Silver Linings

As gardeners we are all subject to the vagaries of the weather and nature, who amongst us hasn’t lost a cherished plant to rot in a wet winter, or discovered a freeze dried specimen that was perhaps a bit more tender than we hoped. We can shrug our shoulders and chalk it up to experience and tell ourselves we won’t make that mistake again. The silver lining being we get to buy/swap/grow a replacement, and who doesn’t like a new plant.

This ho hum attitude doesn’t seem to extend to the wildlife we experience, gardening can all too soon turn into a series of battles with little or no hope of actually winning the war. For various reasons I choose not to use insecticides in the garden, and so I expect to put up with a nibbled leaf or three. I can put up with that so long as they leave the flowers alone, it’s all about give and take.

That’s not to say I was happy when I discovered that the scarlet leaves on my bog standard  Tellima grandiflora were not in fact due to Autumnal senescence, but a rather a bad case of evil weevil. Ho Hum, I thought as they came up from the surface of the compost, at least they should survive if I repot them, and the silver lining is instead of one I now have three.

Now just because I choose not to poison pests doesn’t mean I’m happy to give them board and lodging through the winter once they’ve been discovered. It’s not too onerous a task to knock the compost out of the pot and sift thorough the contents for the Vine Weevil larvae. I can almost hear your thoughts gentle reader ‘Sounds like a lot of faff to me, why bother?’ Well as I said before this gardening malarkey is all about give and take and handing feeding Evil Weevil to a Robin is pretty high on my silver linings list.

Robin accompanying today's gardening exploits in Hereford
Gardening it’s a spectator sport for some

Vexatious beasties in the border – FYI

Firstly as a gardener I live with the certain knowledge that the beasties in the garden, be they marauding molluscs or evil weevils are all after my plants. Secondly I also know that these are discerning creatures often dining out on your most valuable plants, not just those that are expensive but those that are rare or irreplaceable for sentimental reasons.

So it was with some dismay when revisiting a garden this week that this sight befell us….

I spy with my little eye
I spy with my little eye – Lilly Beetle damage

It was with a sinking heart I went in for a closer inspection, for there, as expected in glorious technicolour was the culprit

Blurry Lilly Beetle
Blurry Lilly Beetle

These beetles have strict dietary requirements namely the Liliaceae lovingly planted by you or I and in the case of this week’s sighting they seem inordinately fond of Martagon Lillies.

The adults are very bright and fairly easy to spot, however, not relying solely on their bright red colouring to act as a warning to predators they have a cunning survival trick up their sleeves. If you attempt to pick them off the Lilly they cast themselves to the ground and land on their backs, as their underside is black it makes spotting them nigh on impossible. So a little trick is to place a sheet of newspaper beneath the plant as it makes collecting up and dispatching the beetles much easier.

Next turn all the leaves over to remove the eggs, because if you’ve got the adults at this time of year the chances are high you’ll also have their eggs.

*I apologise for the quality of the following photographs but it was a blowy day and I only had my phone with me*

Lilly Beetle eggs with thumb for scale
Lilly Beetle eggs with thumb for scale
Colour change
Colour change

The eggs are this orangey colour however as they age they become darker. They are quite easy to remove by gently rubbing off the surface of the leaf, and then rubbing finger and thumb together.

Now for those of you wondering if I have landed a staring role in “Smurf – The Musical” the reason for the latex gloves is not because the eggs are likely to cause a reaction, they were just in case I came across any Larvae. To reduce the chances of predation at the laval stage these beetle larva have come up with an ingenious and completely repulsive way of protecting themselves, they camouflage themselves in their own excrement – and yes I am pulling a face as I type that**.

Its a mucky job picking them off, hence the gloves. Now if you don’t want to spend your day grooming your lillies like a monkey bonding with its troupe, I find it rather satisfying in a “take that you _______”(insert own expletive here) sort of a way. However I do understand this control method isn’t for everybody so I suggest you have a look on the RHS website for a list of controls.

The RHS are also asking anybody with these particular garden nasties to help with a survey – should you feel so inclined.

**happily for all concerned no excrement covered larvae were discovered