Mystery of Sheffield’s wilting garden hedges

Richard Blackledge story'A Leylandii hedge which appears to be dying.'Many such hedges across the county are similarly affected
Richard Blackledge story'A Leylandii hedge which appears to be dying.'Many such hedges across the county are similarly affected
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THEY’RE the trees that have caused countless disputes among neighbours - and now a mystery plague has hit leylandii hedges across the region, killing them off to the bewilderment of their owners.

Puzzled South Yorkshire residents have been contacting The Star with tales of the unusual garden complaint, which causes large brown patches to appear on hedges until they eventually die.

Suggested causes include infestations of aphids and mites, drought and cutting hedges too closely.

Jayne Wood, aged 54, who lives in The Quadrant, Totley, with her husband Tony, 56, said an established hedge that was already in their garden when they moved in 12 years ago had been affected.

“The old part has started dying,” she said. “It starts going brown and then just spreads and dies off. If you drive round Sheffield then you notice hundreds.”

Leylandii - in particular the taller varieties - are notorious for sparking feuds between neighbours as the fast-growing trees often block views and shut out sunlight.

Jayne, who runs a student accommodation business with Tony, said they had sought advice from the garden centre about what the problem could be.

“They thought it was something to do with the close cutting of the hedges, or that we’d had a dry summer,” she said.

“That doesn’t seem to ring true. This is a neatly cut hedge that a lot of people comment on. If you look at the trees that are just left to grow, they don’t seem to be affected.”

Jayne said Tony sprayed their dying hedge with water but it failed to halt the spread of the brown patches. But gardening expert Stuart Jackson, who pens a weekly column for The Star, denied that a plague is affecting leylandii.

“There has been a drought problem,” he said.

“If leaves are going brown and crinkly that could be drought. You need to make sure they get water and you certainly want to feed them mulch. Beyond that you’ve really got to have a sample analysed.”

Mary Stocks, from Doncaster, contacted The Star to advance her theory of a “fierce aphid and red spider mite” infestation affecting leylandii.

“They like close cropped foliage. You need to spray with a powerful insecticide, especially when you see lots of fine white webs on the trees.

“It may be an investment to purchase a backpack sprayer if you have a large hedge.”

Jayne said she fears it’s too late to save her hedge.

“It’s perhaps too late now to spray it because it’s dead,” she said. “I’m sure it’s a countrywide problem that’s creeping up on us and nobody realises.”