It appears I will be going round two with the aphids. Such is the life, I suppose, of a gardener, even one confined to a balcony.
The aphids have overtaken my honeysuckle vine, just as it is breaking into bloom. I thought I’d nipped the problem in the bud back in May when I first brought the vine home from a garden centre.
A week after planting it I discovered hordes of aphids sucking the life out of the vine’s leaves. I doused the plant in buckets of soapy water and that seemed to have solved the problem.
But now, six weeks later, the little beasts have returned.
Since moving to Toronto, I have reordered my gardener’s lifestyle. Where I once planted sweeping flowerbeds far too big to ever keep weed free, I am now planting pots, far too small for all the plants I try to cram into them.
It seems I have a problem with limitations. I do not really know my own.
Except when it comes to aphids. With these creepy little insects I employ zero tolerance. Just looking at their powdery grey bodies makes me want to dust myself off. I shudder at the possibility that as I try to dispose of them I might end up carrying a few around with me.
For that reason I’ve stopped squeezing them to death, choosing instead to drown them with a spray of soapy water. I’m loath to cut off the tips of the honeysuckle where the biggest colonies are congregating and breeding like miniscule dust bunnies. Pruning would cost me blooms, just when the vine has begun to perform.
I found two ladybugs feasting on the aphids earlier this week, which caused me no end of joy and amazement. My honeysuckle vine lives in a pot 15 storeys above the ground. While ladybugs are more than welcome, I had no expectation they would travel to such heights for a meal.
Ladybugs love aphids and are a natural control for the pesky insects. Alas, when I checked on my honeysuckle a day or two later, the ladybugs seemed to have moved on. The aphids, much to my dismay, had multiplied.
I trimmed the tips of the vine that were most infected and sprayed the rest of the leaves and flower buds with soapy water. Many years ago I stopped using any sort of pesticide on my plants. I’d rather endure aphids then kill birds.
In my previous home, the one surrounded by too many flowerbeds, I planted a honeysuckle vine next to my front door. It was quite happy living alongside the mailbox and seemed to take its placement as a sign that it should welcome visitors.
Bees and wasps buzzed around the vine gathering nectar, but I was especially delighted that hummingbirds often came to sip from its flutes. If I’d been sitting in stillness on the front step for a while, the hummingbirds seemed not to mind my presence and would feast happily while I, even happier, watched.
I live in hope that hummingbirds will find my skyscraper garden and have planted red begonias and nasturtium vines as advertisements. So far, my only winged visitors (other than the aphids and ladybugs) have been sparrows that perch on the railing next to the honeysuckle but do not seem tempted by the current menu offering.
As much as I am missing the expanse of my Riverview gardens, I am finding small joys in the collection of pots that have shaped my Toronto garden.
I have planted perennials – hosta, peonies, bleeding heart, lilies and iris – because they were gifts from another gardener and I am curious to see if I can over winter them here on the edge of Lake Ontario.
I’ve also planted tomatoes and peas in a deep, broad pot and am already reaping sweet cherry tomatoes. A neighbourhood garden centre was giving away pepper plants a few weeks ago and so red chilies and sweet yellow Hungarians have crowded into the tomato pot, along with a spray or two of basil.
The nasturtium planter is also home to rosemary and a few more basil plants. I popped a pumpkin seed into that pot too. If it grows, I may have to check the weight requirements on the balcony!
In the meantime, my garden balcony grows, providing me a welcoming oasis in the midst of the concrete towers that crowd my view plane. It’s really a place of rest, rather than work.
With pots, there is no weeding to worry about. On a balcony, there is no lawn to mow. This means I can put all my energy into battling the aphids, and I do that with a vengeance, determined to win round two.