Sometimes The Best Thing To Do About Aphids Is Nothing

What do you do when you see damaging insects such as aphids sucking on your plants?

Do you reach for the nearest bottle of insecticide? Pluck them off or spray them with a hose?  

Believe it or not, sometimes the best thing is to do nothing.  I learned this lesson long ago before I went to school to become a horticulturist.


I remembered this important lesson when I passed by a severely pruned oleander shrub on my way to our weekly bagel lunch after church.  



The oleanders were growing back nicely.  However, there was some yellow aphids on the young leaves.

Years ago, my oleander shrubs had an infestation of yellow aphids like this, and I was anxious to get rid of them.

I had several methods at my disposal - insecticidal soap, a strong jet of water or my fingers - all of which, would help get rid of most of the aphids.  But, life got in the way, and I didn't have a chance to get out to treat my shrubs until about ten days later.  

Can you guess what I found?  Not a single aphid.  I didn't have to do a thing, and the aphids were gone, and my shrubs look great.

So, what happened to the aphids?

When harmful insect pests first appear, it can take a week or two before their natural predators follow.  In the case of aphids, lacewing and ladybugs showed up and ate the aphids.  





Plants are tougher than we give them credit for and can handle a certain amount of insect pests without any adverse effects to the plant itself.  

So, when I come back in a couple of weeks to the same bagel shop, I expect to see no aphids in sight and a healthy oleander shrub.

An Attractive, Drought-Tolerant Hedge for Southwestern Gardens: Hop Bush

This morning, I was on my way to a landscape consultation for my fellow Arizona gardener, Claudette, who blogs over at Gilbert Garden Girls.

As I always do before driving to an appointment, I entered the address into my car's GPS and was pleased to see that it would only take 20 minutes to get to her house from mine.
  
However, as I drove down her street, the addresses did not match up with hers.  So, I took out my phone and brought up my trusty Google Maps app and found that my car's formerly reliable GPS had misdirected me.  Luckily, I was only 1 mile away and so I was only a couple of minutes late, which truth be told, is normal for me.


My unanticipated detour did have a silver lining, though.

I drove by a house that had a beautiful hop bush shrub (Dodonaea viscosa).  


 This evergreen, drought tolerant shrub does wonderfully in our southwestern climate, and it is a frequent addition to landscapes that I design. 

Hop bush is quite versatile and relatively fuss-free, especially if maintained by pruning every 6 months or so, as shown above. 


Here is another example of a hop bush shrub that has been pruned more formally, which it handles well.


 Of course, you can always let it grow into its more natural form as a large shrub.

For more information on hop bush including what its flowers look like and why it's becoming a popular substitute for oleanders, you can read my earlier blog post - "Drought Tolerant and Beautiful: Hopbush the Alternative to Oleanders."

Have you ever seen this shrub where you live?  How was it maintained?  As a shrub, hedge or small tree?

My Favorite Home and Garden Magazine With a Surprise

Do you enjoy reading magazines about home and gardening?  I do.

Often with the busyness of life, I don't have as much time to read magazines as I used to.  But, always make time for my favorite subscription, which is Phoenix Home & Garden Magazine.

I enjoy thumbing through the pages that are filled with colorful photographs and articles about beautiful landscapes and lovely home decor with a Southwestern flair.



I must admit that I have been impatiently waiting for the June issue in my mailbox.  Day after day, I volunteered to go out to get the mail and several times, would come away with a handful of junk mail and bills and little else.

But, finally, it came.

So, why was I so excited about this particular issue?


Because my first article for Phoenix Home & Garden Magazine was contained within its pages.

Two months ago, I was contacted by one of the editors and was asked if I was interested in writing for them.  Of course, I said yes!

I visited a stunning garden and met with the homeowners as well as the architect who helped them create their landscape.  

It was a slightly new experience for me as I had to interview the homeowners, their architect, gardener, and builder.  

There was so much to see from multiple water features laid with handcrafted Spanish tiles, beds of roses around the pool, a Southwestern Zen garden and an edible garden.

If you have a chance, I highly recommend grabbing a copy so you can see this spectacular outdoor space.  There are also several other lovely gardens featured in the magazine as well.

I look forward to more opportunities to write for this fantastic publication.

If you don't have a subscription to this magazine, you can get two years for the price of one for readers of my blog.  Click here for details.

School Garden Visit

One of the many things that I enjoy about my job is when I am asked to visit school gardens.
You can read about a previous school garden visit here.


Yesterday, I was asked to come to my daughter, Gracie's, class to talk about what I do as a horticulturist.  


As I've shared before, Gracie has autism.  She and the other kids in her class have been learning about gardening, which includes having their own school garden.


The kids were so excited to show me what they were growing.


Healthy, green tomato plants were laden with new fruit that the kids took the time to show me.  Even though they were hidden underneath the foliage and still green, they knew where each new tomato was.

Gracie was anxious to show me a young squash growing.


The only red tomato in the garden took center stage.


In addition to growing plants, the kids were also learning how to compost, which they will use to help enrich the soil around their garden.


At the end of the garden plot, was a grove of struggling citrus trees along with a few grape vines.

The teachers and class had just inherited this neglected citrus grove and wanted to learn how to care for them.


Despite years of neglect, the trees were still had some fruit.


An old grapevine was growing into the grapefruit tree and Gracie had to show me the lone cluster of grapes growing on it.


Finally, the kids showed me their new peach tree, which they earned the money to buy from their  recycling efforts.  

The peach tree will be the first, of hopefully many new fruit trees, that will line the walk to the garden.


I had a wonderful time with the kids and found myself teaching the teachers how to care for their new garden.

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