Ups and downs

OK. Let’s get the bad news out of the way. Lily Beetle! I hate the little blighters. All summer I make an effort to control them so I hope that none of the poo-covered larvae will mature and spend the winter cosy underground. But this spring I have been horrified by the appearance of the red devils as soon as the first lily foliage appeared through the soil. Not just a few but dozens of the things – and all intent on making dozens more! The creepy little things move slowly but drop off as soon as you try to get hold of them and, at this stage in the lily’s growth they fall into the base between the leaves and are impossible to get to.

So, with some reluctance and a little guilt, they were sprayed with insecticide. It is strange that I feel the need to justify using a chemical but that is the age we live in. In my defence, the small amount used was targeted at these few plants, which hold no interest for bees at present. Lily beetle are an introduced pest and not part of the food chain – oh that they were so that something would eat them – but they don’t, which is why lily beetle are such a problem. And if the lilies were destroyed at this stage and did not bloom, the hover flies, which need to eat protein-rich pollen in summer to make eggs, would have less to eat. Apart from anything else it would be irresponsible to grow lilies and not control lily beetle, which can fly from garden to garden with ease.

All the lilies seem to be affected although they seem to prefer the Asiatics and, this year, ‘Fusion’ a L. formosanum hybrid. They tend not to ‘prefer’ the ‘Tree lilies’ (OT lilies). What as horrible is that the masses on ‘Fusion’ were exploring the area and wandering onto daylilies (hemerocallis), which they don’t eat. Lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii) first became established in the UK in the 1990s and is now widespread throughout the UK and Ireland. It seems to have spread through Ireland in the past decade and is now widespread.

The good news is that Ageratum corymbosum made it through the winter and I have a batch of young plants to play with this year – I had a single plant last year. This is a simple plant that, as always, gets confusing because of naming. This is what I bought this plant as and I guess the name is right although this is given as a synonym for Eupatorium sordidum (Bartlettina sordidum) which is a much more majestic plant with purple, fluffy flowers and leaves covered in red hairs – well worth growing. The teo plants are not the same.

Ageratum corymbosum has rounded, faintly hairy, green leaves and long-lasting puffs of blue flowers. I know lots of people dislike ageratum – I do – but only because they are dwarf, smug little monsters scattered like a burst packet of Iced Gems around flower beds. The fluffy flowers themselves are fascinating in their own way and butterflies love them but I hate the dumpiness of most ageratum. You can buy seeds of taller varieties and they are usually available in mixtures of blue, white and (grubby) pink. White is not my favourite because the dead flowers are brown and ruin the effect – I am very fussy with white flowers and dislike those that die untidily.

Ageratum corymbosum has proved easy to grow from cuttings and reaches about 60cm high (so far) and seems to bloom for ever. The parent plant bloomed last year till frost stopped it and these youngsters have been in bloom since February. The new flowers ‘overtop’ the old ones so although they hang on after they fade and turn pale brown, they are disguised by the new ones. I think this is a useful plant for patio pots and borders and it seems robust and easy to please. Also, so far, there has been no mildew, which is often a problem on the seed-raised kinds. It is native to Mexico (I think) and will survive a touch of frost, though the top growth is damaged and the base of the plant will survive.

Would you Adam and Eve it!

Since I mentioned pests and insecticides above it seems appropriate to mention slugs. I would say that they are one of my most serious pests and I hate the slimy devils. But I am wrong, it seems.

The Royal Horticultural Society has decided that slugs are no longer to be classified as pests. According to Andrew Salisbury, the RHS’ Principal Entomologist, writing in The Guardian, slugs and snails play an important role in planet-friendly gardening and maintaining a healthy ecosystem adding that the RHS ‘will no longer label any garden wildlife as pests’. *

I am sure that the approach, which is obviously designed to highlight the importance of biodiversity, is well-meaning but really! I know that the biodiversity in my garden would be a lot less rich if I let the slugs eat every new plant I put in the ground. I am happy to let them nibble plants when they are established but tender young plants are not fair game. The RHS needs to consider what it represents and it is not representing gardeners with this decision. Utter madness.

*(from Garden News March 19/22)

, , , ,

5 Comments on “Ups and downs”

  1. tonytomeo
    April 8, 2022 at 7:20 am #

    Gads! Why is the Royal Horticultural Society so credible? Besides, every pathogen in the garden serves a purpose, even if only its own. I mean, ALL are part of the ecosystem. That is irrelevant to their status as pests. Besides (again), no organism does more to violate ecosystems than humans. What does the Royal Horticultural Society think about humans?

  2. Paddy Tobin
    April 8, 2022 at 7:24 pm #

    We have had lily beetles here already also this year, a blasted nuisance. Don’t listen to the RHS! It is no longer an authority of matters horticultural, merely another commercial enterprise.

    • thebikinggardener
      April 9, 2022 at 8:49 am #

      I am sorry that you have lily beetle too. As for the RHS, I am generally reluctant to criticise them and I do not automatically kick back at commercial success – after all they can’t do any work, good or bad, if they are bankrupt. But there has to be a balance and the RHS should serve horticulture and amateur gardeners as it has in the past. It is true that, in the ‘good old days’, those ‘amateurs’ were mostly wealthy people with gardeners and gardening is now more popular across all classes and types of people but telling people to grow weeds and let ‘nature take its course’ is nothing to do with horticulture – though it makes good headlines for those who don’t garden.

      • Paddy Tobin
        April 9, 2022 at 7:15 pm #

        I have attended a talk by the director at Wisley – it was almost completely about the commercial planning of the society to maximine income from visitors to the garden with phases such as the “sheep dip” layout of the grounds which ensure visitors can’t get to the garden or exit them without passing through the plant sale, the shop, the restaurant etc etc. I also visited Rosemoor in recent years and it is the perfect example of a sheep dip design such that one has almost given up any hope of seeing a garden as one progresses through the retail areas and I might add, the best gardening is experienced when one manages to suffer one’s way through the modern designs, by the RHS, and eventually come on parts of the original garden.

        • thebikinggardener
          April 10, 2022 at 9:08 am #

          I cannot disagree with any of that. In the days when I used to go to Wisley a fair bit you could not help get the feeling that it as more of a lunch stop for Surrey mothers and their children than a horticultural institution.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sweetgum and Pines

gardening in the North Carolina piedmont

Ravenscourt Gardens

Learning life's lessons in the garden!

RMW: the blog

Roslyn's photography, art, cats, exploring, writing, life

Paddy Tobin, An Irish Gardener

Our garden, gardens visited, occasional thoughts and book reviews


un altro blog sul giardinaggio...


four decades of organic vegetable gardening and barely a clue

The Long Garden Path

A walk round the Estate!


Gardening on the edge of a cliff

Uprooted Magnolia

I'm Leah, a freelance Photographer born and raised in Macon, GA, USA. I spent 8 years in the wild west and this is my photo journal on life, love, and the spirit of Wyoming. Welcome to Uprooted Magnolia.

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness

Garden Variety

A Gardening, Outdoor Lifestyle and Organic Food & Drink Blog

For the Love of Iris

Articles, Tips and Notes from Schreiner's Iris Gardens

One Bean Row

Words and pictures from an Irish garden by Jane Powers

Plant Heritage

We are working to save garden plants for people to use and enjoy today and tomorrow


An English persons experience of living and gardening in Ireland

%d bloggers like this: