare root stock from November to early March that are lifted directly from the ground.

Root growth will begin during mild conditions allowing the plants to become established before the heat and stress of summer.  It is also the optimum time to lift and divide the herbaceous border whilst plants are still identifiable and the soil warms.  Bulbs are still dormant and will also add a splash of colour to the lawns and borders in the early spring .

A few words of caution:  plants should not be planted in freezing conditions or waterlogged ground. They also need to be transported with care to prevent wind chill to tender leaves or buds.

It is also harder to identify plants and get your arrangement just right when many plants have finished flowering and are now losing their leaves.

A garden designer or good contractor who is knowledgeable about plants will know how to arrange and set out plants even when they are not in leaf and ensure that the garden has interest throughout the year and should be able to provide you with a few gems that bring and splash of colour and perfume to the darkest months. They will prepare you a planting plan and illustrate how your garden will look and will have a detailed knowledge of the conditions that your plants will need to thrive.  A garden designer could help your procure the plants, some of which may be out the ordinary and get the best deal out of suppliers and contractors

They can also ensure that the soil is prepared to give a garden the best start possible with fertilisers, conditioners and mulches.  These can all help to reduce ongoing maintenance requirements.

Why not give your garden a makeover during the Autumn? Nature is planting her seeds and getting ready for the next spring.

Need some help?

Creative Landscape Design has 25 years expereince and training in the landscape industry an can help you with:

  • Site clearance and weed control
  • Designing your garden and choosing plants
  • Cultivating and preparing beds
  • Planting
  • Mulching
  • Ongoing maintenance.