Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Look on my works, ye mites, and despair!*





We are inordinately proud here at Dolores Delargo Towers of the vast and magnificent collection of Fuchsias we have amassed in only a few years - 54 named varieties so far, and many duplicates/cuttings thereof. This year, we covered the entire wall and fence at the foot of the garden with troughs and hanging pots full of the buggers; many more are gathered together en masse in pots and troughs all around the extensive gardens...

True to form, a beast arrived this year to taunt our ambition to cover the world in glorious pinks, purples, reds and mauves - the Fuchsia Gall Mite.

Commonly known round these parts by the "scientific" name Yewutter bastardii, it has decided that our gardens are particularly to its liking, given the profusion of its chosen food plant - and we can only watch as it gnarls and cankers its way through our collection.

This was a particularly lovely recent addition in 2017, Jack Shahan, here pictured in early July:



...and this is what the mites have done to it!



The pattern is repeated - to a greater and lesser degree - all over. Some varieties appear to be completely unscathed (so far), however - among them old "garden favourites" and cultivars with sturdy parentage such as [l-r below] Paula Jane, Delta's Sara, Elfriede Ott and Lady Boothby:



It would appear that our dramatic, massively blousy-flowered "Southern Belles" varieties (such as Bella Rosella, Annabelle, Voodoo, Quasar, Deep Purple and Pink Marshmallow) may have shrugged it off, as has the tiny-flowered Foolke and the species Fuchsias such as Thalia, but "dead common" supermarket-shelf varieties such as Display, Mrs Popple, Marinka and Eva Boerg are ravaged. Which is odd.

Worse yet, according to the RHS and the British Fuchsia Society, there is currently no effective remedy. The only spray that was available - abamectin & thiamethoxam - has been banned by (guess who?) the EU. No currently available garden pesticides appear to work. Some predatory mites may have success in keeping down the populations but a) they're very expensive; and b) there is no guarantee they will do the job. So we are faced with the prospect of a "Fuchsia massacre" - the only way of ridding the plant of the problem is to prune it, and in doing so we risk losing branches with otherwise unaffected flowers...

So much for trying to create a glorious collection of one of nature's most beautiful garden flowers.

I could scream.

Download The British Fuchsia Society guide to Fuchsia Gall Mite [PDF]

[* apologies for the extraordinarily poor pun on the classic work by Mr Shelley]

10 comments:

  1. Oh, how galling (I'm sorry, I really am - for both the mites and the dreadful pun). In this case, it seems that branded varieties really are better than supermarkets' "own brands"?

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    1. Not really - "Paula Jane" and "Delta's Sara" were "supermarket" ones (possibly Homebase purchases anyhow), yet some of our most glorious (and carefully selected from a "wish-list") ones - purchased from our fave specialist nursery in Essex are bitten to death. It's obviously a bit of a Lottery. Jx

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  2. You're lucky; I have to stop my kids eating ours

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  3. My deepest sympathies! I know your pain!
    Are there no systemic pesticides available? or would they not work?

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    1. Apparently not. Why, I don't know. I may try the predatory mites next spring, despite their exorbitant cost. Certainly, come autumn, we will prune our "babies" right down and dispose of every leaf and every bit of detritus in the hope the mites have nowhere to hibernate. The trouble is, all our neighbours' fuchsias are also affected, so unless I can lay my hands on some napalm I doubt we'll ever be rid of the problem. Jx

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  4. I've grown one or two, years ago, but resist any attempts here in the tropics.
    i'd hazard a guess that some of the worst-affected lack something in their lineage that protects them.Like all things, they need some hybrid vigour and a lot of breeders (of plants and animals) don't breed out enough.
    And let's not mention some humans...

    I'm not much help! Must say, the first 3 pictures got me salivating. The garden looks stunning.

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    1. Botanists have found some Fuchsia species have natural resistance (including F. triphylla - of which we have two), so their hybrids should be OK. However, the vast majority of varieties are from other, more susceptible, lineage. Unfortunately.

      Incidentally, the Fuchsia family has a range all the way from the tip of South America to Mexico and the Caribbean, so there will be some that should cope with tropical heat...

      Jx

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    2. Yes, some fare better in this climate, but I know I'd want to go nuts and start growing them all over again! I'm a bit the same with Salvias and Heritage roses...don't know when to stop!

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    3. Where gardening is concerned, we only ever stop when we run out of soil to put things in :-)

      Jx

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