Thursday, June 16, 2011

Good Garden Bugs

On every stem, on every leaf,... and at the root of everything that grew, was a professional specialist in the shape of grub, caterpillar, aphis, or other expert, whose business it was to devour that particular part.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes

When you see a garden bug, what’s your first reaction? Squash it at all costs? Spray it? Or study it?

Today when I came home I spied this guy on my Pat Austin rose bush, just putting forth its first apricot blooms of the year. I’d seen these beetle like bugs flying and crawling around in the past few weeks but didn’t pay much attention to them, not knowing what they were. But today I saw one on this rose, at the buds which have been chewed and deformed. I wondered if it was the culprit, so I watched it. It appeared to be eating the aphids that were there also. Hmmm, is this a good guy, I wondered?

I watched more.

Have you ever just sat and watched a bug? It is fascinating. You should try it. If I hadn’t watched it I’d have assumed it was what caused all the damage…the chewed out base of the buds, the curled buds that will open to a deformed rose. But I watched. Ok, first I had to go find my magnifying ‘reader’ glasses, THEN I watched. For several minutes. It WAS eating the aphids! SWEET! Since I do not use chemical insecticides, I rely on beneficial insects like this and birds to keep the bad bugs under control.

If you look closely you might be able to see some webbing under the leafy green that is below the bug’s abdomen. THAT is the culprit of the bud damage…a worm of some kind (I need to look that up) who had eaten into the buds and spun a cocoon. I can see it moving in there. Fascinating.

So, I have this great bug book. The fabulous photographs and descriptions of Whiney Cranshaw’s book Garden Insects of North America tells me this bug is a Rove Beetle and that they are generally predators of insects, specifically root maggots, found in soil. Boy Howdy am I glad I didn’t jump to a disastrous conclusion and squash this sweet baby before I knew what it was. From now on the Rove Beetle, a beneficial insect, is my friend.

As for that cocoon spinning worm…as soon as Rove Beetle has had its fill and moved onto another smorgasbord I’ll be removing those deformed buds and squashing that worm…it is not my friend.

In bloom in my garden today: Allium shubertii, Alpine Strawberry,Alyssum, Aquilegia, Armeria pseudarmeria latifolia ‘joystick mix’,Baptisia, Blueberries, Brunnera macrophylla,Chives,Daphne caucasica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ and ‘Summer Ice,’ Daylily, Dianthus, Digitalis grandiflora, English daisy, Geum, Hardy Geranium, Heuchera , Iris, Lilac, Lobelia, Nepeta ‘six hills giant’ (catmint), Peas, Peony , Rose, Rosemary ‘hill hardy’, Salvia, Saxifraga , Solomon’s Seal, Tellima grandiflora (fringecup),Tomato, Vancouveria hexandra (inside out flower)

Authors photos

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Strawberry Vine

In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful,
~Abram L. Urban

Isn’t that the funniest looking flower you’ve ever seen? When the red cherry-like bud opens it reveals something like a pine cone to my eye but its common name is Strawberry Vine. Shisandra rubiflora is a twining vine that likes a sunny or semi-sunny spot. Twining vines do best with some sort of a trellis or arbor with an open construction so the vines can spiral themselves around the supports. It does not like to dry out and reportedly will reach 10-15 feet (3-5 m) tall. It is hardy to USDA zone 7. Originally, in 2007 I planted it in a fairly shady spot that only got sun late in the day. It didn’t settle in very well nor did it bloom, then an errant soccer ball broke it to pieces, so 2 years ago I moved it to a safer spot that gets sun till well past mid-day. This year it is taking off, is filling out and there are more blooms than ever before.

A perfect example of ‘right plant, right place’. If you have a plant that is not happy, it is possible that it is simply in the wrong conditions for its needs. Read the tag that comes with it carefully for the necessary information to make it thrive in your garden. Of special note: the tag also says vigorous. Be aware that tags are written to sell plants, not warn of possible problems. When you see the term 'vigorous' on a tag let that be a red flag. A vigorous ground cover could become an invasive pest, difficult to eradicate. A vigorous vine could swallow up what ever it comes into contact with so beware. I may have to do a lot of maintenance on this vine like I do my wisteria to keep it under control. That will remain to be seen.

All in all it is a very odd flower and one to look for if you are a plant collector with a penchant for the unusual.

My friends, I am sorry that this post is so long in coming. I never meant to keep you hanging on, wondering if I was going to write more. Lately other responsibilities have been demanding more of my attention and I have had less time to write. I still have lots of ideas to write about and am not willing to say good bye, but I will be posting much less often. I hope you have enjoyed this blog and will stay with me. I know I have enjoyed having you visit and comment. It has been so fun to see visits from around the world, making our global garden so much smaller. If you are fairly new to this blog, there are many, many more articles archived for you to read and comment on. The previous posts will remain valid and I will answer all comments or questions you may have. If you want to be notified the next time I post, you can click on the subscription button in the right column and it will come to your email.

Until we meet again, I hope those of you in the northern hemisphere have a wonderful summer enjoying your gardens, and those of you in the southern hemisphere – enjoy the respite and have fun planning what you’ll do next year in your garden. Cheers!

In bloom in my garden today: shisandra rubriflora, saxifrage, hardy geraniums, lily of the valley, iris, huchera, lilac, dutch iris, columbine, peony, geum, dianthus, solomon’s seal, sedum, daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ and 'Summer Ice’, wisteria, tellima, azalea, ajuga, chives, tomato, raspberry, alpine strawberry

Author’s photo