The Other Insects of Summer

Lately the media has been all about the Brood X cicada hatching. I am fortunate that they do not make it far enough north to trouble me (one of the very few benefits of living in the frozen north–we do not get any sort of periodical cicadas, just the ordinary dog day kind).

But of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t have insects. And Memorial Day weekend is just about the time when we start having insect damage. This year has been a bit unusual because the weather has alternated between unusually cool weather and unusually warm weather. So the cool weather insects are trying to hang on a bit and the warm weather insects are here too. It’s like an insect bonanza on the plants–although I am sure they don’t think so!

Aphids on a rose bud

For example, aphids, which are normally a cool season insect on roses, are still here. They rarely hang around this long.

Rose sawfly larva damage

And this damage indicates an insect that is just about invisible to the naked eye–the rose sawfly larva. It’s a caterpillar-like creature that is nearly the same color as the rose leaf and it sucks the juices from the leaf–that’s what the little scrapes on the leaf are.

Luckily, up here in the frozen north, we only have one generation of them a year so I do no type of organic control on them at all. They can really disfigure the leaves a bit, but it’s only for a couple of weeks, and then the shrubs put on some nice new growth and all is well.

And this cute little semi-circle is made by the leaf cutter bee. They take out the leaf parts to line their nests in hollow wood. They are native pollinators so it’s important not to use chemical pesticides on your roses–and that includes those “wonderful” systemics that they sell that do everything from kill insects to keep fungus away.

What do you think is harming the pollinators? Please stay away from stuff like that! If public rose gardens can manage themselves organically, so can you!

I find that the same insects recur at the same time yearly. Once you know what to look for, it’s almost as easy as predicting when those periodical cicadas will be back.

There’s a Drought Where?

Dead ilex glabra

This is a slightly different photo from Wednesday because now I am intentionally showing the dead inkberry holly. It’s one of 2 on our property that has yet to be removed. I have lost track of what we have already removed.

All of the is carnage from last year’s severe drought here in the Northeast. I am willing to bet that unless you lived it, you were unaware of it. That’s surely understandable with the events of the past year–but did you hear about the multi-year drought from 2014-2016?

It seems that unless drought occurs in a farming state, it rarely makes news. And while I certainly don’t want any more negative news in the news cycle, it might be useful for national news outlets to cover drought whenever and wherever it occurs.

The same goes for wildfires. I wonder how many of my United States readers heard about the major US wildfires in New Jersey and Massachusetts in the last 2 weeks? Why is this happening? Well, gee, it’s dry again and windy. Has anyone heard about this?

Homes were evacuated in New Jersey too. The fire was along a major roadway, in a state forest, and caused evacuations. Luckily it is out, the homes were saved and no one was injured.

Again, with a 24 hour news cycle, there surely ought to be time for more coverage of this. It would let people know that events like these are no longer regional–sadly. And once people understand that, they might understand more about what is happening to the planet.

Careful About That Pruning

Kolkwitzia amabilis Dream Catcher

This shrub is so large that it literally is taking over the garden. It’s totally my fault. It’s exactly what I talk about when I lecture. One of the things that I always remind people is that we often fail to envision what a mature tree or shrub will look like–or, as I say colloquially, “remember, 6′ tall is bigger than me!”

Well, I always fail to plan for mature plant size, because nothing is ever happy in my horrible wet clay soil so it is a rare plant that achieves its full size. This kolkwitzia is such a rare plant.

And while it is just glorious this time of year when it’s a glowing wall of flowers, if you notice at the base, it is completely obscuring my lovely flowering quinces. Sigh. My bad.

A neighbor’s kolkwitzia

But at least I didn’t do this–pruning at the wrong time so that I cut off most of this year’s bloom. There are actually 2 of these. It’s sad to see.

In this neighbor’s defense, perhaps these shrubs were damaged by wind or heavy snow or something. But I walk this way pretty regularly and I don’t recall that. I am going to stick with the original “pruned at the wrong time theory. “

I suspect it won’t happen next year, knowing these neighbors. As for me, my lack of vision will persist, sadly.

Summer Home

Lake view–what a difference!

Clearly the plants have gone on their summer vacation. These are how my windows now look from the inside.

The “before ” photo

In this photo, you see a bit of staging for the plants.

“After” photo

And here they are on summer vacation. I never realized that most of my plants–even those that are in East or West windows when they are inside–really want shade outside. That’s why most are all crowded together here under this old dogwood tree.

Sun plants

Here are the sun lovers. They are citrus and croton, for the most part, with a few others thrown in.

Herb corner

And here are the herbs, both tender ones like basil that I plant new every year, bay and tender rosemary and lavender that I overwinter, and a few evergreens that winter on my sun porch.

Behind that, in the window of the sun porch, the succulents are just barely visible. They don’t come outside because of uncertain watering. I can’t control nature.

The plants are all set for summer. Now I have to do the same for me!

Moving Day

Succulent window

As I am fond of saying, we only have two seasons here in Connecticut, winter and July.

House plants

As you can see, most of my windows are obscured most of the time by plants. Twice a year, I have the great plant migration where almost everything goes outside in the spring–and then it returns to the windows around Labor Day.

Because “July “–aka house plant suitable temperature–came a little early this year, this weekend was the great migration.

Lake view–sans plants anyway

And because I need to take a 3 week road trip in June, I need to move more of these plants than usual so that the Spoiler can attempt to care for them. It’s going to be interesting.

Second lake view

At least he might have a fighting chance if I can get these grouped by watering preference. We’ll see. Fingers crossed.

How Much is That Lettuce…

Photo of lettuce just beginning

You have probably heard of the book The $64 Tomato? Let’s not discuss the price of this lettuce, shall we? I am going to chalk it up to a bit of pandemic induced madness–and the fact that I simply cannot grow any edibles in my yard anymore with the various critters out there. It’s like the old 60s show Wild Kingdom.

That’s more like lettuce

So here we are about 4 weeks later. The lettuce closest to the camera came with this setup and is unhelpfully identified as “green lettuce. ” Well, yes, it is. Variety might be nice to know, but whatever. When I went on to the app to indicate which plants I was growing, they gave them names–literal names like Amy. I deleted the app. You all know how I feel about gardening technology and that didn’t change my mind.

In the middle, I am growing flowers–or trying to. They’re a little slow. They’ll be alyssum someday, maybe, for my pollinators. In the meantime, I will probably go out and buy some real alyssum.

Farther from the camera is romaine lettuce. I am impressed with how healthy everything is and how fast the lettuce is growing, although it probably would do the same thing outside if it weren’t for Wild Kingdom. That’s one thing that I never get to see. By the time I might have any real growth outside, it’s gone.

So I won’t try to figure out how much lettuce I have to grow and eat to get a return on my investment. This thing will grow all sorts of other plants too. I figure basil in the winter will be nice–if it’s not too darn cold in my house.

Luckily lettuce likes it cool. I see a lot of salads in my future.

Tulip Surprise

Red Darwin Tulips

These are a few red Darwin tulips that have naturalized in my garden and have proven quite resilient. I can’t recall how many years ago I planted them but I am going to say that it has to be at least 20. So they have done quite well.

Since you see them coming up in all that leaf litter (and it is still cool here–cooler than it should be. I am not leaving the leaf litter for insulation purposes but to be sure that any beneficial insects have hatched out), obviously they are not bothered by damp–either the wet leaves or my wet clay soil. I wouldn’t recommend this treatment, but obviously they can endure it.

Tulip interior

Here’s the true “surprise ” though, that I reference in my title. You know that I am always raving about the multiple colors found in bulbs. Look inside at this lovely yellow ring around the deep black center. I am sure that coloration is for the pollinators–but it doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy it too!