Monty Don shares warning over rosemary, olive and lavender plants – ‘at risk of disease’

Gardeners' World: Monty discusses Xylella in olive trees

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BBC Gardeners’ World presenter Monty Don has issued a serious plant disease warning. In a Gardeners’ World episode from last year, Monty was showing viewers how to pot an olive tree. While olive trees are popular in the Mediterranean, Monty explained that they will actually survive a frost in the UK.

Monty said: “Olives are actually not tender, they will take frost.

“Quite hard frost but only if they’re dry.

“They absolutely hate being cold and wet.”

However, despite olive trees being surprisingly hardy, he said they are “under threat” from a serious plant disease.

He said: “I should preface this by saying that olives are under threat from a disease called xylella.

“This has been around for a number of years but it has really caused major problems on the continent and the Government is restricting the importation of olive trees and other plants like lavender and rosemary that can carry the disease.

“But if you do buy an olive from a nursery or a reputable garden centre or if you have one, potting it on every other year is a good idea.”

Xylella is a bacterium which causes disease in a wide range of woody commercially grown plants.

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Some of the plants most at risk include grapevine, citrus, olive, lavender, rosemary and several species of broadleaf trees widely grown in the UK as well as many shrubs and herbaceous plants.

Symptoms of xylella include leaf scorch, wilt, dieback and plant death.

Confirmation of infection from the disease usually requires testing in a lab.

The Government announced plans in February to address the health of plants at risk of catching xylella.

Last month, stricter measures were introduced against the plant disease.

The Government website reads: “The new changes have been identified as priorities for improving our plant biosecurity in response to known threats, protecting businesses, society and the environment in the short term, as well as in the future.

“New requirements will apply to those countries where Xylella is known to be present.”

Imports of polygala and coffea will only be allowed from countries where the disease is not known to occur.

Olive, almond, lavender, rosemary and nerium oleander plants will be subject to more stringent requirements when they come from countries where xylella is known to occur.

There have been outbreaks of the disease on France, Spain, Germany and Portugal.

Biosecurity minister Lord Gardiner of Kimble said: “We take the nation’s biosecurity very seriously.

“That is why we are increasing restrictions and requirements for the import of high-risk xylella host plants to reduce the chances that xylella is introduced into Great Britain.

“These measures will enhance the level of protection against this devastating disease and are necessary to protect our country.”

Gardeners’ World airs tonight at 9pm on BBC2

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