GardenMessenger

This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Pest Control, Lebanese Courtyard Garden and New Plants

Weevils are one of the commonest pests

One of the most common discussions amongst gardeners, especially with the various GardenMessenger gardening discussion groups that I moderate, is the control of pests. Not only insects, but domestic pets and wild birds and animals too. It is interesting to learn of the innovative methods that home gardeners contrive to beat their natural enemies. However, for the newcomer to gardening this plethora of remedies is somewhat daunting. I have no problem with people finding their own cures and recommending them, but I do feel for the novice who is given particular guidance by gardening books and garden centres and then other remedies by fellow gardeners.

One of the problems that home gardeners rarely appreciate, especially when they are critical of professionals for not straying from the path of tried and trusted conventional methods, is that those of us who earn our living from gardening and garden writing are constrained from recommending other than those remedies which are strictly approved within the law. For example, if I live in the European Union - although I may know of many good uses for washing up liquid in the control of various insect pests - I would be taking a significant risk in telling you what they were unless the washing up liquid had been cleared by the authorities as a pesticide. If does not say on the bottle that it is a pesticide, then as a professional I am putting myself in a difficult position telling you to use it, especially if you do and your plant dies.


Aphids are controlled with a systemic insecticide

So I am going to do what I can, especially for the novice gardener, and relate some of the basic principles of controlling some of the major pest problems that we have in our gardens. The control of insect pests is predominantly by the use of insecticides. While natural predators are available for certain specific pests, they are extremely difficult to monitor in the open air. Good garden hygiene can reduce the need for pesticide use, particularly the destruction of over-wintering hiding places, and the removal of weeds also assists in reducing pest populations.

There are two main kinds of insecticide, the systemic type and the contact insecticide. Both are very effective, but have different applications. The systemic insecticide is absorbed by the foliage of the plant and taken into the sap stream where it circulates for a period of three or four weeks before spraying is required again. As it more or less inoculates the plant it is generally applied in anticipation of insect attack rather than once it has happened. Systemic insecticides are used mostly to control sucking insects like aphids. They have a minimal effect against chewing creatures such as caterpillars. With systemic insecticides there is the pre-harvest period to consider when they are applied to food crops. This is generally stated on the packaging of the chemical and gives a safe period usually well beyond that which is necessary.

Caterpillars are best treated with a contact insecticide

Contact insecticides kill by touch. The pest has to be attacking the plant before it can be applied and it is dependent upon direct contact for a kill. Such insecticides are used against pests that chew rather than suck. Contact insecticides are available as both liquids and powders, the latter being used mostly for soil borne pests and often being integrated into the soil. Of the biological pest controls which can be used successfully out in the open garden, the microscopic nematode worms which attack weevil larvae and those that prey on slugs are the most effective.

The domestic cat can be a nuisance

Apart from insect pests, most gardeners at some time have to cope with troublesome animals. Of all the garden pests, cats are probably the most widely suffered and difficult to control. It is not just their presence in the garden trampling indiscriminately over seedlings or rolling in the catmint, but the unpleasant deposits which they so neatly cover with soil which are found unexpectedly at planting time.
Having your own cat or dog will often deter that of the neighbour, although this may only bring the problem nearer to home. As far as possible try to cover the ground with plants. Cats are usually looking for a nice dusty seed bed in which to scratch. When such a facility is available use a wild mammal repellent mixed with a little composted bark and scattered around the area. Such products, which are commonly used by the farming community, are now available to the home gardener for controlling dogs, cats and where they are a nuisance, rabbits too.

Rabbits are very adventurous

There are also flat black metal model cats with glistening eyes that can be placed in the garden to apparent good effect. Various sonic devices, which emit sounds that humans cannot hear, but which are audible and unpleasant to cats and dogs, are also available to gardeners along with traditional deterrents like pepper dust. This latter is a very effective and harmless way of deterring cats and dogs, but has to be re-applied after heavy rain. Just dust it around the areas where cats and dogs are active. While rabbits can be deterred by a chemical repellent, they are generally more adventurous. Where a garden is in the country and likely to be plagued by rabbits it is wise to protect the boundary with fine mesh rabbit wire. Secure this to posts and also bury it at least 15cm (6ins) deep with the bottom of the netting turned outwards.

Chelsea Show Gardens Preview
During each of the days running up to the Chelsea Flower Show I am previewing a show garden. Although these are often regarded as garden theatre and not as sustainable under normal gardening conditions, they are often full of interesting and innovative ideas which can be taken, at least in part, and used in our gardens at home.

Nada Habet Lebanese Courtyard


After living in the UK for 17 years Nada Habet returned to Lebanon for a couple of years. This was the first time that Nada had returned to her country of birth as a garden designer and she started viewing the Lebanese landscape with fresh eyes. Nada became fascinated by the traditional village houses and their small gardens and courtyards. Terraces of pomegranates and olive trees, courtyard beds of roses, snapdragon, lavender and pelargoniums, entrance archways clad with jasmine, balconies lined with tin pots of basil and thyme and rooftop pergolas covered with vine leaves and grapes have all been the inspiration behind the Lebanese Courtyard.

This garden has a simple geometric layout and on two sides meets the façade of an L-shaped house with a reclaimed wooden door and two reclaimed wooden windows. The patio area adjacent to the house has simple concrete paving. The two pathways, one leading from the entrance of the garden towards the house and one along the house wall are paved with natural stone in crazy paving. Thyme grows through cracks in the paving. There are three principal planting beds: two rectangular in shape at the ground level, and an L-shaped raised bed. The raised beds and the surrounding walls of the garden are built with natural dry stonewalling.

The main features of this garden are an old olive tree in the raised bed and a vine climbing up a 2m (78ins) high traditional metal pergola covering the patio area. A climbing jasmine also shares the pergola and, with the vine leaves, gives shade and perfume to the seating area underneath. There is a small traditional stone water basin along the main house wall into which water is constantly flowing creating a cooling effect as well as a soothing noise. All the seats and accessories of the garden, including wooden and straw chairs, kerosene lamps and a stone basin, are reclaimed traditional items originally from Lebanon.

Strawberry ‘Alice’
For the last 20 years breeders have been aiming to find a main season strawberry that can match and perhaps even surpass ‘Elsanta’. This cultivar is, in the opinion of many experts, likely to do so. The fruit is firmer, the average berry size is larger and the fruit picks more cleanly. Mature plants have an extended flowering period, giving a succession of trusses for picking through the summer. In the UK it is available from several outlets including Fothergills click here

New Hillier Introductions
The UK nursery Hillier and Sons are introducing several new plants at the Chelsea Flower Show next week. Amongst these are an Alstroemeria and an Indigofera.

Alstroemeria ‘Neptune’
At the moment I have little information about this new cultivar of this great group of hardy perennial plants, other than the pre-release photograph, but it looks to be a beauty.







Indigofera himalayensis 'Silk Road'
Although this is not completely new, it is now freely available and receiving much deserved promotion. It is a deciduous small shrub which produces short erect racemes of clear bright pink flowers. Amongst the earliest Indigofera to flower and reliably hardy in most of the UK.


Diary

August Bank Holiday Flower and Vegetable Show
26th,27th and 28th August
Saltwell Park,Saltwell View,
Gateshead,
Tyne & Wear,UK.
Tel: +44 (0)191 433 3838

Happy Gardening

Philip

GardenMessenger

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Photos:
Pests: Wikipedia
Chelsea Garden and Show Plants: Royal Horticultural Society
Strawberry: Fothergills

If you have enjoyed this publication, you may also like to visit the monthy SeedMessenger gardeners’ seed saving and seed exchange blog click here.
and the weekly water gardening blog PondMessenger click here.

To join the GardenMessenger gardening community
click here
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To visit the SeedMessenger seed exchange web-site
click here
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