May 30, 2007

Gross picture warning!

I was hoping not to be able to show you this. But now that I am able, I am obliged. It's that stupid sense of public duty.

My lily beetle hunting expeditions were quite successful this year. I must have squished 30 or 40 of the pretty little nasties, often two by two. I scraped off the occasional clutch of little orange eggs, after dutifully posting the pictures here.

But one of them eluded me. Yesterday, my eye caught sight of a severely chewed leaf and I knew. I just knew. And here it is, complete with chewers.

Lily beetle larvae

One word. Ew.

That disgusting mass of goo contains a lily beetle larva which has successfully made itself extremely unappetizing. The easiest way to deal with these revolting creatures is to rip off the leaf and drop it into soapy water. Or grab a twig and knock the larvae into the same soapy water. Personally, I don't care to soil my shoes by dropping them on the pavement and stepping on them, but what you do with your shoes is your business. But do get them out of there quickly. Left unchecked they can wreak incredible damage. Fortunately, I seem to have only one leaf's worth. Being vigilant during mating season has paid off for me.

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May 19, 2007

I hate my snowball bush!

To the point that I am thinking of digging up my Viburnum opulus roseum. I planted this baby two years ago. Last year it showed every sign of settling in well, despite the attack of the mad arborist. This spring - oh joy! - flower buds. Visions of big fluffy floral snowballs floated in my head.

Then I read online that this particular viburnum is subject to aphid attacks. I was pretty sanguine about it. I hadn't seen the slightest sign of aphids in two years. Two days later - I kid you not - I followed the trail of some over-enthusiastic ants to find colonies of black aphids at the growing tips.

Black aphids on Viburnum opulusThis is patently unfair! I should give up reading on the Internet; it appears to be bad for my plants. I pulled out the all-purpose spray, which is definitely fatal to aphids. The problem is, these bugs are very good at protecting themselves. As they attack a leaf, it curls around them and makes them very difficult to spray. You can see the curled leaf in the photo. It's virtually impossible to get them all, no matter how good the spray is. So I'm going to go out and snip off all the affected parts and drop them into soapy water. If that doesn't work the temptation to dig the thing out will grow even greater.

Perhaps a Japanese maple...

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May 17, 2007

Struggling up the ladder

I was feeling morose a while back. My beautiful Jacob's ladder (the Bressingham Purple) looked deader than a doornail. Polemoniums normally come through the winter with most of their foliage intact, but all I could see were dead stubs. I was, quite frankly, miffed. I'd grown rather attached to this particular form of Jacob's ladder, with its purplish cast and long-lasting flowers. It looked particularly nice with a frothing of deadnettle at its feet.

And then the other day I was doing my normal poking around and what did I see? This.

Bressingham Purple Jacob's ladder
None of the reading I've done on this cultivar mentioned that it was a late riser or that it behaved differently than other Polemoniums. So as a public service I'm letting you know you shouldn't give up too quickly on this baby. It remains to be seen if it will come back as strong as last year. If it doesn't, I'll conclude that it's only borderline hardy in this zone, and make sure I mulch it well next winter.

For now, I am happy to see that it is coming back at all. There are a few residents of my garden that are missing in action or a bit worse for wear. But I'll tell the sob stories later. For the time being I am looking at my bleeding heart with a real sense of awe. A square metre they said it needed. Piffle! This thing is more than a metre across in its third year and the poor grape-leaved anemone behind it is feeling a bit crowded. Not for nothing that all its new shoots have sprouted further away from its rather overbearing neighbour. But I love it all the same.

Bleeding heart

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May 16, 2007

Squill and friends

When I hear the word "squill", it evokes in me images of something vaguely unpleasant, perhaps squirmy and slug-like. Fortunately, the pretty little spring flowers so named are much more pleasant to look at. They are known as good naturalizers but I do believe I'll help nature along by ordering an extra set of bulbs this fall. You can't have too many of these little beauties.

Scilla siberica
This is Siberian squill, or Scilla siberica. The vibrant blue is a welcome jolt of colour in a spring garden, and blue marries so nicely with almost any other colour that might be popping up. Some people grow these in their lawns, but I find that they are still going strong by the time the first mowing is due, so I prefer to leave them in the flower beds where they can continue unmolested.

Puschkinia libanotica
Striped squill are lovely little white flowers striped with pale blue, which gives them an almost ethereal quality. They flopped over a bit in my back yard, probably from insufficient sunlight. I'll try to find them a slightly sunnier spot. Still, they were a joy.

As you may suspect, these are not the freshest of pictures. I'm running a bit behind here, and most of my squill have finished blooming especially in the front, where spring comes a bit sooner.

Some of you are wondering (those of you who actually read titles): but what about the friends? Here they are:

Minnow daffodils
Minnow is a mini daffodil that hasn't really captured my heart. Many of them didn't bloom for me, and I found the colour uninspiring. In a close-up, it doesn't look bad. In the garden, it looked washed out. This one is not joining my must-have list.

Anemone blanda
Squirrels appear to be very attracted to Anemone blanda bulbs. Last year not a single one came up. Being a bear for punishment, I tried again, and this time about half of them survived the loving attentions of the tree rodents. I love the brilliant white, especially next to the deep purple blooms of the hyacinth you can see off to the left. I do hope it succeeds in spreading.

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May 14, 2007

Tulip mania

As promised, I am back with a picture of my Daydream tulips once they had faded to apricot.

Daydream tulips
I love the colour, but I was a bit disappointed with how quickly they wilted.

On the other hand, the Emperor tulips not only bloomed again this year, but they had actually increased in number since last year. Their blooms started early, held up for quite a long time, and were strikingly beautiful too. What more can you ask for? Emperor tulips have definitely joined my list of things I will want to include in any future gardens.

Emperor tulips

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May 08, 2007

'Tis the season to be wary

I was sitting in the sun yesterday minding my own business, when my eyes strayed to the right and discovered the horror of an alien invasion! A brilliant red exoskeleton, twitching black antennae...

I did what any red-blooded defender of the planet would do and squashed the alien forthwith. And then I squashed its brother (sister? mate?). Too late I remembered my duty to the rest of the human community and realized that I should have photographed the intruders first to help others in the identification of the enemy. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, I soon had the opportunity to redeem myself.

So be forewarned, inhabitants of the planet Earth, or at least the lily-growers of planet Earth, this is the enemy. It is known as the lily beetle, the red lily beetle, or Lilioceris lilii.

Lilioceris lilii
They are often found lurking at the base of a lily leaf, where their brilliant red nail polish colour is not so easily spotted. Small holes in the leaves are a tell-tale sign of their presence. They are very easy to catch by hand and drop into soapy water or squash. Being the squeamish sort, I usually drop them onto a hard surface and step on them, rather than dispatching them with my fingers. They are emerging from the soil at this time of year and if the battle is won at this time, we can breathe easily for the rest of the season.

If not...

They lay clutches of orange eggs, usually on the underside of the lower leaves where they are harder for human-sized eradicators to spot.

Eggs of Lilioceris lilii
These are easily scraped off with a fingernail and if you can get all of them, you can breathe easy for the rest of the season.

If not...

Well, fortunately for me, I don't have a picture of the consequences. I might have in a couple of weeks if a clutch manages to escape the loving caress of my fingernail. The larvae are truly hideous and truly destructive. They usually start at the bottom of the lily stalk and work their way up, devouring as they go. I don't recommend dealing with them bare-handed, as they have the very nasty habit of piling their own excrement on their backs to discourage (very effectively) any predator who is considering them for lunch. It's been a few years since I've had to do it, but I normally handle them by holding a bowl of soapy water underneath them and knocking them into it with any twig I can get my hands on. I sincerely hope I won't be able to inflict their beauty on you, but if I catch them in my garden, I know what my duty is.

Lily beetle hunters of the world, be diligent. The survival of our lilies depends on you!

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May 03, 2007

Technical stuff

I'm going to be gradually adding labels to my old posts. For subscribers to my feed, this means you are going to be seeing old posts coming at you as if they were new. My apologies. On the other hand, they are more or less seasonal. ;o)

I am still alive

And so are most of the plants in my garden, amazingly enough.

I owe everybody an apology for not posting earlier. I took on the added task of writing a novel (over 81,000 words at this point) and it overloaded my circuits. Blogging was the main victim. But I am still here, I've reactivated my email account, and I thought I'd start this year off with some of the early bloomers in my garden. I doubt if I'll be checking in daily, but I will make an effort to do better.

Botanical tulips
Dasystemon tarda is a charming botanical tulip that seems to interest squirrels less than the showier varieties. It's supposed to come back year after year and spread itself around a bit too.

Pulsatilla vulgaris
My Pasque flowers have responded very happily to the better treatment they got last year by flowering profusely and prompting at least one neighbour to beg for seeds. And unlike all the spring bulbs blooming along with them, the squirrels ignore them entirely. I approve.

Daydream tulips
I planted a good number of these Daydream tulips last year, but only two survived the solicitous attention of the local squirrels. They opened a rich, buttery yellow with a black throat, making me think I'd gotten the wrong variety. They have since "faded" to a lovely apricot colour, which is what I was aiming for. Not that I disliked the yellow.

Previous post on the topic of Pasque flowers

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