by Leslie Cox; Saturday; May 16, 2020

It has been the week for peonies to break their buds. The tree peonies, at any rate…and my mother-in-law’s beautiful red herbaceous peony. The rest of the herbaceous peonies and John’s Itoh ‘Bartzella’ are waiting in the wings to carry on the show. Especially after the rain we are getting today is likely to flatten most of the flowers which are presently open. Or at least, the branches will be bent down so low the flowers will not show off to their best advantage.

Heartbreaking really. You anticipate the peony buds opening for days…and days…only to have a downpour shorten your floral pleasure. Such is gardening.

Rhododendron 'Anna Rose Whiney'There have been a few other plants of blooming note this week. The rhodos are offering a wonderful succession of colour…starting with a beautiful soft yellow one, my small white one (no names) and ‘Purple Gem’. Progressed through one I have named ‘Pink Cream’ to a large soft pink one to a small pink, then the brilliant red of ‘Baden Baden’ and the luscious colour variety in ‘Nancy Evans’. Hot pink ‘Anna Rose Whitney’ is just starting to break as is the large, deep red-flowered one in front of the living room window. ‘Fabia’ is not far behind. And that is just in the front garden.

Rhododendron PJM 'Elite'John’s display in his garden has been stunning…starting with PJM ‘Elite’, then a small pink rhodo (different from mine) which turns white, a cream-flowered one, the lavish red ‘Jean Marie de Montague’, a gorgeous flaming rose pink one (wish I knew the name of this one), another ‘Anna Rose Whitney’ and my beautiful soft pink ‘Scintillation’ which we moved here from my garden in Gold River. Not to be left off the list…a lovely deep purple rhodo is also set to burst open.

You have to love the riot of spring erupting in the garden beds right now, don’t you?!


Rhododendron 'Jean Marie de Montague'


Rhododendron 'Scintillation'








On the bird front…I had to rescue a small sparrow from the greenhouse early this week. Last week it was a young robin who flew in there and couldn’t find his way out. Were his parents ever squawking up a fuss…and the volume went up even more the minute I stepped into the greenhouse to rescue their baby. But both birds were rescued safely and set free.

Sadie had a “critter” encounter this week. She found a garter snake sunbathing on a piece of driftwood by the pond. When I came along…without my camera, of course…Sadie was in full pointing mode, even though she is golden retriever/yellow lab/border collie mix. The snake was equally focused on Sadie with its head raised like a cobra and flicking its tongue at her. Now that Sadie has seen the critter which has been leaving its scent in that area of the pond, she is showing due diligence in checking for the snake on a regular basis. Hopefully, her regular patrols will discourage the snake away from our fish to the point it will seek out a new hunting ground. I would personally prefer the snake to switch its diet back to slugs, away from my baby goldfish and koi.

azalea sawfly larva - closeup


On the pest front…the azalea sawfly larvae have started to emerge and are chewing the leaves. Haven’t kept strict records of time spent dealing with the larvae to date but it is upwards of two hours over 2.5 days so far. Nothing for it but to search for damaged leaves and/or little black balls of scat for indication of larvae, then run the leaves through my thumb and forefinger to squish the tiny varmints.


azalea sawfly larvaeDisgusting, I know, but the alternative is to let the larvae feast away and just hope enough beneficial insects discover the banquet awaiting in my two azaleas. But disaster awaits if you don’t deal with the larvae. As soon as the flowers drop, you are left with branches bearing mere strings of leaves. The larvae have eaten all the other greenery right down to the midrib. Not very good for your shrub.