Abigail Bicheno offers some sage advice

Abigail is the Estate’s maintenance surveyor and is frequently asked about garden maintenance and common challenges. She offers some advice.

Abigail Bicheno

Abigail Bicheno

Despite the erratic temperatures that ushered in spring we have enjoyed a flourish of flowering bulbs and blossom from cherry and crab-apple trees, throughout Dulwich.

Box caterpillar

There have been several casualties to our local flora, including a mature flowering Cherry in Dekker Road and many dead or dying box shrubs throughout the area. The box caterpillar is the culprit, fine strands of silk and tiny caterpillars give the game away. The best treatment? Hang pheromone traps (widely available) as near to the shrub as possible and replenish the contents regularly. If the shrub is damaged beyond control, removal and burning of the infected shrub maybe the only solution.

An infected box shrub

Good alternatives to the box hedge should you need to fill a gap are Hebe Rakaiensis, a small
leaved dense evergreen shrub that has the benefit of flowers in June or July. There are larger flower Hebes like the purple flowered Addenda Donna Britta or pink flowered Addenda Donna Nikka. Bear in mind all variegated plants tend to revert to their non-variegated version and this growth will always be stronger, so prompt pruning will be required.

Wasps and bees 

Recently I’ve noticed that there is some confusion about wasps and bees. There are a few easy ways to distinguish between them without getting too close. Firstly, a large mass of insects found on a tree, wall or chimney stack are most likely a swarm of bees, and not wasps. This happens in the spring when a spare queen leaves the hive together with a group of followers.


They can be aggressive only if threatened. Keep away from them and you will be fine. Another easy distinction, is the buzz. Wasps make a higher pitched buzz than bees. Bees are endangered and not a pest, absolutely essential to our ecosystem and without them we’d have crop failure.

We are planting to attract pollinators in the Village Orchard. Please help protect them.

Japanese knotweed

Finally – watch out for Japanese knotweed. This perennial weed is highly invasive and quite prevalent in and around Dulwich. If you identify it, please follow the guidance to prevent it from spreading.

Advice from RHS
Advice from gov.uk