No the above heading is not about the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, if it was it would be a stupid name for number four. How terrifying would a visitation from “rebirth” be! But it is another day in my garden where the battle between man and nature is fought afresh every day. Mind you it’s so hot I have had to sit in the shade and write this nonsense rather than continuing the battle. I will return to the affray later after a cup of tea.
8th July: Things I have been doing lately
🥊 Dealing with Oleander Scale. Oleanders are lovely plants and they proliferate in our part of Spain. However, now that they are in full flower they are like a magnet to “scale insects”. The Scale insect is actually a bug and it is important to remember the difference. Even though I have told you before, I know you will have forgotten – “bugs suck and insects bite” which is important to remember as they both cause different types of damage to your plants.
Scale is a very adaptable species and there are over 8,000 described species – one to suit all occasions. Whereas you will visibly see insect damage as they will eat the leaves and you will see chomp marks. Bugs suck at the vascular system of the plant and the first real sign you will see – unless you are looking for them – is that your plant will wilt and in the worst cases die. So it is important that you check your Oleander on a daily basis. Now Scale are so small that, if you are like me, you will need your glasses on. If you look carefully you will see what looks like a small orange rash up near the Oleander flowers. Look even more carefully, and what you thought was a lot of little orange dots, is in fact a plague of scale insects.
The photo below shows my Oleander sustaining a large proportion of the Spanish Scale population. Now the choice is yours, you can pluck them off individually, using tweezers and a magnifying glass, then set them free in the wild. Or, you can blast the little b******s with insecticide; I leave it up to you.
🥋 Dealing with Mealy Bugs. I tell you it doesn’t get any easier, just when the Scale is dealt with the Mealy bugs start attacking my Aeoinum Schwarzkopf. For those of you who think this is a some sort of musical instrument or even worse, an expensive shampoo, let me explain. The Aeonium is a fabulous plant that looks as if it is a left over from the Jurassic era. The Schwarzkopf variety is a chocolate, almost black colour and normally nothing attacks it. However, I had taken some cuttings about a year ago and planted them in pots on my veranda and they were perfectly happy until about two weeks ago when I started noticing a fluffy white coating forming near the top of each stem. At first I thought it might be powdery mildew, but on closer inspection it was Mealy Bugs.
Mealy bugs like Scale suck the vigour from your plant but do not have to be dealt with by such a chemical onslaught. Instead, take the plant somewhere away from other plants and blast it with a high powered jet of water and wash all the white woolly stuff off. You will have to do this for a couple of weeks every time the white woolly stuff comes back. Don’t forget to hold on to the plant pot or like me you wil be chasing the plant pot all over the garden. The photo below shows my Aeonium before the water cannon treatment.
🧛♂️ Deadheading Roses. To keep your roses in bloom you need to dead head on a regular basis. In my case this means more or less every day and some times twice a day. No matter what I do this always ends up as a bloodbath as the Roses in their gratitude to me for keeping them blooming, proceed to stab me at every turn. Because I take Aspirin this means that I bleed profusely for hours and look like a character from a Tim Burton movie. Sometimes at the end of the day I look like one of the “undead”. Cruella (my wife) says I look like this every day.
The photo below shows one of my arms after a bit of dead heading, I can’t show you the other arm as it will scare small children and cause fainting; it’s X rated. By the way don’t think I haven’t noticed those dogs circling every time I deadhead; I’m sure there is a lot of Wolf in Labradors.
✂️ Moving plants and taking cuttings. After all that disease pestilence and bloodshed it’s time for some rebirth and renewal. If this was a movie the music would suddenly change from all the dramatic stuff to some strings and harp tinkling. Anyway, as you wander round the garden at the moment you will notice little crisis taking place: plants will have fallen over, bits will fall off of others and some will just present you with a good opportunity for a nice little cutting. These are the opportunities you need to provide you with plants for free.
As I casually perambulated around the garden today (none of your strolling for me) I noticed some opportunities. For example I have lots of large dramatic Agave plants that look stunning in the right setting. One of them was growing parallel to the ground and was obviously in distress because it had started throwing new roots out from its stem. This is a sign that the plant has trouble with its main stem and needs to find a new route for water. Most plants would die within days if their main stem is damaged, but succulents have such a large store of water in their leaves and stems that they can buy themselves a month or so before they die, and in this period they fight furiously to reconnect with the ground.
But not to worry help was at hand donning my International Rescue outfit I got to work. First I went down into our Wild Garden area (I know I don’t talk about it much, but one day I will do a special Post on it; such fun). Anyway, in the Wild garden area I dug a new hole specially to receive the transplanted Agave. The first photo below shows the dying Agave (note the distress roots). The second photo shows the newly dug hole, don’t worry I’m showing you this so you can see the type of soil we have in the Wild garden. You can see it’s sandy, full of stones and very free draining hence I had to take this photo twice as the water kept disappearing. This is ideal Agave territory they do not need rich soil or much water.
I then cut the Agave with a saw making sure I cut below the new roots, as this would assist the plant to regrow. The final photo below shows the plant in its new setting. The new plant is the furthest away in the photo, the other Agave is one I did about three years ago.
In addition to the Agave I saw some nice little growth sticking out of another succulent. Don’t know what it’s called but it’s got furry bunny ears (why use binomial Latin names eh). The first photo shows the furry bunny ear plant. Anyway, I took some nice cuttings as you can see from the second photo, whilst the third photo shows the cuttings duly potted up and beginning their new life on the potting bench.