Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bugs, sweat and tears

"Mosquito is out,
it's the end of the day;
she's humming and hunting
her evening away.
Who knows why such hunger
arrives on such wings
at sundown? I guess
it's the nature of things."
- N. M. Boedecker,
Midsummer Night Itch

This post comes with a warning. Do not read while eating. The photos below could cause serious digestive problems.

I hate bugs that eat me and my plants. The tipping point has almost come. The weeds can grow tall, and the Japanese beetles can get fat, I'm sealing myself inside away from the biting bugs. I can't stand to douse myself down with oily, stinky bug spray one more time. Earlier in the spring it was the gnats, swarms of them everywhere. You couldn't speak without swallowing several. Now its the mosquitoes, and they are especially blood thirsty this summer. This weak and listless feeling must be because I'm low on blood;)

It seems the Japanese beetles are expanding their menu every year. At first it was just the roses and the grapes. Then they discovered the coneflowers and the red clover that the Monarch butterflies depend upon. Today I see them devouring a clematis.



Roses are of course the special favorites of the beetles. This is why I have a short rose season. On July 1 the hordes arrive and the roses are cut back to make sure they don't bloom. Not until mid September will these unwanted guests be gone and I can enjoy a few late blooming roses before the October freezes.

Here comes the tears part--well, maybe not tears just disappointments. Below is Moses' Fire. Last year was the first year it bloomed after planting the summer of 2007. I was very disappointed in it then and am not much happier with it now. The red seems muddy and too orangey, not bright, clear orange but dull, drab orange. It might improve if I could just find the perfect companion bloom that would compliment the color. I'm partial to lots of petals and ruffles and it does fit that criteria. No such thing as too frilly in my garden.

Still more tears;) These tomatoes have been sitting here with big green fruit forever. They should have been ripening weeks ago. There must be some kind of color deficiency in the soil that is preventing them from turning red. Or maybe it's the sunflower-- that might be inhibiting the ripening process;) I do have a few tiny Super Sweet Hundreds that are ripe and I've been making the most of them, but they just aren't the same as a huge, juicy Kellog's Breakfast or Black Krim. I'm hanging on to my fried green tomatoe recipes.

Mr McGregors Daughter invited us all to review our annuals and comment on the best and worst of 2009.

Cosmos were a success but not the ones I sowed myself. Tina of In the Garden was kind enough to share cosmos and nigella seeds. The cosmos did not survive long enough to be transplanted outside (sorry Tina). The nigella is growing but not blooming. Anyway back to the cosmos. I was determined to have cosmos after seeing them in everyone else's gardens and blogs so I took myself off to my local greenhouse and bought several flats. I won't be without them again no matter what I need to do to get them growing. Keep them deadheaded, the plants I neglected did not continue to bloom.

California Poppy--pretty but the blooms are small, few and far between. This probably isn't a good year to judge these poppies since it has been unusually cold and wet. If they selfseed, I may have a better idea next year. These plants are meant to grow in the heat and drought of California.

Victoria Blue Salvia, how well this does in the northern garden is proportional to how large the plant was when set out. Three of the plants I bought were over a foot tall when I got them. The smaller pants are very slow to establish and bloom. Again, this may not have been the best year to judge a plant that loves heat, sun and dry conditions.

Salvia Lady in Red, not showy enough to warrant planting here and truthfully, not showy enough to warrant a photo. I thought it would attract butterflies or hummers but other plants including perennial salvias and agastaches have proven much more attractive to insects and hummers than Lady in Red.

I always plant a few nicotiana in hopes of luring some sphinx/hawk moths to the garden. This is the low growing variety that comes in reds, pinks and whites. It always performs well and provides late season color in shadey spots but has no fragrance. Next year I want to try the tall white nicotiana .

Old faithfuls that add much needed purple and silver and never fail. I wouldn't be without these fillers stuck anywhere a patch of soil can be seen.


tina said...

It is truly a bummer on all the bugs. We've had them but their numbers are petering out so maybe your season will be short. All of us at garden club were commenting how they were not as bad this year. They may have all gone up there. The mosquitos on the other hand. Urgh! Blood loss for sure and I find Off doesn't work half the time.

Your annuals look great and that frilly daylily is a show stopper. I'll send you some more of my cosmos seeds. It might be better to plant these out in the garden instead of flats. They resent being disturbed. That is why I am surprised you found flats of them. The nigella behaves like a biennial. It will most likely bloom next spring-April-May. It is a tough plant don't worry. But I will probably send you some more of these too so you can plant them out this fall. With your shorter seasons it might work better that way. Your pink cosmos look great though. They are a must have for gardens for sure. Love your supertunias and pink nicotiana. Annuals are so fun.

Susie said...

Ick! Sorry about those nasty bugs. They can do so much damage.

Love that flowering tobacco. It is so pretty and one of my favorites. Have you seen the lime color? It's really striking and was a big hit at work.

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Oh, the carnage. I hate Japanese beetles. I don't even have roses but they seem to like my pussy willow. So far so good this year, though. I do like the sound they make when you crush them with your hands... but there's just too many of them!

Randy said...

I’ve never seen that many Japanese Beetles in one place before! That must be a tasty rose. I’m surprised with all the grubs we have there isn’t more beetles. I think a lot of them kill themselves flying into the end of the house for some reason. The just keeping banging into the wall until they are dead. Hmmm… Oh, Moses’ Fire is the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen.--Randy


Moses Fire looks great to me. If you don't like it, send it to me. I really like those dusty rusty colors. For instance, I love Rosa 'Cinco de Mayo'.

JB's not too bad so far. I've found two, one got 'footed' the other got drowned. The second one was on a hosta blossom!.

Sorry you're having such a buggy year. But please keep them in IL

Dog_geek said...

Argh... our tomatoes are refusing to turn red, too. It's maddening! So many big huge tomatoes, just sitting there. So far, we've only had 4 ripe slicing tomatoes, and they were delicious, but I finished the last one yesterday, so now I'm back to waiting. I can't remember a year when the tomatoes have taken so long to turn!

A Wild Thing said...

Knock on wood, the beetles are not too bad yet, but the snails and slugs are the pits, I've never had to deal with them before, my soil is sandy loam and dries out quickly...but tomatoes are still green and leaves are wilting...but my tiny sweet corn is delicious...'till the coons find it...all in a day in the life and I'll take it any day I can get it...and yes, I think it's our age!

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Tina, I never seem to get the seed starting thing right. This spring I started them too soon and they didn't get enough light. Some got real leggy and some died.

Hi Susie, I like the tobacco too. Next year I'll have more, it really likes the spot I put them in.

Monica, I haven't gotten to the point where I can squish them in my hands...yet. I send them for a swim.

Randy, what kind of wall do you have? Unfortunately, out here in the country we have thousands of Japanese beetles--no exaggeration.

Hi Coneflower, don't worry, I won't the JB's cross the state lines. I like orange too but not dull, muddy orange. Next year when the clump increases, I'll send you a fan.

DogGeek, I can't either. The cherry tomatoes are getting ripe pretty quickly now but none of the larger ones. Frustrating.

Hi Sharon, Scratchy should keep those coons away. I've got a ton of slugs too. Too bad there isn't a market for eating snails and slugs around here--we'd be rich. I agree about the age thing, we really do get better with age.


Darla said...

As I was putting the last bite of sandwich into my mouth!!!! EEeeewwww! You have some pretty blooms though. Love Cosmos, my didn't perform as well this year. They are a must have for me too!

Sherri said...

We are a month or so ahead of you and we too had hordes of Japanese Beetles here in Charlotte! They are horrible this year and so are the mosquitos! Yuck! Your pictures of your other flowers though Marnie are just spectacular! Thanks for sharing these lovelies with us!

JC said...

I know what you mean ... bugs ... they get my roses and man ... I can't keep up but I do try ...

Like your new header photos ..

I named my cat Lilly Ann cause she had stripes ... she was a Lynx point Siamese .. the one in my profile.

F Cameron said...


Appropriate title! Geez! I can't help you with your JBeetles as I've not gotten them under control. However, we've (and our guests) notice that we have no houseflies, no mosquitoes and no gnats. My husband and I have a theory that can only be proven if others try it. Our neighbors have these bugs, but we don't. The difference?

We grow:

Lavender, nepeta, rosemary, thyme, oregano, agastache, salvia -- do they help repel bugs?

That attract:

Birds, butterflies, bees, dragonflies (we have a water feature and a swimming pool).

There must be something to the balance here. The true test will come when our neighbor across the road brings horses to her property! Horseflies? Of course.

Hang in there! The blooms that you are showing here look good.


troutbirder said...

Your right disgusting. I've simply had to give up growing most late summer flowering plants due to the corn root worm beetle.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

And I thought I was having trouble with Japanese Beetles - I'm so sorry that they've descended on your garden in such numbers. I was just reading a recommendation of Milky Spore to combat the little creeps.
I wonder if this is just a bad year for Cosmos. I've had no trouble with them when I grew them a few years ago, but this year they haven't been doing much at all. I love your combo of the yellow California Poppy & the blue flowers (the Salvia?). Thanks for sharing!

Maria said...

Oh my goodness... I thought it was the beetles that ate my rose bush leaves... the rain rotted the flowers... but fortunately I had some GORGEOUS and fragrant blooms in the spring. I miss them... I sprayed with an organic spray from Agway... hope it helps... I was tempted to cut them down to 1' but saw some leaf buds pushing through and hated to do it...

Beautiful flower pics and I love all the birds in the sidebar. We see one indigo bunting in the spring and no more. A surprise wrapped in bright blue!

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Darla, MMD way up here in Illinois was saying the same thing about cosmos. This is my first year so I don't know.

Hi Sherri, there are areas like yours and mine that have thousands of beetles and there are areas that have none. Wish we were in the second category.

HI JC, your cat is beautiful. My niece has a lynx point Himalayan that is lovely too. Personalities very different;)

Hi Troutbirder, that is a shame. These imported insects are impossible to control.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Cameron, that is an interesting theory and I agree. A couple of your plants I can't grow here but I do grow most of them and many others. I do know this, our native insects are not serious pests UNLESS the garden gets out of balance because of pesticides. Even the harmful insects exist without causing too much damage because other insects and birds keep them under control. Example, I haven't seen an aphid in many, many years, or mites or serious caterpillar damage. Your theory may be stretched by adding horses. I had houseflies when I kept horses.

Hi MMD, I seriously looked at milky spore several years ago. First it isn't as effective in cold climates like ours. It can require application every year for 5 years to build up the disease in the soil. Also, a whole neighborhood would have to treat with it. Contrary to some reports, JB fly for good distances. I can't treat the pastures and crop land so it wouldn't be worth while. I would like to see some company develop a nonpoisonous spray that would repel them.

Hi Marie, I hope you have good luck. Cutting back the roses to prevent blooming is very had to do every year.


Phillip Oliver said...

The mosquitoes are very bad here too but I haven't seen as many Japanese beetles. The Moses Fire is gorgeous!

BeadedTail said...

I've never seen Japanese beetles and had no idea the destruction they can cause. How sad they eat the beautiful flowers. Hopefully your tomatoes turn red soon so you can enjoy them.

Cheryl said...

Hi Marnie......I have seen japanese beetles on other blogs. I never realised until this year just how destructive they are. It must be heart breaking to see so many blooms taken.
I understand re mosi bites....they love me and I suffer. I have to say this year has not been too bad and that is quite a relief.......

I do hope that your tomatoes will still have some beautiful blooms in your garden.....

Andrea said...

We are plagued with the dawn & evening mosquito population. Swarms!!! These bugs so small have the ability to make a sane person go off the deep end. Keep your chin up ;D

Chloe m said...

Hi Marnie,
I have been surprised at how many mosquitoes we have had this spring and summer. Usually not so bad. Why do they seem to like me more than my husband? He says its because I am so sweet.

Gail said...

The mosquitoes are horrid here, too. Just dashing out to capture a few photos means lathering up with poison or itching for days! Friends who have very sunny gardens don't seem to have the problems that shade gardeners have with mosquitoes and chiggers.

Have you thought about one of the plants that has deep purple go with the orange flower. The flowers are white but they won't bloom until after the daylily is past blooming.


Jann said...

ARG! Those beetles are nasty. I've never lived where beetles were a garden problem, thankfully. Just aphids mainly. A garden is always a parody of plight and pleasure, eh? Lovely flower photos!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Those cursed Japanese Beetles. They can wreck such beauty. I must say that we used to have such terrible trouble with them and we treated our garden with Milky Spore. I do believe it helped a great deal. It is organic and will last many years. We have a big empty lot beside our house and I think they still come here from there but they have been persuaded that this isn't the best place to reproduce which is what the Milky Spore does. It prevents the larva from developing.

Your flowers are so beautiful. You have so many. It makes me want to plow up the side lot and start planting.

Basil Becky said...

I love your photos...they are wonderful, I really loved seeing all your cats. I have four and they follow me all around the garden..can we teach them to catch Japanese Beetles?

sweetbay said...

Sister, I feel your pain. The Japanese Beetles are voracious feeders here as well.

Mosquitos get really bad here in August -- really puts a damper on early evening gardening.

Connie said...

I'm so thankful we don't have a problem with Japanese beetles here. Your flowers look lovely. Many of mine never made it into the ground because I was ill, including a couple of flats of Cosmos. I am debating whether they will have time to really catch up and bloom well now and the weather is so hot, it doesn't make me want to do much!

Kathleen said...

What a bummer that 'Lady in Red' Salvia didn't work out for you Marnie. I'm wondering if its performance (or lack thereof) is due to our strange weather?? I know mine is not doing as well as usual but it will continue to be a staple in my garden because I know how showy it can be. (and the hummingbirds really do LOVE it) Seeing the Japanese beetles destroying your beautiful flowers really is disgusting. I remember my Mom making traps for them out of milk jugs (when I was a kid growing up in Virginia). They haven't come this far west yet and I hope they don't. Even tho we don't have them, I'm feeling a bit trapped in the house myself because of mosquitoes. I keep hoping for hot dry weather to maybe cut them back a bit but we keep getting rain. Isn't it terrible we wait all year to be out in the garden then can't be afterall?!
ps I love the nicotianas too. Have you ever grown any of the green ones? Those & sylvestris are my favorites.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Phillip, I can't believe how many people like Moses Fire;)

Hi BeadedTail, my German Johnson tomatoes are just starting to turn now.

Hi Cheryl, I hope you never have to experience Japanese beetles or any other alien insects brought over courtesy of our trade.

Hi Andrea, mosquitoes are a plague all day long here. Awful.

Hi Rosey, I wish I knew the answer to that question. They like me too. Even with the bug spray on they find a place to bite.

Hi Gail, like chocolate eupatorium? I never thought of that. My CE is located close to Jupiter's beard which is red and Phantom which is pink so I'd have to move something.

Hi Jann, I hope they don't migrate into your area. They have only been a serious pest here for the last 4 years or so.


Rose said...

Aargh! I just wrote a long comment and my browser crashed:( So I'll keep this brief...I've noticed the Japanese beetles on so many different plants this year, too; your poor clematis seems to have really suffered.

This is my first year for planting cosmos, too; I love their airy foliage. Thanks for the tip on deadheading!

As to the mosquitoes, I have to walk Sophie each night, but walks are cut short because I don't want red welts all over me. On the other hand, she is enjoying chasing lightning bugs:)

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Lisa, I had read several studies on Milky Spore and the news wasn't good for gardeners in cold climates. I may check into it again for updates and new info.

Hi Basil Becky, if you can teach a kitty to catch JB's it will be worth a fortune. You could start a business;) Even if they don't help much in the garden, cats are wonderful company.

Hi SweetBay, the fear of diseases like West Nile really bothers me too. We are getting rains about twice a week so there is always standing water for them to breed in.

Hi Connie, I know how frustrating it is. Sometime I think you just have to say that's it for this year and plan to try again next spring.

Kathleen, I hope the beetles never make it into your area but they seem to be moving west. I have never even seen the green blooming nicotiana. I'll look for seeds when I buy sylvertris. There is another large, fragrant one (name escapes me) I hope to find seed for also.


BeadedTail said...

Me again! Just wanted to say that I'm sorry I got you started but am glad you enjoy handmade soaps! I resisted for a long time but gave in and am so glad I did! So many great choices out there aren't there?

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi BT, it is fun to allow yourself little luxuries now and then. The fragrance of some of the handmade soaps is better than a candle.

Anonymous said...

We aren't bothered by mosquitos here, our city sprays for them. But I've just about had it with the Japanese beetles! I've filled cup after cup of soapy water with these nasty creatures, but they still keep coming. I see other people with huge patches of coneflowers un-bothered by them. Me, the garden lover, they devour everything in sight! Is there no hope?

beckie said...

Marnie, tomatoes need warn sultry nights to ripen-something we have had very few of. Even the days have been too cool for them.

Victoria Blue has done so very well for me this year(my first time having it)that I wish I had planted more. My cosmos has also done well from seed Tina sent. Your poppies are lovely and I wish I could get them to grow here-I'd even take a bloom now and then. :)

And of course I love your petunias. That color has always been a favorite of mine.

Maybe next year will be more normal and things will grow better for you. :)

walk2write said...

Well, I'll know where to come and have a look next time I get a snack attack. Those JBs are just natural appetite suppressants. I think Cameron might be onto something with that impressive list of herbs. Where I have lavender and thyme planted, the mosquitoes seem to stay away. I don't like that stinky Off spray either. I used to use Skin so Soft from Avon with fairly good results, though I'm not sure that it's much safer. Now I rub a drop or two of lavender essential oil on before going outside in the evening, and it keeps the mosquitoes away. Smells great too. We don't seem to have a problem with flies in the house here. We do have a healthy population of frogs and toads living under and near the porch and patio, and I guess they do a good job of standing guard at the doors. Maybe you should take some extra iron supplements this time of year if the blood loss gets too severe. Stay healthy!

ShySongbird said...

Oh what a bad, bad beetle! Your poor flowers. You do still have some lovely blooms though, I love Cosmos too, mine seem late flowering this time but we have had some very strange and changeable weather.

marmee said...

okay, i know i left a comment on here but where it went i don't know.
the j/beetles are awful here too.
one thing though that is interesting.
i planted a cover crop under my corn, velvet beans, the j/b are eating it more than my corn so i really don't mind. i will plant it again next year for that reason alone.
your blooms that havent' gotten eaten look great.
i planted a lot of cosmos seeds but they have been slow going so far. not like last year. i think it might be due to the cooler spring temps and the amount of rain being more frequent than last year.
i am sure that has something to do with the tomatoes too.

Weeping Sore said...

It must be a universal gardening trait - we envy what others grow and take pride in the pests we don't have. Like I can take credit for not having Japanese Beetles in So. Cal. I remember as a kid near the mid-Atlantic coast, we'd tie string to the beetles and fly them like kites.
Thanks for sharing your lovely pics, not counting the pics with pests.

Pat said...

Ok Marnie...I'd have to find someway to kill those bugs !!!
That's too devastating !!

People here who bought plants are having problems also with tomatos not ripening.

I have tons of seeds for tall white tobacco plants but somehow I don't think it's the kind you have in mind.

If it's any consultation your not the only one having an off season.
But those to go !!!!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
cconz said...

Love your daylilies. I had problems with those nasty beetles for several years. Then last year i put down grub killer in the lawn. By golly it worked. No beetles this year. They really can devestate a plant.

Carol said...

Yikes! those photos of the japanese beetles are intense!!
Love all your wildlife/bird pictures... Lovely salvia... all the flower photos are great! Great to hear you are into conservation and organic gardening!

Carol said...

Yikes! those photos of the japanese beetles are intense!!
Love all your wildlife/bird pictures... Lovely salvia... all the flower photos are great! Great to hear you are into conservation and organic gardening!

Corner Gardener Sue said...

Thanks for the warning about the beetles. I just saw one while turning the compost, and ran in to get my camera, but when I got back out it was gone. You'd think after gardening for so many years, I'd be able to identify the insects I see, and know what they eat.

The flowers not being eaten look happy and healthy. I like what you said about sticking petunias where you can see dirt. Hey, I like that daylily!

My bush tomatoes are starting to turn red now, but the others are still green. Hopefully, we will soon be picking lots of tomatoes.