I was away for a short 11 day sojourn to England and left Cruella (my wife) in charge of the garden. I left her strict written instructions for each day of the week and time of the day. Those of you who can remember the disaster of last year – when she managed to destroy a whole tomato crop and kill off all my cuttings – will think it foolish of me to give her another chance. But as a Christian I believe you have to give people a second chance. I must be an idiot given her track record of garden mayhem.
Among the many things I had left on the potting bench was a cutting of “golden shower” Vine; which for some reason Cruella thought was very funny. I had layered the cutting into a seed tray and it was showing good progress when I left. When I got back it was gone, she told me a large blackbird came and attacked many of the plants on the potting bench and destroyed lots of them including the Golden Shower cutting.
I could probably have put up with this if she hadn’t unleashed a plague of Sawfly caterpillars into my Roses. I told her what to look out for but she swears she didn’t see them. What we are talking about here is a biblical plague of caterpillars, if this had been inflicted upon the Pharoah he would definitely have let Moses and his people go.
16th June: Things I have been doing lately.
🐛 Dealing with a Sawfly caterpillar infestation. Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will know that Sawfly caterpillars are a nasty garden pest here in Spain. They especially like Roses. The female Sawfly cuts into the stem of the Rose with a saw like implement on her ovipositor (yes, that’s right she has a saw up her bum). She then lays her eggs in the cut she has made. A short while later the caterpillars emerge and proceed to rapidly eat through all of the leaves on that stem. Nature has engineered these beauties with voracious appetites and sets of legs that can only be used to climb down. Mummy lays them right at the top of the Rose and they gaily munch their way down to the ground where they enter the soil ready to pupate for next year.
Now, you have to look out for them every day and cut them off before they reach the soil. Cruella deliberately, or if you are being generous, through an oversight allowed the infestation to get hold. When I came back it was like Disneyland for caterpillars, they were everywhere. The only solution is to pick each caterpillar off the leaf individually and see if they can swim in a bowl of water (none have succeed so far).
The first picture below shows the wound in the stem of the Rose inflicted by Mummy Sawfly, whilst the second shows the caterpillars feasting on my Roses. Click on each photo to enlarge.
✂️ Trimming back Jasmine. If you have Jasmine then by now you will have had the first flowering. After this first flowering the plant can turn quite brown as the early leaves die back. This can make the plant look unsightly, and it is almost impossible to cut these out individually so you just need to don your gardening gloves and rake through the plant with your hand. Whilst this won’t get rid of all the leaves it will make the plant much neater and let air into the centre.
The other major problem you will face with Jasmine at the moment; especially if you are using it as a climber on a trellis, is that it will start to fold over on itself from the top. What happens is that the plant grows top heavy and flops forward through sheer weight. In effect the plant is folding over on itself and creating an illusion that you have a nice green plant. But in reality the plant is disguising the dead leaves below and at the same time suffocating itself. You need to get up your ladder pull the plants head back up and cut it off to stop the folding action. At first you will expose the unsightly brown leaves, but the end result will be a healthier plant. The photo below shows the trimmed up Jasmine.
🍇 Pruning grapevine. Many of us in Spain have grapevines; some for ornamental reasons and others for fruit. Which ever one you have, now is the time for some gentle pruning. The overall aim is to make the plant look neat and controlled, whilst at the same time maximising your chance of good fruiting. To achieve this you need to prune back all those long wispy shoots with tendrils on them. These are not going to fruit but they are taking away energy from the main plant and lessening the chances of good fruit.
The photo below shows one of my grapevines after its light pruning. I have to admit that the impetus for getting on with this pruning was inspired by my visit to my friend Steve’s garden in England last week. Despite the fact that Steve and his wife Pam live in rainy old West London, their grapevine was capable of supporting both Jack and a climbing giant, whilst mine shudders when a butterfly lands on it.
🌿 The lovely Solanum. If you have been following this blog closely; and I know you have. Then you will know that I have grown a Solanum from a cutting given to me by a friend. This plant has given such great joy as it has been extremely fast growing since its planting out in February and it has been fun to watch it fly up the wall. Well now it’s flowered and they do not disappoint. The flowers come through a lovely light blue with yellow centres and then gradually fade to white. I am doing lots of cuttings for friends, it could be that in the near future the Spanish Department of Agriculture complain of mono-culture here in Campoverde.
The first photo below shows the lovely Solanum in all its glory, whilst the second photo shows some of the flowers. Click on each photo to enlarge.
🔫 Spraying weedkiller that doesn’t work. Now in the best of all worlds we would not use weedkiller or other garden chemicals. But unfortunately that is not the case, no matter how much you hoe and weed you will still need weedkiller for gravelled areas etc. Now having said all this I somehow managed to buy a weedkiller that in the small print tells me that it is made from all natural ingredients – code for it doesn’t work. And it didn’t, I have spent weeks spraying this bloody stuff and I think I have actually been feeding the weeds. Normally I spray with weedkiller diluted to the recommended level in a large sprayer. In this case I have tried less dilution until in the end I am spraying it neat.
If perchance you have bought the same weedkiller (not named to stop being sued), then it is important that you wear a mask and eye coverings. Mind you given it has all natural ingredients it will probably be like taking vitamins. The photo below shows me in full spraying mode. Note that the sprayer I am using is clearly labelled weedkiller, this is good practice with all sprayers and watering cans that you use for weedkiller as you can bet that someone (Cruella) will use them for watering, saying they didn’t know they were used for weedkiller.