Thursday, May 30, 2013

Red Lily Beetle Interview with Dianna

Gayla Trail, of You Grow Girl, just posted this interview on her website today and I think she did a marvelous job of quelling any potential panic over the Red Lily Beetle.  Several years back, while recovering from foot surgery, I did an article on the Lily Beetle with suggestions from our customers.   B&D Lilies is isolated on the Olympic Peninsula, with no other commercial lily growers within almost 200 miles, and with our wild bird population, we generally even escape heavy infestations of Aphids, so I needed to rely on gardeners in affected areas for information.

Although our Internet is from a satellite, the electricity goes out at random times, Coyotes and Bobcats pull out our planting stakes, and there are worries about our private bridge (over Snow Creek) in winter—but being backed by timberland can be a good thing.  We do not feel the need to spray any kind of pesticide and only use a fungicide (Copper Hydroxide) that is approved by the State of Washington for Organic Food Programs during the growing season.  I do however, draw the line regarding slugs, see How to Control Slugs in your garden, because they have the tendency to be everywhere during our wet springs.

Some Eastern gardeners have reported that the Red Lily Beetle were fewer in number last summer, which could have been influenced by the changing weather patterns, but the reduction could also be due from the release of parasitic wasps in their neighborhood by researchers.

Does anyone have any news about the Lily Beetle to report for your area?  Lily Beetles are bright red and their larvae leave behind disgusting poop, so please do not confuse them with the highly beneficial, black-spotted Ladybug.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Do I have Moles or Voles?

Underground Varmints
Do I have Moles or Voles?
You probably have both.  Moles leave large cones of fresh loose soil (mole hills) in lawns, gardens and beside foundations when they run up against your house.  Voles leave large visible holes in the ground without a collar of soil and are quite happy to use abandoned mole runs for their homes.  Molehills are mounds in the ground.

Fresh mole hill in a section of the the lawn that always stays moist.

Old Mole hill runs encourage Voles.Old mole hill being kept open by Voles under a tree where the soil stays rather dry most of the year.

Who eats what?

Moles eat protein; they are looking for tasty grubs, insects and earthworms and are attracted to newly irrigated ground. Moles actually are rather nice to loosen hard ground if you don't mind the tunneling and they do like to eat slug and snail eggs (Humm... a benefit here).   Voles on the other hand, are rodents - pure and simple, they are after your plants and absolutely love raised beds with nice fluffy soil.  To decrease the vole population, outside of a Terrier (dog) or Feline (cat), you might try apple-baited mousetraps in mole runs.  The only peaceful, non-lethal way to protect your plants is by putting bulbs into wire cages to keep the moles from tunneling right through the bulbs and the voles following to feast on what they can.

Winter Mulching to Outwit Rodents
Moles have huge claws.

Did you have bulbs disappear this year from your garden and did you perhaps mulch the garden before it was well frozen last year?

To keep voles and mice from enjoying a buffet dinner over winter, we need to wait until the soil is well frozen before mulching or the rodents will simply dive under the fluffy mulch and into your soft soil; making a nest in a fully stocked pantry.  Let them find another home first then spread mulch over your bulbs in cold climates.

Milder areas, USDA Zone 7 or above (find your zone) do not need winter mulch to protect Orientals or OT lilies.  Actually, too deep of a mulch (beyond what is needed for winter weed control) will keep your soil much too soggy during a rainy winter and you risk bulbs rotting over winter.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How to Control Slugs in your Lily Bulb Garden

Lower leaves are nibbled, topmost leaves OK.

Are you noticing a few nibbled holes in your lily leaves here and there? Are there slime trails on rocks, bark mulch, or has something munched a newly emerged lily sprout and you didn't see the culprit?

Do you live in the Pacific Northwest or somewhere else with copious amounts of spring/early summer rainfall?

Read on... this posting is for you.
Slugs and Snails usually leave jagged holes on the leaves.

Heading "home" across crushed rocks to a damp spot for the day.

If you have not already done so, now is the time to take measures against damage from mollusks.

Slugs especially like to feed at night, when the air, soil and grass is cool, but are not adverse to feeding during rainy days or while hiding from the sun under a canopy of low-growing plants. 

These soft bodies pests come in all sizes, but the most damage seems to be the stealthy newly hatched, less than one-half inch long in length.  You might not notice anything is amiss until the damage has already begun. 


Control is not as difficult as it might seem.  

In fall, cut back Daylily plants or other dense perennials and use a garden rack or hand tool to disturb any mulch, especially large nuggets of bark, to discover any white egg clusters.  Destroy them by scooping up and dropping into a bucket of soapy water or by squashing the eggs with your trowel.  Crushing all the eggs can physically be more difficult, so scooping up the clusters, soil, mulch and all is probably a better plan.  Clean up yard debris promptly and relocate any compost piles to an out of the way location, not just for aesthetic reasons, but also to avoid slugs laying eggs near your garden.

A flock of obliging Chickens will happily cultivate around your plants in fall, plus seek out and consume each and every slug or snail egg.  When we lived in the city, our hens would always find an escape route into the back yard.  There were never any slug or snail problems in the back, but since the ladies never made it around to the front of the house, there were a multitude of snails throughout the rock garden.

Some or all of the following may work for you.

  • Using any brand of natural or chemical slug bait will help control their seemingly exponential growth in the garden, especially if you are quick to act in spring and remain vigilant.
  • Use a barrier of copper to ring important plants.  Unfortunately, pure copper is more difficult to find and is now expensive - my roll from years ago is still useable, especially if I take care to pick up the rings and store them over winter in a garden shed.  Copper clad products do help, at least until the copper wears away, so storage again becomes the key to longevity. 

Cut with scissors to the size you need.

Fasten with a paper clip, make and bend down tabs if you wish.
NOTE:  Before installing copper, check to make sure there are no slugs already hiding under mulch or resting in a crack or crevasse in the soil.  You certainly do not want to neatly trap them with the only food source being the plant you are trying to protect.
Finished Copper ring around lily stem.
  • Beer-fest parties in the garden.  Stale beer and aged, bubbly yeast-brown sugar recipes will attract the varmints to a dish and supposedly drown them when they fall in.  You will need to bury the container so only the rim is exposed, giving them easy access, but with the fluid level low enough so there is no escape.  Keep any beer-quaffing animals away from the dish by using an  wooden box or other cover.  You will then be faced with disposal that can be rather gross, so don't use anything you will ever want to use again; a cheap cottage cheese container will work just as effectively as Mom's china.
  • Setting out half grapefruit, orange, melon or banana peels, cut side down, will attract slugs overnight and in the morning, you can simply scrape them onto a trowel and into a bucket of soapy water for later disposal.


Useful to a degree.

  • Rough gravel, shelled nuts,  Diatomaceous Earth, and other sharp-edged mulch, will in my opinion, only slow them down.  Slugs excrete slime to protect their underbellies, plus they will find open access if there is any break in the barrier.  Note the slug (above) on the crushed rock path?
  • Sharp stick at Midnight.  Take a flashlight outside after dark and go hunting.  The technique is simple; "poke, scrape off and drop" the slugs into your bucket of soapy water.  Of course, this is not for the squeamish and besides, you'll only be targeting the larger ones, because the smaller ones will most likely escape detection. This method appeals mostly to teenage garden helpers, where the temptation to neatly fling carcasses at each other, may defeat the purpose of a "clean" landscape the next morning.  Perhaps offer a bounty?
  • Several ducks allowed to enter the garden with supervision during the summer will happily consume bug, worms, slugs, snails and other tasty tidbits before moving on to a salad buffet, so keep an eye on them before they start on your plants.  The resulting fertilizer can be a benefit, but not for veggies that are meant to be consumed in the near future and eaten raw, such as lettuce.  Ducks are most effective in a fenced barrier between the garden and "wild areas" of grass, fallen leaves and other areas that naturally harbor mollusks.  Duck poop is apparently an irresistible attractant, so slugs and snails will travel a distance for the source of this seemingly delectable food, and thus become a meal themselves. Ducks are also quieter than chickens in the garden, and may be a better option if neighbors are less than enthusiastic about hearing cackling hens.  Of course, a few fresh eggs may win over even the most stubborn neighbor...

The good thing.

A few munchies here and there on leaves will not harm the lily bulb itself, and although not suitable for entering into competition as a cut stem this year, it will flower just fine to enjoy in the garden.  Should a mollusk eat out the tip of an emerging stem however, that bulb will not put up a new stem this year, but it will form a new stem over winter to emerge next year.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Gosling update, out of the office and onto pasture.

3 weeks old, growing fast, with new feathers.
Our five little "Office Goslings" are growing fast and although they spend their nights in a corner of our shipping room, during the day they forage behind the building eating weeds, tender grass and taking turns bathing in their mortar box swimming pool.  Now that the weather has finally warmed and the birds are quickly growing feathers, the next move is a pen sharing a fence line with our adult geese.  They are imprinted upon Dianna and Anne Marie and come when called, but are now starting to grumble when its time to move into the building for bed, but then, what child doesn't? 

Too big to do this now!

Bob mentioned last week that the babies were looking a bit ruffled; yellow fuzz interspersed with tiny white feathers (and soft adult down) here and there, but they are growing normal and healthy.  (Actually, he really said they looked, "like they got too close to the weed eater", with their uneven feathering and "moldy" colors.)  Three will have patches of light grey for their first year and two will be pure white, but the grey color will mostly disappear after the first molt, which is normal for the Tufted Roman breed. 

Since the goslings all had their "first bath" within three days of hatching, their wax glands are in full operation and they furiously preen themselves after each romp in the water.   Two or three more weeks and they'll spend day and night with the mature geese for protection from aerial assault.  We can hear the next crop of coyote pups yipping in the hill behind the lily field, so its time to fortify our fencing with electric wire soon.  We do like the coyotes eating the rodents within the grassy edges of the field and are happy to have the varmint control, but have to draw the line when it comes to our pets. 

This timing of moving the goslings will work out very well, because our Ancona ducklings will be here next week and after a few days in the shipping room office for warmth, will move to our newly cleaned out, insulated bulb cooler for a couple of weeks.  (BTW - Thank you everyone for helping to clean the #2 cooler of Asiatic bulbs last week!) The nice thing about insulated rooms is that you can regulate the temperature control to either freezing or toasty warm.

Also see the original post:  Five Little Office Goslings

 Bob and Dianna are on the way to Eastern Washington for Garden Expo in Spokane this weekend.  If in the area, come by and see us.  This is a one-day, Saturday-only garden sale.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What exactly is an "Orienpet" Hybrid?

OT, Orienpet and Oriental-Trumpet Hybrids (all the same, just different name descriptions) are lilies that have some Lilium henryi and/or purebred Trumpet lily, such as 'Pink Perfection Strain', 'Golden Splendor Strain', and 'African Queen Strain' in the breeding line.  (Clone vs. Strain: Named Clones like 'Casablanca' are propagated from tissue culture, dividing or scaling and so all are precisely identical, but Strains are group of seedlings from the same cross that show only similar attributes, such as color, shape or blooming time - such as all children of a marriage having a resemblance to one another.)
'Sweetheart' - an early hybrid that tends to have less red centers during warm weather.

Although most will resemble a purebred Oriental lily in appearance and July to early August blooming times, Orienpet lilies are more heat resistant and tolerate alkaline soils better.  Because of the inclusion of yellow-colored Trumpets in breeding, they have made the breakthrough into yellow and red-orange colors.  All can take full sun in most areas and are not affected by the occasional 105 degree heat blast, but these flowers last longer on the stem if summer temperatures tend to hover around 100 degrees, and especially longer if given afternoon shade.  

Telling these newer hybrids apart from regular Oriental lilies can be difficult. 

'Ormea' - smaller flowers - and nice for meditative gardens because of the subtle color.

To the casual eye, especially mixed within other Oriental lilies, the entire bed may appear to be similar in colors, shapes and growth habit.  One notable difference is the tendency to have sturdier stems and more substance - or thickness - to the petals.  These heavier stems of Orienpets can be the size of a 25 cent coin and because of that, it means they rarely need staking, plus most average only 4 feet tall. Thicker petals also mean longer-lasting flowers, a real bonus for warmer climates.  In general, if the color is yellow or has yellow and red tones together, the bulb is an Orienpet.  White fragrant lilies with a gold or yellow band down the center is an Oriental or Lilium auratum hybrid.

Many of the newer hybrids have very large flowers, but a few like 'Ormea' have smaller, upfacing blooms, which make them easier to arrange in smaller floral arrangements. Orienpets with recurved flowers like 'Scheherazade', 'LeVern Friemann' and other 'Black Beauty' Hybrids are more difficult to use in vases unless only using a single bloom in a bud vase or if the display is massive enough to utilize entire stems.  Their grace and tendency for the 'Black Beauty' Hybrids to produce taller stems makes for a stunning accent or back of the border placement. 

The most striking difference is the fragrance.  

Purebred Oriental Hybrids tend to have a sweet, almost carnation-spice scent.  Although there can be differences, most of the newer Orienpet Hybrids are generally more similar to the familiar "Easter Lily" or Trumpet lily fragrance.  Hybrids of 'Black Beauty' however, tend to a much light scent, probably because of the suspected Lilium speciosum in it's breeding background.  People who tend to be sensitive to fragrances usually prefer the spicier Orientals or hybrids of 'Black Beauty', rather than the "heavier" scent of the large-flowered Orienpets.  

The famous 'Black Beauty', very light fragrance.

Planting is the same as any other lily; locate in an area of well-drained soil, dig deep enough so that these cultivars have 5 to 6 inches of soil over the top of the bulbs.  Set individual bulbs at least 6 to 8 inches apart to allow room for growth, because when settled into their location, Orienpet (or OT Hybrids) can be softball sized and will need room to expand.