Plague

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“Frühlingsduft” under assault in July. The entire bloom was gone by midday.

 

The Japanese beetle plague has been so awful this year, I’ve taken to removing one-time established garden beauties. Gone are my Sargent Cherry, my yellow birch and as of this month, many of my favorite roses (“Golden Wings,” “Applejack,” “Prairie Princess,” “The Fairy,” “Granny Grimmetts” and ‘Sweet Chariot.’ My one-time rose garden had over 300 roses. I expect to be down to 20 by next year.

When you live in an area of mostly flower-free yards and yours is always filled with blooms, you come to realize that you created one big beetle lure. They fly from afar to strip my plants. The swarms are bad. When I mow the lawn, I raise hordes of beetles from the shrubs. They cling to my clothes. They land in my hair.

I never held much of a lawn fetish: I appreciate green swards, but I won’t spend a lot on chemistry and I rarely water it. I do dote on a green swath between the rose beds. That was our croquet lawn. Thick, cool fescue to enfold bare feet. No more.

That area is mostly bare now — Japanese beetle grub damage — and I will resort to insecticides for the first time. I wanted to do the natural approach by applying natural grub predators. But nematodes are expensive and require difficult application conditions. The University of Minnesota extension service dismisses milky spore as ineffective. So, the poison.

I feel like I am losing part of my identity. I have been gardening for decades, enjoying my garden as it matures, and yet … my beloved hobby is diminished. We have so little time to garden here in Minnesota. I might as well just plant spreading junipers around the place.

Sigh. I can’t give up…

 

Fruhlingsduft

“Frühlingsduft” first flush in June was glorious. The beetle plague was just weeks away.

 

 Violent retribution makes me feel better: I scoop the nasty things into a pail of soapy water and watch them drown, pop them in my fingers, or grab a handful and stomp them to death on the pavement.

Is coexistence is the key? The beetles are here to stay and so I must adapt. I snatched up some sale plants at local nursery, cultivars that won’t attract the beetles. I matched to size and color to replace the departed roses in situ. I’m actually thrilled by a chartreuse Cotinus that is lovlier than the yellow rose it replaced. It holds the light in a wonderful way.

My old-garden roses (OGRs) will stay. These are fragrant and bloominous in the spring, and they’re done before the bugs swarm. Hardy, too.

The beetles and rabbits chomp away. The emerald ash borer, another exotic pest, is just a few miles to the south and migrating here. That’s three plagues for me. Pharaoh Ramses endured ten plagues before he gave up. I can manage.

Maybe the beetles are an opportunity to adapt and discover exciting new plants. The garden evolves. Gardeners know this. I just forgot.

 

 

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