Battle Update

“Battle Update”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

About this time last year, I wrote about two battles I was fighting in the garden, and I thought I would give an update. One of the struggles concerned the eradication of Limelight artemisia.

 

 

This lovely plant turned into an invasive enemy, and I am happy to report complete success in eliminating it from my garden. I struggled with this plant for about three years until I made a concerted effort last year to get rid of it completely. I pulled out every tiny plant I saw, and this spring there were only a handful of returnees that were easily removed. Ahhh, success.

On the second battle front, I have not been successful. This concerns the grasshoppers, specifically the Eastern lubber.

 

 

I saw the first ones four years ago, and each year has brought more and more. The reason I hate these grasshoppers so much is that they eat my amaryllis bulbs and leaves. Because this area has mild winters, we can grow amaryllis in the ground, and I have planted a great many. This past spring, there were fewer flowers, and I attribute this to the grasshoppers eating the leaves during the summer which probably prevents flower formation. The photo below shows some damaged leaves in May; it is now worse.

 

Amaryllis Leaves Eaten by Grasshoppers

 

I don’t like to use chemicals in my garden, and there is really no effective chemical solution to these eating machines, so the “stomp” method is what is recommended. Each year there has been more and more of these grasshoppers, and last year seemed the worse. This year there are a great many, but it doesn’t seem as if there are as numerous as last year. By the middle of June, they are fairly large with voracious appetites. Yesterday, I found one eating the bulb of an amaryllis I purchased last fall and hadn’t planted in the garden.

 

Amaryllis Bulb Eaten by Grasshopper

 

You can see what I am up against. This bulb was fine the day before.

While there does seem to be a smaller number of grasshoppers this year, I have decided that if the damage gets much worse, I am going to dig up all the amaryllis and plant them in very large containers and place these in the garden. That way, I can cover them with netting next summer to try and protect them from being eaten. In fact, the white amaryllis leaves already have been eaten so badly, that I am thinking I will dig them up this summer and place them in a container.

After having won the Limelight artemisia battle, I am not going to surrender to the grasshoppers.

Rose and Bug

“Rose and Bug”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

The rose and bug – sounds like some English pub, doesn’t it? But, no, it is simply a literal statement about this photograph of the Mutabilis rose and its little visiting friend.

 

 

We have been having very cool weather lately especially at night, but I have been seeing these bugs a great deal. They have been all over one of the blooming sasanqua camellia’s flowers. You would think with the cooler weather that these bugs would be gone. I guess it just has to be a bit colder to get rid of the bugs.

Anyway, this rose certainly is a welcome sight.

Battle

“Battle”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Battle! The last two weeks I have been in an epic struggle with grasshoppers. Not your ordinary green ones, but these black devils, the lubbers (Romalea microptera). These things are huge! About 4 to 5 inches at least.

 

 

While I do not have biblical proportions of the creatures, the daily hunting and killing of these things makes it seem that there are hundreds. In my search for ways of dealing with these amaryllis-eating machines, I have found that the only thing that I can do is squash them. I used to be very squeamish about doing that, but after seeing what they can do to an amaryllis, I have no mercy.

They only seem to be bothering the amaryllis; it must be like candy to them. I had a some amaryllis that was chewed on last year, and this year they did not bloom. I am thinking it must be because the lack of leaves prevented the development of flower buds. This year there seems to be more grasshoppers and more damage, so to protect my amaryllis, it is all out war!

 

 

Do you see how not only the leaves but also the bulb itself has been eaten? To combat these horrible eating machines, I have taken to going out in the early morning and lightly spraying the garden with the water hose. If there are any grasshoppers around, this will cause them to climb up foliage or jump unto the lawn where I can squish them. When they are in the garden beds, however, I can’t stomp on them without damaging plants. So, I spray them with a quick shot of wasp killer spray, and this causes them to fall or move to a place where I can stomp them. I rarely am unable to finish them off when I use the spray (I want to put them out of any misery quickly), but if they escape, I think the wasp spray will kill them. I also go outside later during the day to check, too. Lately, we have been having afternoon showers, so finding them then is easier as they climb up plants to dry off. I worry, though, about what will happen when I have to go back to work and can’t make these forays into the garden to check for grasshoppers – they are supposed to be active until November!

My research tells me that these prehistoric-looking monsters have no real predators because they secrete a toxic substance and can be difficult to control. Some recommendations are spraying with brake cleaner fluid or WD-40 (must have something to do with clogging up their breathing systems), but I can’t imagine using either of these fluids in my garden. So, I’ll stick to the stomp method unless anyone out there has any other suggestions.

Sleeping in on a Saturday

“Sleeping in on a Saturday”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

Very early this morning, I went out to look check out how things were doing in the garden, something I haven’t been able to do for a few days.  As I was checking out the new blooms on the Clematis Crispa vine, I spied a sleeping bee.  Even though the photo below makes it  look like it is visiting a flower for its nectar, take it from me it was sleeping.

 

Sleeping Bee in Clem Crispa (redu)

 

He/she must have been sleeping soundly because the camera’s flash didn’t wake it up.  Being that the temperature was 75 degrees, I don’t think that it was a cool early morning sluggishness which kept it from being startled by the sudden flash.  Maybe it had worked hard all week, and since it was a Saturday, it decided to sleep in.

A Sign of Autumn

“A Sign of Autumn”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

The wheel of time keeps turning.  It is not only that the days are getting shorter that tells us summer is slowly coming to an end, but it is also the angle of the sun that hints to us that autumn isn’t too far off.  Even though it is still very warm, it seems that more signs are showing that the hot weather won’t last forever.  One which I have noticed is the appearance of more and more spider and their webs.  While we always have a few little spiders out and about year round, come autumn, they really are all over the garden.

One of the ones that caught my eye while I was fertilizing the roses for the last time this year was a spiny orb spider.

 

Spider (redu)

 

I almost walked right into this web but was able to stop just inches away.  I always try to avoid tearing spider’s webs because it makes me feel so bad.  They work so hard to get their web up and usually something rips it, so I don’t want to add to their trouble. 

There are also a great many orb weaver spiders with orange bellies around, but I never could get near enough to take a photo.  I know that soon the big yellow orb weavers will show up.  Those are the ones that make huge webs that make the garden look like Halloween.

I love to go out early on an autumn morning and look at all the webs covered with dew.  When the sun hits them they are so gorgeous.  We have a lot of spider webs in the garden on the north side of our house.  I think this must be a fairly protected area from the wind.  There is the house on one side and a stand of bamboo on the other.  Usually the webs are found in the azaleas near the house or strung along the bamboo.  I guess it won’t be too very long before all the autumn spiders start adorning bushes and trees with their lovely weavings.   It is hard to believe that summer is just about over.

Be Careful

“Be Careful”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

Peach Hibiscus (redu)

 

Being able to be outside and enjoy our flowers and plants is one of the reasons we are willing to work so hard in our gardens.  We often forget that there are several precautions that we need to take when gardening to stay healthy.  Sunscreen and tetanus shots are two that quickly come to mind.  Skin cancer seems to be so prevalent now, and using sun screen is especially important now.  Lyme disease is another problem in many areas.  One recent disease that is concerning our area right now is West Nile.  It has been around here for a few years, but with the recent rains, it has flared up again.  Two people in our town has been diagnosed with the bad form of West Nile disease, and the authorities have said that one third of the mosquitoes tested in the last two weeks have been positive for the disease.

The mosquitoes had not been bad at all this summer until the rains started about three weeks ago, then the population exploded.  Because of the New Orleans area’s history with mosquito borne diseases, mosquito control has been an ongoing battle for years.  Spraying for mosquitoes either by truck or aerial has been a summer time reality for decades.   We heard the mosquito plane late last week, and the next day saw a tremendous reduction in the population of the  annoying, biting critters.  But, with the rain the last few days, I noticed that yesterday they were back, but not as bad.

Most people who get West Nile have a very mild case, some not even aware they have had it.  But, it can also be life-altering or fatal if you get the form that causes encephalitis.  The first year it showed up around here many people were infected, and our bird population was hit hard, too.  This is nothing to fool around with.   It was 1999 when it first showed up in the United States, and West Nile is now in every part of the country.

So, enjoy summer outside activities, but please remember to use insect repellant when working outside in your garden especially if this disease has been reported in your area.

Keeping Busy

“Keeping Busy”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

Finally, we seem to be getting back into our normal summer pattern of afternoon showers every three or four days.  We had a big thunderstorm last Thursday, and unfortunately lost our electricity for fourteen hours.  Thank goodness it was from 6 at night to 8 in the morning.  I don’t think I could have taken the daytime heat.  We had another good shower today and received 1.07 inches of rain with more expected tomorrow.  The rain does bring cooler temperatures and much needed moisture to the plants, but it does stop any garden work.

About the only thing blooming right now is the cannas.  They just love the heat.  Tropical Sunrise is one of my favorites even though this is only the second summer it has been in our garden.

 

Canna Trop. Sunrise (redu)

 

Before the rain started, I discovered azalea caterpillars on the front azalea bushes.  Because of the Fourth of July holiday and a family get together on Sunday, I haven’t been able to do my daily walk around the garden.  This is when I am able to just check things out and catch problems like the caterpillars early.  Boy, these guys can chomp through azaleas in no time.  I usually don’t find any of these caterpillars until around the end of August, but they seem to be early this year.  I guess I need to check all the other azaleas that are planted in other areas even though I haven’t had any show up anywhere but on the front azaleas.  But, of course, there is always a first time.

It seems there is always something to keep a gardener busy.

Butterflies in the Making

“Butterflies in the Making”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

My butterfly bush (Asclepias currassvica) has been blooming for weeks, but only flowers, no butterflies showing any interest in them.  I was starting to worry that I wouldn’t have any butterfly larvae showing up this year, but that fear was allayed yesterday when I spotted this.

 

Catepillars 1 (redu)

 

And this.

 

Catepillar 2 (redu)

 

These are the only caterpillars that don’t bother me when they show up in the garden because they will turn into beautiful butterflies.  They only stay on the butterfly weed bushes that I have growing in several places in the back garden, and I have never found them on any other plants.  They certainly can do a number on the butterfly weed though, as the next photo shows – plant stripped bare.

 

Butterfly Weed Stalk (redu)

 

But, I don’t worry about the butterfly weed.  Even when it is stripped bare by the caterpillars, it isn’t very long before they put out a new flush of leaves waiting for the next round of “butterflies in the making” to start munching.

Leaf Cutter Bee

“Leaf Cutter Bee”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

For the past three years, I have noticed circles being cut out of my Iceberg rose’s leaves.  A little research showed that this was being done by leaf cutter bees.  They cut out circles from leaves to build their nests.  The are supposed to make there nests in rose canes, trees, or wood on houses, anything they can hollow out. 

Just last week, I noticed again that my Iceberg roses, and only my Iceberg roses, had circles cut out.  However, I have never seen any bees hanging around them.  I was very frustrated because the leaves just look terrible.   Then, yesterday, while cleaning out the holly ferns, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.  It was a bee, about the size of a honeybee, flying by with a piece of green.  But, instead of flying to a plant, tree, or house siding, it was going into the mouth of my egret statue.  You will have to look closely at the mouth to see the blur of bee and green.

 

Leaf Bee II(redu)

 

A better picture of a leaf cutter bee hauling a piece of a leaf was posted last year on Robin’s Nesting Place Blog.  Check it out here.  Her picture is amazing. 

Anyway, here is what my rosebush’s leaves look like after a visit from little Miss Leafcutter.

 

Rose Leaf I (redu)

 

Rose Leaf II (redu)

 

It is amazing what perfect, little circles are cut out by this bee.  If you are finding the same thing on your leaves, you might want to check out this site.  I was undecided what to do about this situation until I visited this Colorado Extension site.  I was afraid I was going to have a bee hive right outside my front door, but I found these are solitary insects, nonagressive, and important native plant pollinators.  So, this year, it will be able to set up house in my egret, but come winter, I will be sealing up the mouth, and mother leafcutter bee will have to find a new nesting area.

No Complaints

“No Complaints”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

I don’t know what it is about gardeners that we tend to gush about a favorite flower that is blooming or a shrub that looks just as we dreamed it would, and then, in the next breath, complain about something that is making our gardens less than perfect.  I hear this all the time, and I am just as guilty as the next gardener.  There are weeds in the beds, trimming that should be done, or any of the “if onlys” that spring to mind whenever we are in a “glass half empty” mood.

 

I was thinking about this as I was watering the garden this afternoon after work, when I suddenly noticed the ornamental sweet potato vines.  Usually by this time of year they have hundreds of tiny holes in the leaves, but not this year.  There are no holes from beetles this year which is a surprise since the last few years has been pretty bad for chomping insects.

 

 

Margarite is clear and so is Ace of Spades.

 

 

So, while I almost started this post by lamenting that I just can’t get back into any kind of routine after the recent Hurricanes, weeds are popping up like crazy, and I never seem to have time to read garden blogs like I used to be able to do, I was stopped short.  There is something positive to look at instead.   Maybe I should try to do this more often.

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