Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Black Scale on Purple Leaf Sand Cherry (Prunus x cistena)

I see shrubs in rough shape all the time.

From afar, this Purple Leaf Sand Cherry didn't have the usual deep purple leaves for this time of year. It was a dead giveaway of something wrong.  Up close, I was in shock.

Sticky, bumpy and mouldy stems point to a major problem.

Black invaders were sucking sap on EVERY stem.

The worst on newer growth.

Then seeing scale nymphs all at the base too!  These young, grey coloured, softer scale insects have emerged from underneath old brown female scale insects, and were making their way up the main branch to the tender stems to feed. This could be Lecanium Scale, but I am not 100% certain.

Here, you can see both sizes and life cycles. I am not sure if they have females which can reproduce parthenogenetically (without mating), but boy oh boy - there were thousands.

The females usually lay eggs in spring and the crawlers hatch from May to June in most species of Scale insects. Now, they molt and turn into instar (smaller juveniles) before becoming large adults. They feed by sucking sap and excrete honey dew which drips on branches below; causing sooty mould. It's quite the mess maker at this stage.

Here, I removed some large black females and you can see some nymphs coming from her underside.


I made a tough decision:

I coppiced the entire shrub down to nubs. The situation called for heavy pruning anyway. Coppicing can force new growth right from the blunt cuts. Perhaps not the best time. But to leave it in the state that it was in, was too difficult to manage.

A treatment of dormant oil before buds began to swell in March would of been ideal. It was too late.

Cutting away and removing from the location was the only way I could control such heavy populations of scale.

One small stem remained. In a few weeks time, many more will emerge again.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Plant Profile: Amsonia "Blue Ice" Blue Star - The Virtual Unknown

I am partial to blue in the garden. I keep Forget Me Nots just so I can enjoy a lengthy blue bloom in my backyard. It's a sacrifice, I know ;)

Once Myosotis fade, there's not much else that flowers blue in June.

Except this gem:

Amsonia is truly a gift to the gardener. No pests, no staking required, lovely as a cut flower....the attributes will astound you. Good for dry shade as well.

Soft blue, delicate trumpets.  Between my Brunneras and Amsonia, I am happy.

One of the best features as well, is autumn colour.

Frost tolerant and quite late to change colour. Hues range from butter yellow to light orange.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Aphids on Thalictrum rochebrunianum Meadow Rue

Talk about aphid colonies taking over:

A week ago, flower buds were just hovering over this Meadow Rue. Today, I noticed one side of the plant had flower stalks shorter than the other.

On closer inspection, the stems were thicker and bits were moving. Aphids by the thousands were feeding on this poor stalk. Suppressing and dwarfing the flower head.

Aphids drip honeydew excrement, which leaves behind white/sticky coating on leaves below.

I refuse to use chemical controls for aphids. A heavy spray from a hose end attachment...

...usually does the trick and unfortunately, the colony was way too thick. I would waste too much water if used alone.

As I sprayed, I squished nearly all the soaked stems by hand. Yes, gross, but easy enough. Very cathartic to rid them in this way.

All clean.  Easily said than done. I will have to keep my eyes on these stems. Colonies can easily regroup and multiply.

Hopefully, the left side will now have enough energy and sap flow to regain what was lost from the aphids feeding.

The likely cause: very dry May weather. This site is usually quite damp and moist. Little rain and no irrigation have made aphids attracted to this succulent feast.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

DIY Bird Bath For the Garden

I have a tiny backyard, yet it's quite surprising how many birds frequent my little oasis.

I bought this tiny fountain and found a small sparrow bathing on the edge in the heat last week. This prompted me to do something.

Finding this great flower pot holder, I thought they would serve as great holders for a bird bath.

I went to the local Good Will and bought this pie plate for next to nothing.

I looked for more decorative plates, but I didn't know if the glaze on some cheaper dish-ware would be ok for the birds (possible chemicals) or tough enough to leave outside. So I kept to glass.  It's deep enough for a bird splash, not too heavy for the holder. Better to recycle and reuse something this easy to find. Placing it up high, if it breaks, ah...it's only a pie plate.

Ideal for a fence, I placed the holder this high:

Birds need good footing and a safe place to bathe. I bought flat stones from the dollar store, washed them and arranged enough to cover the bottom. They are ideal. Heavy enough not to spill out and smooth enough to keep easily clean.

The pie plate offers a ledge where the birds can wiggle dry and where I attached the bath there's ample get away space from any cat. High up for added protection.

Affordable and easy to install.

Level with the fence top, birds can easily hop in.

The sound of my little fountain attracts the birds and thus, I have made my little backyard an oasis for  my feathered friends as well.

Two on each side of my tiny garden and I get tons of visitors drinking and bathing.  One other aspect, if you get tired of keeping it as a bird bath, it can be a great feeding station instead.
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