Aldona at Large: Beetlemania!

By | Aldona At Large Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , | August 8, 2012 | 4 comments

Talk about juggling their priorities: Japanese beetles are nature’s true multi-taskers, seemingly able to eat, bonk and defecate at the same time. Right now, they are munching away (um, among other things) on these roses near the TBG’s Westview Terrace, and skeletonizing the leaves of numerous other plants as well.

Fortunately, Japanese beetles are only active for couple of months in high summer, but don’t think you’ve gotten rid of them when they seem to suddenly disappear. They start their larval life as grubs in the soil, and unless you take preventive action, just like Arnold Schwarzenegger, they’ll be b-a-c-k.

What to do? Right now, simply get out there with a yogurt tub or bucket of soapy water and knock in as many as possible, where they’ll drown. I don’t squish them (I save that “fun” for the much smaller red lily leaf beetles), but if you do, go nuts. One of my colleagues recommends scooping them up and giving them a good shake in your hand before you drop them to the ground and stomp on them—the shaking makes them dizzy and they’re too stunned to get away.

(Oops! Does this sound mean?)

As a preventive, you could also try applying beneficial nematodes (specifically, Steinernema and Heterorhabditis spp.) to your lawn, flower beds and even large containers next spring. These are available at quality garden centres and nurseries, and should be mixed with water and applied when air temperature is above 15 deg. C—then watered in well.

Apparently, milky spore disease, touted as another potential control, is iffy here if you can find it at all, and those so-called Japanese beetle traps will simply lure your neighbours’ beetles to your garden, so why bother?

For tips and approved strategies on how to diagnose and treat all manner of uggers pests and diseases, visit the newly relaunched website of the Toronto Master Gardeners at torontomastergardeners.ca

Seen

Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) is a beautiful, scented, yet underused shrub that’s at its best right now when so many other plants are starting to fade. This cultivar is ‘Ruby Spice’, and several clumps of it are in bloom in our Westview Terrace.

Other shrubs that flower later and thrive in the heat include that old-fashioned standby, Rose of Sharon—this one grows next to my driveway and has been blooming for weeks. Stupidly, I neglected to deadhead it last year, and as a result I’ve been pulling up literally hundreds of seedlings all over my garden. Sigh. (If I can’t be a good example, let me be a horrible warning.)

Many silver-leaved plants, such as this culinary sage in my front yard, laugh at hot, dry weather. Ditto for geranium ‘Rozanne,’ which is dotted around my garden.

And this Kordes rose, which, if memory serves, is ‘Floral Fairy Tale’, is having a glorious second flush of bloom in a spot that only gets partial sun. I was given this plant a couple of years ago at a Garden Writers Association meeting held at the TBG, and it’s grown into a large, vigorous, extremely healthy shrub with nary a hint of blackspot (nor, dare I say it, Japanese beetles) despite minimal care from me. Its only drawback is its too-light fragrance.

Here at the TBG, Paul Zammit, our talented Nancy Eaton Director of Horticulture, and assistant Stefan Weber worked together to create these beautiful, succulent-filled planters, which are also thriving in the heat and drought, thank you very much.

And Heard

Paradoxically, a couple of weeks ago, a wet Thursday meant we had to move indoors for banjoist Jayme Stone’s jazz-and-folk-music infused concert.

Beforehand, Kyle Deming of Sausage Partners showed us how to utilize every last bit of a chicken, while incorporating assorted organic produce from our weekly Farmers’ Market. The next chef demo takes place this Thursday at 6:30.

Last week, once again the skies were overcast and threatening, but luckily the rain held off long enough for us to hear the interesting Georgian music sung by the a cappella ensemble, Darbazi, in our gardens.

This week, come on out to enjoy singer Laura Hubert, along with a chef’s demo at 6:30, the organic farmers’ market from 3 to 7, free kids’ activities in the James Boyd Children’s Centre from 5 to 7, free guided tour of the gardens at 6 and a light supper at the Garden Café to 7 p.m.

The Edwards Summer Music Series: Gardens of Song concerts are offered free of charge every Thursday at 7 p.m. through August 23, thanks to the generous support of the Edwards Charitable Foundation. They’re part of Terrific Thursdays at the TBG.

Things That Make Me Happy

My plastic bird bracelet was bought years ago for a few dollars in a Florida garden centre and never fails to draw comments.

And I like these cheery junk shop finds on my front porch: a very old, painted wooden cat—likely an ashtray holder in its previous life—which sits on a plain-but-useful painted trolley.

I love this dramatic photo of nighttime clouds backlit by lightning, taken by my talented daughter, Amy.

And while shorter and less floriferous than in previous years due to the weather, I’m very fond of the lacy, airy cosmos that reliably seeds itself in my gravel driveway.

Last But Not Least…

The staff bid a very fond farewell to our lovely and talented Development Officer Jessica Reese, (right) shown here with Director of Development Claudia Zuccato Ria. Jessica is going back to school to become a winemaker (hmm…does this mean that we have driven her to drink?). So until next time, lamblets, cheers.  Here’s looking at you, and liking what I see!

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Aldona Satterthwaite about the author: Aldona Satterthwaite

Aldona Satterthwaite started gardening as a child and has never stopped. Until recently, she was the executive director of Toronto Botanical Garden. Previously, Aldona was editor-in-chief of Canadian Gardening magazine, which during her eight-year tenure was twice named Magazine of the Year (large circulation category) by the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors. In 2007, she was co-named Editor of the Year. Aldona, who’s a Master Gardener, completed her journalism studies at the Regent Street Polytechnic (now Westminster University) in London, England and studied landscape architecture at Ryerson University. She’s enjoyed a varied and successful writing and editing career that has spanned magazines, advertising and the museum world, and has included stints as Director of Writing Services at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and as manager of creative services at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

  • Claudie

    I can feel the love and gratitude from the wonderful grape vine on my balcony as I stab the dratted (but insanely irridescent) JBs between my thumbnail and forefinger. Gross, but efficient, and I am so over my squeamishness. Sadly, I think I have to give up on my roses next year…..I can’t keep up with the mating munchers, and hunting and squishing them damages the petals…

    I couldn’t protect the lowhanging grapes from that young raccoon….but somehow don’t resent him/her as much – hey, raccoons gotta eat too. .I quickly harvested the rest of the Concords. Now I’m watching my eight ears of corn so I can get them before the raccoon does. (Townhouse dweller)

    • Aldona

      As someone once remarked, “you have to be an optimist to be a gardener.” There’s only so much you can do to protect your plants from marauding bugs and beasties, and some years are worse than others. In my garden, the larger tomatoes in my planters this year are being yummed up just as they ripen (Rocky Raccoon? Squirrels?), while the yellow cherry tomatoes are being left alone. I guess I know which ones I’ll be planting next year…

  • L Brearley

    Very interesting and helpful as usual. And as an after thought ,the deer are back. Good bye to the hostas and Impatience. Yummy for them.

    • Aldona

      Deer? Oh dear. They’re also munching away on the veggies in our Teaching Garden, and the deodorant soap we hung on surrounding shrubs just gave a temporary reprieve. But really, despite lists of plants deer “don’t” like, hungry deer will eat almost anything. Good luck, and fast-forward to next year and hopefully a much better season…

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