Daffodils, Tent Caterpillars, and Phlox

If your daffodil blooms didn’t freeze over the weekend and you’re ready to start picking them for

a vase, here’s some advice from Brent Heath, co-owner of Brent & Becky’s Bulbs: Snap, don’t cut.

Daffodils and tulips shouldn’t be cut with a scissors or pruners. Instead put your fingers down at the base of the stem, pull up and snap. Heath says that when picked this way and put into tepid, not cold, water, blooms should last for a week to ten days. To further promote cut flower longevity, don’t keep your house too warm and keep your flowers out of direct sunlight.

Tent Caterpillars and Aphids Are Coming

Tent caterpillars are the first conspicuous pest to emerge in our gardens, and they come out early, in April. One morning, you’ll walk out in the garden and see the webs in your trees.

They prefer fruit trees and their ornamental cousins.

Very quickly, the little darlings will begin eating the leaves off your trees. In just a few days, they can strip your tree completely. You can easily destroy the webbing and nest by tearing it with a stick. Don’t burn the nest–you’ll also be burning your tree!

You can also use a high pressure sprayer and coat the tree with Bt, a biological control.

Bt is a bacteria that will kill the caterpillars when they ingest it. Of course they have to nibble the leaves to ingest the Bt.

Another option is to do nothing. I’ve seen the caterpillars defoliate a huge wild cherry tree in my garden. “That’s a goner,” I thought, but within a few weeks, the caterpillars were gone and the cherry leafed back out with no help from me.

Aphids, on the other hand, rarely disappear without intervention from the gardeners. You’d need a huge contingent of lady bugs to keep the garden aphid free. Aphids look like little gray bumps on plant stems and are most likely to appear on plants in the apple family, including flowering quince and roses. Left untreated, new leaves will feel sticky and flower buds may be malformed.

A hard stream of water on the plant stems to knock the aphids off is the easiest control. Repeat several times a week. Spraying with an insecticidal soap or a botanical spray containing pyrethrins will knock down the aphid population to non-damaging levels. Then monitor your plants and respray if the population gets too large again.

Summer Phlox

Despite deer loving them too, I love the tall garden phlox that bloom in summer. Many new varieties are resistant to the powdery mildew disease that disfigures phlox leaves with a gray sheen mid-summer. ‘David’, a tall white variety is one of my favorites and now David has a disease-resistant pink daughter named ‘Shortwood’. Shortwood gets about four feet tall and two feet wide and the blooms have dark pink eyes in their centers. Like all phlox, it prefers full sun and a location with good air movement, so don’t crowd it into a border. Removing spent flowers will promote reblooming and prevent self-seeding, as seedlings do not come true to type.

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