Flowers among the snails

It don’t know if it is because of the mild winter and wet spring but snails are the big enemy this year. I have never known a year like it. Of course, the RHS don’t class snails as garden pests but garden wildlife but I am afraid I disagree. Unfortunately I do feel a certain fondness for snails, unlike their cousins the slugs, which have no redeeming features at all. Snails, carrying their homes around with them, have a certain charm. Plus that shell means that I can pick them up without feeling nauseous – I really hate touching slugs! Of course there are lots of slugs too but snails are everywhere. Perhaps it is because of all the plants in the garden now.

I was up at 5am yesterday because Mia (bless her) was screaming to go out and I could stand it no longer. And as I looked out of the door I could see a dozen snails scaling the polytunnel, presumably scraping off the algae. I have no issue with them doing that but later I discovered they (or their comrades) had devoured about a third of the basil seedlings I had planted IN the polytunnel, just 12 hours earlier. Yes, I had sprinkled some organic slug pellets, as an amuse-bouche.

I had also planted out some limonium and cosmos on Saturday. I found one limonium plant missing in the tray and a snail buried in the cell. I pulled it out and found a cluster of eggs where the plant should have been. And this morning, checking on the plants, some of the cosmos have gone. Luckily I have some spares to replace early losses, but it is dispiriting. The snails are also developing a taste for the iris flower scapes, climbing about half way up, eating through the stems and toppling them, Both bearded and Siberian iris are being attacked. I fear that the recent week of delayed weeding may have made the problem worse, removing other food sources. I hate to kill snails, though I throw them onto the centre of the lawn for the thrushes to find or throw them further into the surrounding field where they can eat the grass. I know snails are supposed to ‘home’ and maybe they will return but I am hoping they stay where I fling them. If they do return they might be nobbled by the slug pellets – they have a choice – unlike my poor seedlings.

Anyway, one plant that is not affected by the snails, because it is prickly and presumably too difficult even for my adventurous snails, is the rose ‘Stanwell Perpetual’.

I have grown roses for many decades and it is impossible to choose a favourite but this is one I would hate to be without. I first grew it when I gardened at Myddelton House and put it in the rose garden there (Bowles grew it) and have admired it ever since. It has many good traits. It is hardy and relatively free from disease. It make a loose, rather arching mound about 1.5m high and wide and is very prickly, with small, sharp prickles. The foliage is small and ferny and rather grey/green. Although a spinossisima rose, which usually flower just once and then make small, black hips, and have little fragrance, ‘Stanwell Perpetual’ flowers, as the name suggests, all summer. In fact it is one of the first to open in spring and the last to bloom in autumn, often with flowers at Christmas. And the flowers are sweetly scented. They have a loose shape with narrow, ‘fluffy’ inner petals, often with a button centre. They open a nice pink and fade to almost white. It is not a good rose for cutting because of the short, prickly stems. It has all the grace of an ‘old rose’ but flowers all summer and thrives in most soils and in sun or with a little shade. Mine is to the north of a young Corylus colurna (Turkish hazel) which will increasingly shade the plant but that was planted as a 30cm seedling so has not provided much shade to date, though is now 3m high.

This rose is also sometimes called ‘Lee’s Perpetual’ because it arose as a chance seedling in the garden of Mrs Lee in Stanwell, Middlesex, west of London. However, the Hammersmith (close by) nursery of Lee and Kennedy had a growing plot in Stanwell so there is some confusion over this. But whatever the exact detail, it was a chance seedling from Rosa spinossisima and introduced in 1822 so it is now 200 years old – which is pretty impressive.

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7 Comments on “Flowers among the snails”

  1. Jaye Marie and Anita Dawes
    May 22, 2023 at 8:30 am #

    I don’t like snails, they are far too greedy, but slugs are worse!

  2. Dee
    May 22, 2023 at 8:35 am #

    Always interesting! Depending where in my ‘garden’ I am, I fling snails in every direction as far as possible. Never heard they ‘come home’ though! I hope they don’t regard my garden as ‘home’ đŸ¤·

    • thebikinggardener
      May 22, 2023 at 10:11 am #

      Apparently if you mark the shells (with tippex or paint) and move the snails a short distance away, they will return. Of course it depends on how far away you move them. I assume a few hundred yards is the limit but I don’t know.

  3. Chris Mousseau
    May 22, 2023 at 11:26 am #

    I don’t have a slug or snail problem, likely because no matter how wet the spring is it’s always usually very dry in summer. I do, however, have a rabbit problem; that rose sounds like the thorny stems would repel most of them…

    • thebikinggardener
      May 22, 2023 at 1:15 pm #

      I initially had rabbit problems and they damaged the fruit trees and some of the HT roses but, whether by accident or the thorns, this rose has never been affected, as you surmised

  4. Tim Waltham
    May 22, 2023 at 10:06 pm #

    I have also noticed its been an exceptional year for slugs, whats most unusual is its bad now, not in the autumn, ive never known a year like it.
    Ive had to dig plants out of the border to rescue them its been so bad. Ive still got some of the old metaldehyde slug pellets, but am considering just getting a tub of ferric pellets and covering the whole garden in them just to reduce the population.

    • thebikinggardener
      May 23, 2023 at 7:38 am #

      I am not completely sure the ‘new’ pellets work as effectively as the metaldehyde pellets. I am sorry you have had problems with slugs too but slightly reassured that I am not alone

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