Pointers from a Perfectionist

Re-evaluation comes easy to a perfectionist. We are constantly vigilant, always looking for a better way to deal with frustration and failure. For most gardeners, challenges are usually met and dealt with as they happen. To us , anticipating a calamity is the pinnacle of success, giving us the means to act before a problem becomes a disaster. We tend to absorb vast amounts of experience on our chosen paths, giving us confidence to move forward. The benefits of knowing your own garden and it’s cycles give you an advantage. You can be a better gardener in 2021 by anticipating problems before they become garden failures.

Each season of the year tends to have it’s own insect invasions. In spring its aphids and thrips. We have aphid indicator plants in the greenhouse and out in the garden. In the greenhouse, Dahlia leaves are their favorite snack. When we see a few, it’s time to act. We wash off or crush what we can. If we have missed an infestation its time to isolate and spray with a plant based pyrethrin. No one wants to buy a plant infested with aphids. Outside, in the garden, my aphid indicators are the very tips of Vinca major leaves, and underneath the beautiful columbine leaves. The columbine leaves start growing in February/March with the aphids not far behind. Last year the temperatures stayed low and the aphids were controllable with lady bugs that flew in naturally. I have much more patience with this process as I now have bees. Bees are not interested in plants that are not in bloom but drift is always a problem. If I must spray, it’s always in the afternoon on plants that are not in bloom always with a plant based pyrethrin. The vinca tips are not out until April/ May. Again low temperatures helped keep the aphids in check. The don’t like less than 60 or more than 80 degrees. Remember this when our temperatures reach 90 and above for weeks at a time in July/August/September, its uncomfortable for us but deadly for aphids.

Thrips attack roses before anything else. Luckily, thrips are controlled by pinching off new blooms for the month of May. The blooms are deformed and made ugly by them so it’s not that much of a loss. I put the cut blooms in a baggie, tie it shut and let them roast in the sun. Cleaning up underneath your roses, removing old leaves also helps keep the infestation down. Thrips also bother petunias and geraniums and many other plants but the same strategy works for them. Because they are so hard to see, looking for bloom damage in the bud helps you to be aware they are present. Another way to recognize thrips is to take a bloom and shake it over a piece of paper. If the tiny dust starts moving, you know it’s thrips. Spraying with anything, even plant based pyrethrins, does not work.

As you can see, gardening is made easier when you understand an insects biology and anticipate when they appear. Knowing what to look for and acting on what you see is key to enjoying your beautiful garden.


Monika and the Boys