Posts Tagged ‘Gardens’

Melanoplus femurrubrum (redlegged grasshopper)...

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A rustling noise alerted me to a visitor in the squash patch, one that gives gardeners the chills each season. Thinking it was a squirrel, my concern was simply for the swelling pumpkins whose rind is irresistible to the pilferers. Stalking up to the patch to catch the robber red-pawed, the rustling fell silent and no squirrel was found.

Mouse, rabbit and neighborhood cat all went through my mind but it wasn’t until the thief sprang from the foliage that I knew I had a problem. I stared into its eyes as it clung to the front of my shirt, gently masticating the last of its snatched meal. A grasshopper had invaded my vegetables, and where there’s one, there’s bound to be many.

More than 100 species of grasshoppers live in Colorado. Some feed on grasses, others weeds, but the Differential (Melanoplus differentialis), Twostriped (Melanoplus bivittatus), and Redlegged (Melanoplus femurrubrum) are frequent pests in home gardens. All types lay their eggs in the soil, favoring dry, undisturbed locations for their nurseries. Upon hatching in spring the young dine on nearby plants until they reach adulthood and fly off in search of food.

Controls for grasshoppers are aimed at the nymph stages, when the insects are vulnerable and don’t move over long distances. Baits, sprays, or the parasitic nematode, Nosema locustae, that worms its way throughout the body of the bug are all best on younger grasshoppers in early summer.

Now that it’s August such controls are no longer effective, since the hoppers in my yard arrived as adults. The sprays of insecticides that can be used are only slightly effective; they might kill the munching marauder today but have a limited time span. Another hopper will take its place in the next few days.

My usual method for ridding my garden of pests — throwing them in the neighbor’s yard — doesn’t work with grasshoppers; they just bounce right back. Literally. And floating row covers would do more harm than good, since I’d be trapping the hoppers under the tent with a complete buffet at their claw tips.

Poultry are a great choice if you live in an area that allows them. I know this first-hand, since my son used to raise ducks. They were comical, and thanks to a drake who took guard-duck duty seriously, were effective at keeping all manner of annoying creatures out of the yard, including grasshoppers and door-to-door salesmen.

Chickens, turkeys and guinea fowl are also touted by Colorado State University Extension as excellent non-chemical grasshopper control. The first two birds I’m familiar with, but guinea fowl are a mystery. Evidently they look like small vultures wandering your yard, shrilly cackling as they swoop down on insects, particularly grasshoppers, June beetles or Japanese beetles. Guinea hens are noisy, belting out a warning whenever intruders arrive, which in suburbia, means a cacophony arises whenever the postman, meter reader, garbage truck or my mother stops by. The entertainment potential alone makes them worth considering.

Ultimately there is little to be done to rid my garden of grasshoppers. Hopefully the plants

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Plastic flamingos in a yard.

Image via Wikipedia

On February 11, Walt Disney studios is releasing a new movie, Gnomeo and Juliet, bringing to the big screen two icons of the garden, superstars with devoted fans across the globe: garden gnomes and pink flamingos.  These pillars of pop culture are adored by gardeners, unlikely legends that spark passion in people. 

Those that adore one usually scoff at the other; the few who festoon their gardens with both are looked upon as needing to change their medication.  These cheerful, brightly colored statues are beloved by many; others, such as Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society – organizers of the premier Chelsea Flower Show – ban them for life.  But love them or hate them, they’ve carved a niche in garden lore.   

“The appeal of gnomes and flamingos lies precisely in the fact that they’re tasteless art,” says Dr. Brian Ott, Visiting Professor of Media Studies and pop culture expert at the University of Colorado, Denver.  “Our older generation may have put them into the garden with a straight face, but now – particularly with pink flamingos – people are doing it tongue in cheek, as a means of irony.”

Gnomes became popular centuries ago, first being produced in Thuringia, Germany, by Philip Griebel, who based his sculptures on local myths of gnomes helping gardeners at night.  From there, the gnomes caught on, with societies promoting them and fan clubs devoted to ‘freeing’ them.  Though Travelocity’s gnome mascot travels the world willingly, most gnomes are victims of pranksters who steal them to send abroad.  Recently, two teenagers in Gillette, Wyoming, allegedly pilfered over 140 gnomes before they were nabbed.

Flamingos are newer, introduced in 1957 by Don Featherstone, an artist who worked for Union Products.  Sold in pairs, with one standing tall, the other with head lowered to eat, flocks of these fowl are often used as a prank, planted onto lawns as a surprise greeting to the homeowner.  To celebrate one famous flocking, the Madison, Wisconsin, Common Council declared the plastic pink flamingo the official city bird in 2009.

 “I have no idea why people love flamingos so much, but we get calls from across the country from people who want them,” says Claude Chapdelaine, Vice President of Cado Products Company, makers of the original plastic pink flamingos. “We make plastic frogs, turtles, penguins, but the flamingos are the thing people want.” 

Purchasing the copyrights and molds in 2010, Cado Products are keeping the American icon alive after a brief stint out of production. “It’s taken us a little time to get ready for full production,” said Chapdelaine, “we had to put an addition onto our factory in order to make them.  But demand is huge, and this year we expect to sell over 100,000 pairs of them.”

Gardeners are drawn to displaying this kitsch for two reasons, says Ott: to make an ironic statement celebrating tastelessness (which we actually really love), and as a conversation piece in particular spaces.  Stumble upon one in the garden, and you’re sure to question the gardener about their sanity. 

Are the differences in devotees of gnomes or flamingos?  Ott believes so, speculating that what you display says a lot about how you want the world to view you.  Someone who favors gnomes is projecting a playful personality, one of ironic sensibility.  Gnomes are whimsical, but because they’re small, they’re less noticeable.

Flamingos tell a different story; the neon pink ornament is in-your-face, projecting a sense of counter culture and flaunting of rules.  “By displaying flamingos, people are being transgressive; there’s almost a subversive element that’s less true of gnomes,” said Ott.  “They’re socially edgy; the adult version of being a punk rock teenager with colored hair.”

Subversive or subtle, your garden is richer because of these ornaments, so choose them with care and display them proudly.

This post was previously published in the Boulder Camera, Longmont Times-Call, and Loveland Reporter-Herald.

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