Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ladybugs Make Me Uneasy

I just don't know about ladybugs.  I've heard a lot about them as natural predators and I guess Earth Day is as good a day as any to confess that I have deep misgivings about that.  I don't sell the cute little easy-to-merchandise bags at my garden center -- here's why:

Ladybug gives me the evil eye.
1. I don't think releasing clouds of ladybugs into your garden is an effective way to control soft-bodied insects like aphids.  Yes, I know.  Ladybugs are natural predators of aphids.   I've seen them with my own eyes, stalking aphids like cheetahs after (very slow) gazelles.  But I can't find any evidence that store-bought ladybugs area more effective than just doing nothing.  Want ladybugs to eat your aphids?  Stop spraying broad-spectrum insecticides and just wait awhile.  Native ladybugs will show up and eat until the populations are under control. 

Volunteer soldier in the aphid wars.
2.  I'm not okay with relocating huge populations of ladybugs from one part of the country to another.  Doesn't that seem ill-advised?  If it's not a good idea for red imported fire ants to move northward up the continent, how come it's a good idea for sweet little ladybugs to move south?  Ladybugs are harvested in great numbers from overwintering grounds, where they lie waiting docilely for the return of warm weather.  They're whisked out of the mountains in jet planes.  When they awaken from their slumber, they find themselves in red net bags at the checkout counter of your local garden center. That's if they are, in fact, native ladybugs.  There are reports of imported Asian ladybugs sold commercially as a green alternative to pesticides.

Maybe there's no harm in collecting, selling and releasing ladybugs.  But something about just doesn't seem right.  I'm all for maintaining populations of beneficial and predator insects.  I'd rather they be homegrown, that's all.

Friday, April 1, 2011

And The Garden Falls Beautifully Into Disrepair

I love how lettuce looks good even when you completely ignore it for weeks at a time.  And how the purple oxalis creeps in to offer such a nice purple contrast.