Death & Disappointment – Yep, That’s Gardening

August 8, 2008 | By | Comments (0)

Q: Hi Grumpy…I have a real serious question for a real serious problem! In the spring, I bought a pretty pricey trumpet honeysuckle vine that is sucking the life outta me! I planted a pre-started vine in full/partial sun and really needed it to wrap around the entrance-way of my house. Life was going swell and the vines were a-wrapping all through spring and summer. Well, I’ve been traveling a good bit and when I got back, all the leaves were yellow and falling off. Now, I know I’ve been watering so it may be a question of too much or too little, but I know that it’s much too early in the game for my new friend to give up on me like this. Is this what it’s all about…buying, planting, and sudden death? I sure hope not. I need the plants I buy to respond the way they say they will on the label!!! I NEED A VINE THAT RAPS!

A: Buying, planting, and sudden death are indeed the eternal law of the garden. Everything you plant is going to die sometime — and given your level of expertise, Melanie, probably sooner than later.

Don’t be embarrassed — Grumpy kills things all the time, most of which are plants. The plant most likely to die is the one you most love. Sound depressing? Well, it could be. But let me explain the good side of death and turn that frown upside-down.

It’s A Good Day to Die
Think about it. If everything you ever planted in the garden lived, you’d soon run out of room and have nowhere to plant anything new. You’d be stuck with ugly golden euonymus, nasty little marigolds, and that pathetic mildewy rose an old boyfriend bought for a buck at a library fund-raiser and gave to you for your birthday. Fortunately, however, plants die, and when they do, it gives you the opportunity to plant something better. It also gives you the chance to replace your boyfriend with someone who’s willing to spend 5 bucks!

Let’s Get Serious
Now about that honeysuckle. I’m glad you have a serious problem, because Grumpy doesn’t have time for trivial ones. It would appear that your vine is infested with aphids. These bulbous, little bugs can be gray, brown, green, yellow, orange, or red. They usually congregate in tremendous numbers on the undersides of leaves, most often near the tip of a branch, where they stick in their little beaks and suck out the sap. This causes the foliage to pucker, deform, turn mottled or yellow, and then drop.

Sometimes you can get rid of the aphids by blasting them off with water from a hose. Or you can spray them with insecticidal soap or year-round horticultural oil, but this means making sure you soak the undersides of the leaves and that’s a pain. For serious infestations, I would spray according to label directions with a systemic insecticide, such as Ortho Systemic Insect Killer. Leaves absorb the chemical and when aphids suck out sap, they also suck out insecticide and die. Cool.

The Rap on Honeysuckle
Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) does INDEED rap, Mel. Listen up.

“Suckle Honey” (lyrics copyright Grumpy Gardener and P. Diddy 2008)
Hey sucka
I’m your honey
Don’t think I’m sweet
Pop a cap in your ear
Run you over in the street
I’m a vine
I’m a twiner
Got some fancy curls
For a dime
Little whiner
Make you whimper like a girl
Suckle honey
Suckle honey
I’m your plant
Want to stay with you forever
But you know I can’t
Bugs on me
Sucking out my juice
Pop a cap in their ear
Gonna cut them loose
Suckle honey
Suckle honey
I’m your vine
Blew away those aphids
Now I look so fine.


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