For the first time ever I am going to have to destroy a plant. Not anything no longer wanted, in which case I always try to re-home wherever possible; and my allotment will be the richer for a number of plants that the garden has no space for, but the forced removal and destruction as a result of disease.
I have two Cercis in the garden, one the ‘regular’ Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree) which I’ve had for many years and it is a good strong tree. But my Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’, given to me as a birthday present a couple of years ago, has never quite taken off with the same enthusiasm and now I think I understand why. It has been in the ground for a year now, planted once the new design was completed and first I put its slow growth down to it needing to establish itself. But this year I have no such excuse to make. Some of the stems have died back altogether, and the leaves yellow and wither – they certainly don’t achieve the size of the leaves on the other Cercis, or reach the purple gloriousness they should – and if there is one thing I can be certain of this year – there is no drought to be held responsible for the wilting effects on the leaves.
I looked up the plant on the RHS website and learned it is subject to verticillium wilt – and I believe this is the cause of the problem, all the symptoms match. There is nothing I can do to treat it, the guidance is to remove and destroy – and (a bit extreme this) consider grassing the area over for some 15 years! I am also prevented from replanting this species, as well as several others I might have looked to as replacements, such as Acer or Sambucus nigra because the disease is caused by a soil borne fungus. Needless to say I’ll be giving the ground a good soaking of Jeyes fluid to disinfect as best as I can.
So it has to go – to leave it would be to risk the health of my English roses growing nearby, and of the other Cercis which is a size to leave a significant gap were I to have to remove it. I am now looking for plants resistant to this disease to fill the gap.