Tag Archives: gardening

It’s a Jungle Out There

jungle bannerBy mid-August, the garden is tired. So is the gardener. The once-tidy beds (all right, they were never tidy, but they were at least navigable) have degenerated into wilderness, like the moss-covered skyscrapers on that “After We’re All Dead” TV show on the science channel. Actually, left to its own devices, the yard would be in a more presentable state than it is after my meddling. When my folks built the place in 1960, the lot was native sod. Given its druthers, my little patch of ground would happily revert to a prairie landscape. Even now Mother Nature tries to sneak in a few specimens of cocklebur and quack grass among the more exotic varieties of weeds introduced through horticulture and bird poop.

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Dahlias

Both the dahlias and gladiolas are in full glory at the moment – an occasion both for joy and foreboding, for while they are among the most spectacular blooms of the season, they are also among the last. Their appearance is a harbinger of things to come … and those things are mostly cold and white and require a shovel to remove them.

The brevity of a Minnesota summer makes it all the more precious. It’s partly for that reason that I tend to slack off on the weeding around this time. After two months of toil, it is time to reap the harvest: in my case, not produce but the abundance of beauty as my gardens reach their triumphant climax. If a garden were a fireworks display, now would be the moment the marching band enters playing “Stars & Stripes Forever” amid a cacophony of erupting Roman candles.

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To enjoy the August garden, bring a pith helmet and machete

Tragically, I am not able to fully enjoy the Big Finish this year. A week ago I brought a book out to the rose garden, currently experiencing a fresh flush of beauty. I sat on the small bench there, in peaceful contentment, listening to the small, chirping birds, the sigh of the breeze and the incessant beep-beeping of the trio of anti-snake death sticks I installed earlier this summer. Coincidentally, it was at the very moment that I was reflecting on how damned irritating those beeps are when I spied something under the floribunda directly across from me.

A head.

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Well, at least I don’t have platypuses. Thanks, Amazon Prime!

It wasn’t a human head; that would have been okay … or at least less NOT okay than the wedge-shaped, beady-eyed, forked-tongue-flicking horror a scant two feet away. It was a snake, of course, curled up around the base of the rose bush, apparently attracted by the alluring concert of electronic beeps around it.

At least, I thought as my blood curdled in my veins, it is a small one. The head was about the size of the last segment of my index finger. However, as I allowed my gaze to travel from that head all along the ropes and coils of its body, I realized the rest of this thing was freakin’ huge. Assuming it was the same villain who prompted the purchase of the in-retrospect -wildly-overpriced anti-snake sticks, it was apparent that it had officially crossed that important threshold between “snake” and “serpent.”

I have a friend who worked in an office complex converted from an old hospital. Alone there one Sunday afternoon, she stepped out of the office to find a nurse standing in the hallway about halfway between my friend and the only exit.

A semi-transparent nurse.

My own predicament that moment in the garden was somewhat similar, except the nightmarish apparition that occupied the space between me and safety was a) not dead and b) failed to vanish into nothingness when it saw me looking at it. It just flicked its tongue and stared back at me.

Frankly, I think my friend got the better deal.

To make my egress through the narrow (and, one has to assume, snake-infested) arbor, I had to sidle past my enemy, literally within inches of that coiled form. It was important to make my escape stealthily, so as not to startle the creature into making a leaping attack at my ankles (I’m pretty sure they do that) or worse, slithering off into the larger garden beyond. There it would find an infinity of leafy undergrowth in which to … lurk.

Contorting my considerable bulk through a series of Ninja moves that would have won the top prize on “America’s Most Humiliating Home Videos,” I managed to elude the predator and escape, screaming, into the relative safety of the grassy backyard. I haven’t been back since.

And so, the dahlias are badly in need of dead-heading, the burgeoning mums are lost in a sea of pigweed and the unfettered grapevines have crept over the garden and are plotting to creep through my bedroom window and strangle me in my sleep. Meanwhile, I am confined to the margins of the green zones, pacing like a tiger in a cage, wondering what I’m missing.

For a hot minute I allowed myself to hope that my snake encounter was an isolated incident. Perhaps my tormentor was merely a tourist, passing through on his way from the farm fields south of town to the very snake-congenial swampy morass that backs the properties across the road. But yesterday I heard the back neighbor suddenly cry out, “There’s another one! Stay away from it, kids!”

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My conception of the block party this coming weekend.

It’s possible he was talking about a rare breed of fanged, rabid baby bunny, but it seems more likely he had stumbled on something with far fewer legs than a rabbit. Moreover, his use of the word “another” suggests this was in no way the first such encounter he’d had. The only logical conclusion to be drawn is that 1) the neighborhood is teeming with these things and, by extension, 2) we can expect a snakenado of writhing reptiles to drop from the treetops AT ANY MOMENT.

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Yes, flying snakes are A THING.

Someone at work noted that this is “a bad year for snakes.” On the contrary, I’d say it’s a pretty damned awesome year for snakes, what with the abundant moisture creating a never-ending buffet of slugs, mosquitoes and tadpoles on which the reptiles can feast … and grow. It is, conversely, a very bad year indeed for anybody who hates snakes as much as I do.

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Something to look forward to.

In a month or so, after the first hard frost has turned the dahlias black and the daylilies to mush, the snakes will creep into their burrows to wait out the winter. If the cold season is relatively mild, as it was last year, they’ll be back in greater numbers in the spring. For the first time in my life, I’m praying for a cold, hard winter. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

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A Very Little War

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A kidnapping in progress

We live in turbulent times. I was reminded last night that, even on the smallest scale, Mother Nature produces no peaceable kingdoms. While strolling through my rose garden, I became aware of a kind of seething movement beneath my feet. Looking down, I observed masses of large, red ants clambering over the pebble path. Large numbers were proceeding, with regimental precision, from a point beneath one of the shrub roses. Each of these held aloft a white egg case (technically a pupa, I guess). At the same time as these single-file rows of pupa-bearers streamed away from the point of origin, an equal number of unencumbered ants were marauding back in the direction of what I discovered to be a black carpenter ant colony under the shrub.

Fascinated, I watched the red raiders swarm the various entrance holes of the black anthill and emerge with their cylindrical spoils. I would have felt bad for the black ants, but they didn’t put up much of a fight, to be honest. Outnumbered and undersized, the adult inhabitants of the colony had fled the mound, taking refuge among the foliage of the bush, where they paced restlessly, watching the carnage below. Such immediate capitulation does not command respect.

One of these ants is not having a good time.

One of these ants is not having a good time.

I followed the red ants as far as I could, across the full length of the rose garden and over the plastic border of the path into the deep foliage beyond. It occurred to me that, in the context of the scale of these determined creatures, the distance they covered from their victims’ fortress to their own is the equivalent of many miles for a human. Moreover, the four-inch path border they surmounted must be an Everest for them. Yet not a one faltered or deviated from its course. They proceeded with steely determination, and no jagged chunk of rock, inconveniently rooted thistle or giant sandaled shoe would deter them. (After the first half dozen crept over my toes, I got the hell out of their way.)

Consulting Wikipedia, I learned that the red ants were likely formica sanguinea, the blood-red ant. This is a slave-making species, which means they raid other ants’ nests and – you guessed it – kidnap the pupae from the brood chamber. They take them back to their own lair, where they hatch and become slave workers for their oppressive overlords. Geez, and those antz from the cartoon seemed like such nice guys.

Don't be fooled by their friendly demeanor.

Don’t be fooled by their friendly demeanor.

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And you think YOU’RE having a bad day

The insect world is full of this kind of weird stuff. One summer I discovered a caterpillar on the grape vines that looked like it had grown spikes all over its body. Nope. Turns out the “spikes” were the pupae of some kind of wasp that eats the caterpillar from the inside out. Other parasites are able to turn their host bugs into zombies, controlling what they eat and how they behave. There’s a species that causes the caterpillar they infect to become the invader’s bodyguard, violently fighting off predators of the cocoons, even though the caterpillar-defender is destined be consumed by the baby wasps as soon as they hatch. Talk about ungrateful!

There’s even a parasite that causes its host – an ant, ironically – effectively to commit suicide by climbing to the top of a long blade of grass, the better to be eaten by a cow; the parasite needs to reside a while in a cow’s gullet as part of its life cycle. (There was no data on what sordid things they make the cows do.)

This is in your brain AT THIS VERY MOMENT

This is in your brain AT THIS VERY MOMENT

Fortunately for us higher orders, our brains have evolved beyond the point of being influenced by parasitic Svengalis*. Oh, sure, scientists have made some crazy claims that the parasite T. gondii, which disseminates itself through cat feces and has thereby infected a third of the world’s population with toxoplasmosis, is able to exert subtle control over its human hosts. The theory seems to be that, since infection by T. gondii has been shown to make rodents unafraid of, and even attracted to, cats – their natural predator – it follows that the nasty little beggars can also make us humans overly fond of and ultimately in thrall to our feline life partners.

What nonsense! In fact, I’d offer a mountain of conclusive proof that this isn’t true … but I suddenly feel compelled to go buy a case of Fancy Feast.

 

 

*Svengali is a character in George du Maurier’s 1895 novel, Trilby. The character holds an uncanny hypnotic power over his protégé. She is a singer, not an ant.

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Garden of Weedin’

Pretty!

Pretty!

My small town collects yard waste once a year, in the spring. This year, on the morning of the collection, I gazed up and down the street in bafflement. A couple of my neighbors had set out a bag or two at the curb; most had none.

I had 32.

In the three weeks since then I have already amassed a new mountain of debris at the back of the property large enough to be mistaken by a passing archaeologist for the remnants of a long-lost civilization. It’s composed primarily of weeds pulled from my flowerbeds and dead branches trimmed from the shrubbery.

My question: What do OTHER people do with their crap?

Granted, my landscaping is far more garden-oriented than my neighbors’. Most maintain long, uninterrupted stretches of lawn they just have to mow once a week. The guy next door, though, has a sizable vegetable garden, and I don’t see the margins of his yard becoming fortified with bulwarks of decaying organic matter. He must have SOME weeds. Where do they go?

Where.Do.They.Go.

I tend to foster more unwanted vegetation than I would if my beds were blanketed in a nice, thick layer of mulch. In addition to keeping down weeds, I understand that a covering of wood chips or coconut hulls tends to keep the ground cooler, retains precious moisture and improves the quality of the soil. I did mulch for several years, but my mother isn’t fond of the looks of the stuff and, frankly, with as many beds as I have now, it gets damned expensive. And so I weed.

I don’t mind that part. In fact, I find weeding very nearly as relaxing and cathartic as flicking sawfly larvae off the rose bushes. A gal can get a lot of heavy thinking done while performing the mindless exercise of pulling quackgrass and purslane from among the daisies and gladioli. It’s what to do with the haul that’s vexing.

For years, this arbor hid a multitude of sins ... er, snakes.

For years, this arbor hid a multitude of sins … er, snakes.

My first several years gardening, I was all about composting. I bought first a plastic, snap-together compost bin, then later a kind of silo made of polyurethane, and threw my pickings in them. When these quickly filled, I started throwing stuff in the u-shaped enclosure formed by an old dog pen my Dad erected (his dog Ralph spent a total of about 10 minutes in there over a lifetime of 15 years) that has now become the frame of the grapevine arbor. Soon that receptacle, too, achieved maximum capacity.

Articles in gardening magazines (I have stockpiled a mountainous collection of those, too) give the impression that one need only dump green and brown organic matter in a heap, stir it around a bit once in a while and presto! Dark, rich, loamy compost magically appears in short order. But years after I started my various piles of wilted weedage, they remained … piles of weedage Actually, that’s not entirely true. They remained piles into which species of vermin had taken up residence – notably, snakes.

Snakes! Nope. Nope. Nopety-nope-nope.

This is NOT OKAY.

This is NOT OKAY.

The moment my sneakered foot was swarmed by baby garter snakes was the moment I decided to get out of the compost business. So now I’ve started accumulating plastic garbage receptacles, which I place in more or less orderly rows behind the shed. Theoretically, at some point I will haul the already-overflowing units to the municipal compost heap (aka Snake Valley). The hitch with this plan is that my little, red Kia can’t tote many garbage cans. Precisely, it can tote zero many. And so the garbage receptacles continue to proliferate almost as fast as the weeds that fill them.

So much NOT pretty.

So much NOT pretty.

I believe this is known as the Circle of Life. Isn’t nature fascinating?

 

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Angry Birds

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Last evening, while I was puttering in the backyard, a blackbird fledgling hopped through the open door of the garden shed. My efforts to coax it out only caused it to scamper further into the dark recesses of my “woman cave.” All the while, the child’s mother was scolding me loudly from a nearby tree. When it was time to go in for the night, the little peeper was still in residence. Rather than locking him into the dark and stifling structure, I propped the door open a few inches to permit his egress at his convenience. I’m hoping, when I check the shed after work today, that I’ll find its population down by one, rather than up by an indeterminate number of snakes, mice, rabbits and other undesirable tenants.

My mom worried that the little guy might fall victim* to a white cat that prowls the neighborhood overnight. However, based on my experience of bird-cat relations, I’m more hopeful. Despite anti-cat propaganda that puts cat-caused carnage against bird populations on a par with the Visigoths’ sack of Rome, I maintain birds can hold their own against their feline foes.

In 2013, a controversial study in the journal Nature Communications postulated that cats are responsible for between 1.4 and 3.7 billion bird deaths a year. That does indeed seem appalling. But consider that the world population of birds is estimated at 400 billion, and the paltry .00925% that cats cull seems a little less egregious. Based on the cacophony of tweets and chirps that starts up about 4:30 am every morning outside my window, I can say with certainty that the winged creatures are not endangered species in my yard, at least.

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We maintain a congeniel habitat for our feathered friends.

Indeed, my experience suggests that birds are often the bullies in cat-bird interactions. Last summer I witnessed the startling spectacle of a bright orange blur of cat streaking across the neighbor’s property at full speed, pursued by a trio of dive-bombing bluejays. The last I saw of the beleaguered feline, it dived under a camping trailer; the jays perched on top of the vehicle, laughing and pointing at their humiliated victim.

Peep, stymied by a fragile mesh of screen.

Peep, stymied by a fragile mesh of screen.

More recently, I had just lain down for a Sunday afternoon nap (that’s what weekends are for, yo), when I heard my cat Peep chattering from his perch on the windowsill. She was clearly agitated by something, making that staccato eh-eh-eh-eh sound that I’ve always interpreted as the cat version of a string of obscenities. I got up to investigate and discovered, a mere foot or so from the screen window behind which my cat glowered, a tiny bird on the end of a tree branch. It was a house wren (Troglodytes aedon), about the size of a tangerine, and it was taunting my cat. I swear to God it was staring Peep straight in the eye, bobbing gently on its twig and singing a sprightly song whose lyrics can only have translated to, “Neener neener boo boo.”

At left, the house wren, Troglodytes aedon. Not to be confused with Trog, the 1970 low-budget horror film that marked the low point of Joan Crawford's career (right).

At left, the house wren, Troglodytes aedon. Not to be confused with Trog, the 1970 low-budget horror film that marked the low point of Joan Crawford’s career (right).

Frankly, as stealthy as cats imagine themselves to be, a bird that allows itself to be snuck up on by a cat is, in my opinion, not much of a bird. Birds have the great advantage of wings, which allow them to flutter just out of reach of their earthbound enemies, who are left to shout in impotent rage and shake their furry fists toward the sky before stomping off petulantly to take a nap.

As for the ghostlike predator that stalks our neighborhood, I hope he doesn’t have to depend on his hunting skills to make a living. A few days ago a quiet evening around the firepit was interrupted by a raucous din coming from the lilac hedge. A murder** of crows had descended on the shrubbery, occupying almost every branch. Their attention was directed toward the ground, and they were hollering in unmistakable fury. Beneath them, in a little hollow among the roots, cowered … the white cat. Whatever it had done to piss these guys off, it clearly regretted it. Rather intimidated myself, I backed away and left the stand-off to reach its natural conclusion. I haven’t seen that cat since, by the way. I prefer to assume he found other, more hospitable hunting grounds. But I did see a bit of white, furry fluff adorning a new nest in the pine tree yesterday …

Our swallow condo is always a hot property.

Our swallow condo is always a hot property.

*Sad coda: The fledgling apparently did leave the shed overnight, but was found some yards away, deceased of unknown causes.

** a group of crows is known as a murder, presumably because their raucous cries inspire homicidal thoughts in anybody who has to listen to them.

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I Canna Catch a Break

Cat Garden1

The pathway to Junk World


Last evening my 89-year-old mother and I sat in our lawn chairs in the backyard, half dead from many hours of toiling in the gardens. Mom looked across at the neighbor’s yard, a featureless expanse of green lawn, and remarked, “I bet they’re just as happy as we are, and they don’t have a single flower in their yard.”

Point taken.

New host bed in progress.

New hosta bed in progress.

Nevertheless, I look forward to planting season on the ol’ homestead every spring. My master plan, to replace ever blade of grass on the property with a flower, is advancing nicely. I installed a large, new shade bed this spring and filled it with hostas, astilbe and ferns. My mom approved of converting an otherwise barren patch of earth underneath a massive maple tree to this purpose. However, she has cautioned against any more excavations. “I think any more gardens might make the yard look a little … junky,” she averred.

Yep. That’s what I was going for. Call it an homage to that classic 1970s sitcom, “Sanford & Son.” Once I roll in a few derelict cars and leaking oil drums, the scene will be complete. Watch for my spread in “Better Homes & Gardens.”

Cat Garden 2Perennials are the foundation of most of my beds. Unfortunately, my favorite flowers are all of the sort that do not naturally occur on the tundra (i.e., central Minnesota). Here in Zone 3-to-barely-4, plants like gladiola, dahlias, begonias and calla lilies have to be laboriously dug up in the fall and reinstalled in the spring. Each fall I “lift” dozens of dinnerplate and other fancy dahlias, wash them off, label them and store them in a cool room in the basement. And every spring I unpack the boxes and throw away the alternately withered or mushy contents, which will invariably have croaked over the winter.

I have tried every method propounded by the gardening magazines to preserve these devils: wrapping each individual corm in plastic wrap, burying them in vermiculate, in sawdust, in wood shavings. The result is always the same: I fork over a C-spot to someplace like White Flower Farms or Spring Hill Nursery for this year’s “Dinnerplate Dahlia Collection.” Ka-ching!

I have slightly better luck overwintering gladiolas; about three-quarters of the bulbs I toss into a paper bag and stuff into a dark corner are viable the following spring. Begonias are a lost cause; happily, they’re fairly cheap (after Memorial Day, at least).

Canna flower

Canna flower

My real success story, however, is cannas. And by “success story,” I mean oh-my-god-what-am-I-going-to-do-with-all-these-damned-cannas. I started with a single plant half a dozen years ago; this spring I’ve already put in three dozen huge rhizomes and have another crateful still in the basement to find a home for. I’m not even particularly fond of these tropical-looking plants that produce a rather lukewarm fringe of flower late in the season. But it’s hard not to respect a plant as robust and prolific as this is. At the rate it’s reproducing, I’ll be able to put in a 6’ canna hedge clear around my property in a few years.

In the meantime, though, I still have to figure out what to do with that couple of dozen rhizomes languishing in the basement. Every nook and cranny in all the full-sun beds have already been claimed. I can think of only one solution. Looks like I’ll have to dig a new bed on the west side of the house. (I think there’s a broken down old snowblower in the shed that would make a nice focal point.)

Just don’t tell mom.

Cat Garden 3

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Turf Wars

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For a man raised on the South Dakota prairie, my Dad was inordinately fond of trees. He was known to snag seedlings out of ditches and bring them home to install in the backyard. The result after 55 years is a whole lot of very big trees and a lawn that shaded for much of every day. Side effect: our lawn has become increasingly patchy. My mother has long fretted about this, and a couple of years ago I had a lawn company come out to treat the grass with fertilizers and weed killers. My nephew discouraged this. “If you kill all the crabgrass, you won’t have anything green left back there.”

Wise beyond his years, my nephew.

Two years later, the lawn people having come and gone half a dozen times for regular maintenance, large swaths of the yard are reduced to compacted dirt. But at least there’s no crabgrass.

This is not of great concern to me, as I have always hated grass. I find its uniformity rather bland and it requires a great deal of fussing. It has to be mowed, for instance. Not only is this a tiresome waste of time that would be better spent weeding the flower beds, it has been my sad experience that no lawn mower invented has ever started in two consecutive instances. Lawn mowers break down just sitting in the shed. You’ll have them tune up at the small engine place, mow the lawn once, put it back in the shed and the next week it will be dead as a stone. For years, the arrival of lawnmower season was reliably greeted by tears of frustration and my mother’s plaintive suggestion that “perhaps we’d be better off in an apartment.”

Let the lawn drive me from my own property? Ha! NEVER! Last year I found a guy who comes to mow the lawn once a week. He drives one of those big machines with levers instead of a steering wheel and he gets the whole place done in about 15 minutes. As far as I can tell, he has shed no tears over my lawn. (However, my mother insists that he shakes his head a little irritably while mowing, irked at having to maneuver around my proliferating garden beds.

At my mother’s urging, I reseed the bare patches every.single.year. I dig up the ground, rake it over smooth, generously scatter seed, cover with a light layer of soil and water thoroughly twice a day. Watch the tiny seedlings sprout. See them proliferate. Observe them wither and die. Stomp around mad for the rest of the summer.

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SyFy should make a film of this.

This year I have a new plan. I’m going to cover every bare spot I see with a charming garden gnome.

That won’t be creepy at all.

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Grim Pickin’s

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Gather ye rosebugs while ye may.

At one end of my backyard are three large, old rosebushes. They grew from cuttings taken from my mother’s childhood farm more than half a century ago, and the bush from which they were taken had persevered on the hot, dusty South Dakota prairie since the 1930s. My mother recalls that it grew up over the gate in the yard, covered with needle-like thorns, and her mother was always after her dad to trim it back. But having just come through the Dust Bowl, where the entire farmstead was reduced to lifeless dirt, John Welsh could never bring himself to cut away any living greenery.

That original bush’s progeny, transplanted to central Minnesota, has been largely untended since 1960 – in part because I, like my grandpa, find it hard to cut back anything alive. Mostly, though, it’s because the cluster of bushes has grown into a monster, akin to the fortress of thorns that surrounded Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the old fairytale.

They are not a fancy hybrid – just a plain, old-fashioned shrub variety that flowers prolifically early each summer with yellow blooms for a week or so, then subsides into foliage and thorns for the rest of the season. They possess the hardiness of old, native varieties, seldom troubled by disease even when my showier roses are shriveled and mottled by black spot, rust, powdery mildew or any of the many other pestilences that reduce the rose gardener to fits of tears and profanity.

These roses, however, do have one perennial nemesis. Every year at this time, the leaves of the bushes start to brown and curl at the edges. A close examination reveals the leaves to be skeletonized. Left unchecked, the bushes are largely denuded of foliage by the end of June, only to sprout new, leafy growth again in July.

For an astonishingly long time, I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Perhaps I’m profoundly unobservant, or more likely I never cared to venture within range of those vicious thorns. When I finally did take a closer look several years ago, in the midst of the spring die-off, I discovered an invader. The leaves were covered with small, green worms. The Internet quickly ID’d them as rose slug sawfly larva, destined to become a fairly benign little winged insect. There are three varieties of sawfly larva that affect roses in my area: the bristly roseslug, Cladius difformis; the European roseslug, Endelomyia aethiops, and the curled roseslug sawfly, Allantus cinctus. I seem to have escaped the bristly roseslug. The other two are happy consumers of my bushes.

The name sawfly derives from the fact that the female uses her elongated, serrated genitals (!) to cut into the leaf to deposit her eggs. And you thought human labor was hard work.sawflylarva

There is apparently no effective remedy for these pests, according to the experts. I avoid chemicals in the garden (save the bees!), and the recommended treatment, powerful blasts from the garden hose, tend to knock off the blossoms as well – but their blooming period is brief enough, and is the only thing that makes them worth keeping around. The only other recourse is to pick them off the leaves, one by one. And so, rose worm pickin’ season begins.

I used to be more squeamish about such things, and began by scraping them off leaves and onto the ground with sticks (inefficient) or picking them off with tweezers (messy). Finally, I got over the willies and started picking them off by hand. I find it most effective to gently roll them between my thumb and index finger, which dislodges them without mushing them into green jelly.

In a previous post, I confessed my aversion to killing just about anything (mosquitoes are an exception). This includes little green worms. So when I pick them off the leaves, I drop them a few feet away from the bush and watch them begin at once to creep back toward their source of sustenance. I suppose most of them perish of fatigue and/or starvation before they reach the bush again, so it would perhaps be kinder to simply squoosh them or drop them into a can of kerosene. Yet I cannot bring myself to be the active and immediate agent of their demise … and there is always the possibility that they will survive to fulfill their destiny as winged creatures with sharp-toothed vaginas (it’s possible my understanding of sawfly anatomy isn’t entirely clear).

I have so far offered this sporting chance to several hundred sawfly larvae over the past week. Like the flush of starry blossoms, rose worm pickin’ season is a brief one; in a few days it will be all over. Then what will I do with my time? No worries: aphid pickin’ season starts next week!

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