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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…

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Daily ramblings

The first of my unknown lilies opened today:

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I acquired them a few years ago after I complained to a mail order plant company about some rather shoddy fuchsias I’d received, and they sent me 3 free lily bulbs by way of apology.

They didn’t do anything in the first season, but after overwintering in an 18″ pot, they shot up the next spring and bore several blooms each that summer. They’ve since been getting taller each year and multiplying (I now have 6!) so they’ve proven to be a rather nice freebie!

There was no information with them so I don’t know what they are, but I do know that they grow about 5 foot tall, have a gorgeous, heady scent and are a pollen-free variety – the flowers never fully open through the life of the bloom, so the anthers always remain covered. Aesthetically, this might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s certainly less messy!

As for culture, I don’t do a lot really. In autumn, every couple of years, I re-pot into fresh multipurpose compost, then I leave them out all winter with no kind of protection (they seem to be tough as old boots!). From late March, or whenever they start into growth, I begin weekly feeding with Miracle Gro, switching to Tomorite or Phostrogen in June to promote flowering. Water as needed, and that’s it…job’s a good ‘un!

The one drawback is, in this part of the country, the dreaded scarlet lily beetle, but as I keep the plants all together in one pot that is accessible from all angles, I find they’re fairly easy to control. As long as I inspect them every day, especially in early summer when the beetle is most prevalent, I can keep damage to very low levels.

Rose sawfly, on the other hand, is another story.

This year seems to have been very bad for them in my garden, not helped by the fact that I tend not to notice the activity of their dastardly larvae until a fair few leaves have been munched: they’ve taken a particularly bad toll of my climbing roses because I can’t reach the shoot tips to remove the little blighters! Pfft.

Slug and snail depredation hasn’t been as bad as expected after the immense amounts of rain that fell over winter and spring, but they’ve still managed to decimate my large-leaved hosta that I grow in a pot on the patio (I think it’s “Frances Williams”, but I’m not certain). I pellet it, but they laugh at my efforts and keep right on making lacework out of every leaf that dares unfurl.

I need to borrow a chicken…