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Pest watch and other musings…

Much as I love summer, it’s really hard work on the pest front: everywhere you turn, something is trying to chomp the living daylights out of your plants.

Last night when the rain had stopped I went out with a torch to see how many slugs and snails were about. First I looked at my Hosta “Frances Williams” which I grow in a pot rather than a border, pellet regularly (around the base of the pot and in the pot) and which I have heard named as one of the less appealing hostas to slugs and snails because of its thick leaves. So was it mollusc-free? Er, no. Five large snails and a couple of tiddlers were merrily munching away at the hosta that I thought was protected. Hmm.

Then I turned my attention to my Solomon’s Seal, also pelleted and also in a pot, but placed within a border, and that too was hosting several unwelcome slimy diners. I’ve always thought that it was sawfly grubs doing the bulk of the damage every summer, but this year I’ve kept it sawfly-free so now I know that slugs and snails are as much to blame, if not more so!

And in fact, they were all over the place: slithering over the paving, the gravel, the wooden water feature, the soil and, of course, the plants – it’s a wonder that there’s anything left by morning, to be honest!

The only good news is that thus far they are ignoring my copper-taped veg containers, although whether this is because the tape puts them off or because they simply haven’t found them yet I couldn’t say.*

Then there are the rose sawflies. Much of the soft new growth on my favourite roses seems to be sporting the tell-tale scarring left by the egg-laying activities of rose sawflies, so any moment the poor things will be crawling with grubs and, if I do nothing about it, virtually leafless by July. I foresee many happy hours of picking the little wretches off, oh joy!

We’re still patrolling our solitary pot of lilies for scarlet lily beetle, and still finding one or two from time to time, so if you have lilies you need to keep inspecting them regularly through the summer.

There haven’t been overwhelming numbers of aphids yet, so I suppose I should be thankful for that, but sometimes you wonder whether it wouldn’t just be easier to have concrete and astroturf instead! *sigh*

On a brighter note, the “Widecombe Fair” pink cuttings that I took just over 3 weeks ago seem to have rooted: I spied what looks like fresh new growth on them and an experimental tweak of each one tells me that they’re now anchored into the compost, so I’ve taken them out from under their glass cover to harden off before I pot them up individually.

Also, the 3 new primroses that I made from my single plant a few weeks back all seem to be doing well and making new leaves. I suppose I could plant them out any moment but I think I’ll leave them in my shaded coldframe for the time being – they’re probably safer there!

*Breaking News: just nipped out in darkness with my torch and there was a snail in my lettuce pot, so it doesn’t look like the copper tape is going to be much use. Fiddlesticks. Pellets it is, then…


Dividing a Primrose

More of a “how-I-do” than a “how-to-do”, and very, very simple!

I have one primrose in a pot, and it was absolutely gorgeous this year – flowered its little socks off – so I’d like to increase it and dot a few around the shadier parts of my garden.

Here it is in said pot:


It’s not desperately tight for space in this pot, but I don’t want it to get that way otherwise it will be an absolute rotter to remove (the top of the pot curves back inwards, which means I wouldn’t be able to pull it out without a fight!).

I set to with a hand fork and got it out relatively easily, then pulled the crown apart – quite a brutal but at the same time careful process – which yielded 3 separate mini-plants, complete with some roots:


I then part-filled some pots with multi-purpose compost, removed any remaining flower stalks and all but 3 or 4 leaves on each new plant (to reduce water loss while they establish) and potted up the divisions:


I then watered them well and placed them in my shady coldframe to grow on.

Of course, you don’t have to pot them up: they could go straight out into a shady spot in the garden, and if you have a lot of plants to divide that’s almost bound to be the best thing to do, but as I only have the one and as I feel I can protect them from pest damage and control their early development more effectively if I put them in pots, that’s how I like to do it.