The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Weeds, Bunnies, and Another Beer Party for the Slugs


This is our week of sunshine while the north suffers from severe storms. Our helper brought his son over to pull baby tree weeds. Sometimes the ice cream truck comes by just as they are finishing a job. If the truck does not appear, I yell, "Where the ice cream when we need it?"

Just before the weeding, I was watering the Father's Day roses that we got for $5 each. New roses need almost daily watering for several weeks, I heard the oddest squealing. Two little bunnies came out of the mulch because I was getting them wet. Sassy was amused, so she followed one around until it hopped under the car. Once she found a pet duck at someone's house. Her canine instinct is to check out the scent from the back, so I saw Sassy use the same method on the bunny as she did on the duck, which meant the animals felt pushed along by that curious nose. Chickens got the same treatment at another house, but Sassy has never harmed any creature.

Roses
The roses are doing well. Mrs. Wright got the roses from the altar. She watches the service each Sunday. Mrs. Gardener got another vase. The chiro got a third vase. Nevertheless, we have about 100 red KnockOut blooms and many hybrid teas blooming.

I still feel the twinge of the amateur when I cut roses - this is still such a small plant. But rose bushes thrive from pruning and grow even more. If blooms are spent and start going to seed, hormones tell the plant to shift away from blooming. Pruning also stimulates the roots and exposes dead wood to cut away.

I have some blackspot, but that is the price of having roses with Persian DNA. They are prone to blackspot. I prune more heavily to remove the darkened leaves and canes, but that is not a big worry.

Roses need nourishment from a good root system. Once they are established, they really produce wiht a combination of rain, sunshine, mulch, and earthworms.

At first I had heavy aphid damage and some chewing insect on the lightest roses - John Paul II and Peace. They looked pathetic, shriveled, eaten. I did nothing except encourage beneficial insects every way I could. Now most of the roses are damage free, and the heavily attacked ones are blooming with perfection.

Yesterday I bent over one rose and found a teeny tiny flower fly (hover fly) hovering around the blooms. It looked like a wee little bee, but it was fixin' to lay some eggs and have its babies destroy more aphids.

Note how clever plants are. When they are damaged, they send up chemical signals that attract beneficial insects to feed on the pests causing the damage. If there is no damage, the beneficials lay no eggs.

This incredibly complex system reminds me of the hawk-rabbit relationship. We were taught - wrongly - that hawks and other predators control the rabbit population. But the opposite is true. When rabbits flourish, so do the predators at the top of the food chain. When the rabbit population crashes, as it does from time to time, the predators go away - lacking a foodstamp program.

Long before I knew the details, I counted on beneficials to control the pests. Therefore I have almost never sprayed. Now that we know more, how foolish it looks to kill aphids which are busy attracting free pest controls - flower flies, ichneumon wasps, spiders, and ladybeetles.

Thank you hover flies, flower flies,
all beneficials.
Pope John Paul II rose blesses you
and gives you a plenary indulgence.


Beer Party, II
I hosted another beer party for slugs in the back yard - three bowls, one bottle of Bud.

By the way, the formula for Bud Lite is Bud plus water. That's it. The top chemist told me and later denied it. I said, "But you told me yourself." He conceded that he did.

One reader offered last night, hearing about the party, that slugs and beer would both be gone by morning. I checked on it late at night. Very large slugs were crawling in. I counted 10.

The last time I saw about 30 gather and die. Then the pan lost most of the dead slugs and beer, next all the rest of the slugs and beer.

This time the beer and slug reduction happened in one night. This morning, a trace of beer and a couple of dead slugs were left. Skunks? Raccoons? I am not sure.

The first backyard slug party drew them in from all directions. The mulch was covered with slow-moving slugs moving toward the beer. It looked like registration day for Lutherans at Fuller Seminary.

Slugs can go anywhere because they have no spine. Think about that - so fitting for synodical plutocrats too.