Get in touch: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting YORK to 80360 or send an email»
Weevil empire is beaten back
Why were her ariculas doing so badly? GINA PARKINSON digs under the surface and finds some dreaded weevils doing their evil work.
OVER a few years, my mother and I have built up a collection of auriculas. They are housed in a display unit made by my father, which recently made the move from my parents’ garden to my own.
These lovely plants are members of the primula family with spring flowers and rather fleshy leaves, both often dusted with ‘farina’, a white flour-like powder.
The flowers come in a range of colours and forms, and in the past were the subject of intense collection fever with numerous new varieties bred and coveted.
They are tough plants that can withstand low temperatures and prefer a partially shaded spot where they won’t dry out, especially as they are often kept in pots rather than being planted in the garden.
Earlier this year, I noticed my auriculas were looking worse for wear and indeed several had disappeared. It was soon evident why: the pots, carefully stored by the house wall for the winter, had been invaded by vine weevil grubs.
These pests love the primula family and will munch the roots of the plants, starving them of food and water until only the leaves remain, which soon die from lack of nourishment.
There was nothing to do but empty the surviving plants from their pots and clear away the infected earth, washing the roots and popping the plants into clean containers with fresh compost.
They looked a sorry sight; many had clung on to life with a few small leaves and the tiniest of roots, instead of the large rosettes and the first beginnings of emerging flower buds usually seen in early spring.
The old compost was spread out in a bare spot in the garden where the curled white grubs were soon spotted by the robin that appears as soon as I step outside.
This tiny bird has worked out that a woman with a spade is no threat and is indeed beneficial, usually representing a feast of tasty morsels.
As the spring has proceeded and an increasing amount of time is spent outside, he appears more and more often, balancing on the washing line and watching when I’m in the kitchen and aggressively defending his territory when we are in the veg patch.
Six or so weeks later, the auriculas are beginning to recover and grow; one is even in flower. The smallest may not bloom this year but should make enough growth to get started again next spring.
In the meantime, the compost has been treated with a vine weevil killer, something I feel uncomfortable about but which for the moment is necessary if the collection is to recover.
In the veg patch
This weekend the last of our potatoes will be planted. These are the main crop varieties which have been chitting in the house for a while now.
The bed was dug over last weekend and weeded yet again. The wet month we have had had certainly made those weeds grow and the bed had been cleared a couple times already this spring.
The one thing that hadn’t been done was reinstate the edges; the grassy path alongside had spread into the earth with great determination.
It was a hard job slicing through the turf and digging out the roots, but the task is done for another few months and we can get on with the best job, putting in the spuds.
The things they say...
THERE was a bit of unrest in the papers recently with Alan Titchmarsh responding to comments made by David Cameron about gardening skills. The comments were made two years ago and resurfaced during National Gardening Week.
It seems that when the Government was setting out priorities in allocating work to the long-term unemployed, Prime Minister David Cameron said he regarded gardening as requiring as much skill as collecting litter.
This was a small but offensive slight to gardeners and unworthy of an educated man.
The UK has a long history of gardening stretching back hundreds of years as the world opened up, plant collecting flourished and botanists began to understand how plants grew and reproduced.
Gardeners are often generous with their knowledge, sharing plants, seeds and experience whether as a job or a pastime.
Most of our towns and cities have public spaces looked after by trained gardeners. Just visit the Museum Gardens here in York for a wonderful example of a public garden.
The gardeners have done a fantastic job creating space filled with interesting plants, a prairie bed and butterfly bed, daffodils followed by tulips, tansies for the tansy beetle, herbs, shrubs, trees, lawns.
The list is endless and the work goes quietly on without fanfare.
Now tell me there is no skill involved.
So come on, Mr Cameron – get your hands dirty, not for a photo opportunity but for the joy of digging the earth and seeing a seed grow into something wonderful. That is where gardening begins; who knows where it will end?
In aid of the National Gardens Scheme
RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Crag Lane, Harrogate, HG3 1QB, off the B6162 Harrogate – Otley road.
Large gardens filled with colour and interest throughout the year with herbaceous borders, mature shrubs and trees, a streamside garden, lawns, wildflower meadow, woodland, scented and kitchen gardens, alpines and ‘Gardens Through Time’ from the BBC television series. Plenty of parking and picnic places. Open 9.30am-6pm, admission £7.50 adult, £3 child.
Weathervane House, Mill Lane, Seaton Ross, YO42 4NE, five miles south of Pocklington.
Two-acre garden with mature woodland, magnolias, rhododendrons, azaleas, flowering trees and shrubs, spring bulbs, mixed borders and lawns together with a fruit garden, glasshouse and polytunnel. Open 12pm-5pm, admission £3 adult.
Gardening TV and radio
8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoors. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.
9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther and Joe Maiden.
2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Chairman Eric Robson and his team are with the charity Thrive in Reading, Berkshire. The gardening weather forecast is at 2.40pm.
3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Bob Flowerdew, Pippa Greenwood, Matthew Wilson and chairman Peter Gibbs are at Sparsholt College in Hampshire where they hold a drought themed postbag edition of the programme.
Saturday, May 5
7am, BBC Radio York, Julia Booth. Julia holds her weekly plant surgery with expert Nigel Harrison.