4.26.2007

I Am Surrounded


Maybe it's just because I've picked up Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek again, but everytime I go into the garden I get this feeling that I am not alone. Last night, puttering around in my coldframe brought me nose to nose with a tiny frog, hiding under a flat of zinnia seedlings. Of course, this has been the goal all along, as an organic gardener, to create a space that attracts insects that can predate the pests; I guess we've succeeded- it feels like a raucous party out there. Or a war zone. Hard to tell with the bugs right now-especially the oak moth larvae, that have been dropping out of the skies for a week now.

The air is festooned with their silken strands, and it's hard to tell if they resemble party decorations, or paratroopers storming the front lines. Looking out our front window at their long lines of silk, gliding sleepily throught the air, I drowse and wait for summer.

Everywhere I look, there is somebody crawling, flying, burrowing or buzzing around outside. We live in the woods, so a day spent watching gray squirrels traverse the power lines and oak limbs is not uncommon. But even so, a whole host of new creatures have moved in. The damselflies have returned, from wherever it is that they overwinter, and now they can be found sunning themselves on the railings and on the baby gate at the front stairs. Deep incandescent blue and gunmetal gray. In the dog days of August I anticipate the enormous yellow & black striped dragonfly that guards our front steps like a sentinel.

The stiff stalks of the sweet william are covered with the white gurglings of the spit bug, which I will soon wash off with a spray of water. Spit bugs really are amazing. Apparently there are over 3000 species; and they go through 5 different stages, called "instars" during their lifetime. Ours are in their early nymph instars: soft green bodies, brown eye on either side of it's head, and a little anus going in and out, like a bellows. With this they work feverishly, pumping out secretions that they whip into a frothy mass of bubbles. In this they hide from predators, regulate their body temperature and keep from drying out. They seem like little introverts. I have to remember that they are 'pests': sucking insects. Like aphids, they attach to a plant and suck it's juices. They are also known to disfigure leaves, which is happening to my verbascum, so I guess the spit bugs have to go- although I think they are rather cute. I think if I just spray them with the hose, they will lose their cover and the other predatory insects in the garden will finish them off.........
I am totally smitten with our mulch right now, it looks like chocolate shavings covering the earth. I can almost hear the earthworms tunneling to the cool surface, and my nemophila seeds are sure to germinate beneath such lovely bits of wood.

3 comments:

Camille said...

i always thought spit bugs were gross, and was never a fan of the oak leaf rollers (they did bad things to our oak neighbors in Redding). But now that you have pointed out the spit bug's cute little bellows anus, I am going to have to reconsider my earlier opinion. :)

I tagged you with the book meme (see my blog)

Miz Melly said...

You're making me miss your home town so much. I'm sorry I didn't get to see your garden when I was there. Hopefully someday....
Love to B and G
Miz Melly

Rosa said...

Hey Melly!
G talks about you from time to time, and we've all decided to come to see you in Dublin (someday!) Love to Simon!

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.