Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Stop and smell the flowers (then declare war!)

Sooo, you may have gathered that my backyard is an ongoing project. The tomatoes seem to be doing well on the sunny side of the patio, but on the shady side I am doing my darndest to cultivate some shrubs. Over the past couple of years I have planted smoke bush, lilacs, viburnum and dogwoods. The smoke bushes are doing ok, my sister just gave me a third one and the first two are finally leafing out (they're very slow to grow and spring is late and short in this neighborhood). The lilacs are small but seem to be doing ok. Between the shrubs I've got smaller perennial stuff that doesn't get too tall, so eventually the goal is that it will be a bit of understory action when the shrubs get nice and big (their eventual sizes range from 6 to 10 ft. high and 4 to 6 wide, nothing is over 3 feet tall yet though). This will eventually be a border around the future flagstone path/patio area which will require minimal water once established.

So who cares, you may say... but this inventory list is not what the story is about. It is about my dogwoods. My lovely glorious dogwoods. I had one that I planted last fall and it did so well that I planted two more in March of this year. They have been growing by leaps and bounds and looking absolutely lovely - they have glossy red stems and bright green leaves, except for the variegated one that has creamy outlines on its bright green leaves. But all is not well in dogwood country. I thought maybe I just needed to fertilize them, but the new ones looked almost as unhappy as the old one, and they got fertilized when I planted them. My lovely bright green leaves were starting to curl and turn brown. The older leaves looked better, but the new baby leaves were coming in curled and dying...

...I hit Google, and did some searching for "dogwood leaf curl" and similar such nonsense. Found some good diagnostic pictures of diseased dogwoods and then went outside to compare. Taking what was perhaps my first close look at my poor plants, I noticed they were covered with aphids.


Quick trip to the Home Despot followed by a short session I wish I had pictures of - me, in the waning twilight, with a headlamp on, spraying my biggest beloved dogwood with a handheld spray bottle full of insecticidal soap. This bright purple bottle has such a tiny spray range I had to spray each twig individually. But it's got a nice strong spray so hopefully it also knocked off a lot of the little buggers. I ran out before I got to the second bush so, since that one wasn't as bad, I refilled my bottle with plain water and dish soap - for some reason the soapiness is what matters, also key is knocking the aphids off of the plant. Therefore, on the healthiest one, I just used the hose on a really strong setting and sprayed the bejesus out of the whole shrub. I plan to do this (the plain water option) a couple more times this week to all of them and then see if they look any better before buying more insecticidal soap or anything.

SO big points to anyone who made it all the way through this, the whole point is, the house projects are all on standby right now until I finish writing, the big flagstone back patio project is on hold until I finish all this crap and graduate, so right now ALL I WANT IS FOR MY SHRUBS TO SUCCESSFULLY GROW AND BE HAPPY, DAMMIT!

Further updates as events warrant...

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