What’s Going On?

I am giddy with delight at the unexpected sunshine! It has been a glorious week for gardeners. I have been out with the trowels and secateurs and making like a loon in my fetching gardening gear (muttony shorts and deeply unflattering wife beater) moving things and fighting with climbing roses. Of course it is TOTALLY the wrong time to be moving plants in flower: a) it traumatises them and b) they just flop and wilt, but it does mean that I won’t forget what I wanted to do and yes, there is always next year and with plenty of water, TLC and a severe haircut they will come back again.

There has been a monstrous invasion of slimy creatures this year. Each night I go out with rubber gloves and pick off literally hundreds of slugs and snails and the next night their ranks seem to have swelled rather than diminished. The usual suspects have been decimated – rudbeckia, hostas, emerging dahlias and salad leaves but something very strange has been happening. I don’t know if it is due to the ridiculously long and cold spring or if the hot weather has just gone to the beasties heads, but the pests have been acting most uncharacteristically. Firstly a beautiful variegated Astrantia Major kindly donated by Catherine G has been completely munched away by slugs. Astrantia normally never attracts slugs, but there it sits, a bedraggled and denuded pathetic looking stalk. Likewise my auriculas, agapanthus and tough old bergenias have been turned into doilies. Another unusual phenomenon is the aphids – normally content to destroy roses and other sappy growth, they have completely colonised my lupins. They are weak and sticky and slimy and I have never seen anything like it. Any feeble and vague notions I had about not spraying have been knocked on the head; I have been out with slug tox and spray (the sort that is supposedly kind to pets and friendly bugs and birds). A pal Fiona actually keeps a large carton of slug pellets with her at all times and dispenses them when she visits friend’s gardens.

I have a couple of other very odd things happening and would be glad to hear if anyone has any answers; one – and only one of my beautiful oriental poppies, Patty’s plum has got some odd disease. The buds dry up before flowering and the foliage is pale yellow and very ragged and parts have died off. I have checked for vine weevils and other visible pests but none are to be seen. An Iris Italicum marmoratum beside this plant is also looking pale and shrivelled. Across the way in another bed my Eryngium have come up distorted and shrivelled with similarly brown foliage. This is not due to pesticides as I only sprayed yesterday. Any ideas?

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