Fresh and Furtive

After a wet morning, it turned into a bit of a blustery afternoon and, having missed a day of deadheading roses, the breeze seemed to do the job for me, removing both petals and, in some cases, complete heads. The pale apricot confetti in the above picture is Crown Princess Margarita, two bushes growing over the archway that flanks the step up to the paved area immediately behind the house. The archway joins the rose arbour beyond it, housing Rambling Rector and making one continuous structure. The wind also blew over all my mystery clematis, still in pots, for the umpteenth time in the last few days!

A forecast of rain did not put me off a walk this morning, despite having to strip off on my return for the second time in less than a week – but at least it wasn’t cold rain as it had been on Sunday, nor as persistent. I planned to venture out with a carrier bag and a pair of scissors, intent on picking elderflowers to make the proverbial cordial and knowing some were already over I did not want to delay it any further. Not having made it before, I had no idea what sort of quantities were needed and foolishly didn’t check before I went out.

Fortunately there was ample, and the requisite quantity is steeping overnight in a sugar syrup. I know some of you make elderflower cordial regularly but, for those that don’t, if it proves to be successful I will post the recipe in due course.

Still on the subject of fruit, the raspberries I showed on Saturday are progressing nicely and have even permitted a small picking. Meanwhile, behind them in the fruit cage, the blackberries were looking even more prolific, promising abundance in a couple of months:

A closer look, however, showed all was not well – shock! horror: sawfly!

When I grew gooseberries, they were attacked every year by sawfly, destroying all hope of a crop, until I gave up the fight. Last year, at the end of June, in the absence of gooseberries I found sawfly on raspberries, loganberries and blackberries, shredding the foliage and limiting the crop although fortunately not completely. So far this year, only the lower foliage was a skeleton of its former self, but I know how quickly the army of little caterpillars (the sawfly larvae) can strip a leaf, so prompt action was needed. It is impossible, as is often suggested, to pick them off as they appear, because until they furtively begin stripping the leaves you have no idea they are there! So, unfortunately, this meant the one spray I already had which sadly was not as natural as one would have liked.

I note that Nemasys now supply nematodes that control sawfly so will look into this – does anyone have any experience of this type of nematode? I have also read of a natural oil called neem, a naturally occurring pesticide found in seeds from the neem tree, which is meant to be effective against sawfly. Again, has anyone come across this before? More research in recent days has shown that a winter wash can help destroy overwintering sawfly and this seems an eminently sensible precaution! Interestingly, a number of weeks ago there were considerable numbers of a very distinctive fly only in the vicinity of the fruit cage, and in hindsight whilst writing this I wonder if this was the adult sawfly? Too much of a coincidence for this not to be the case…

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14 Responses to Fresh and Furtive

  1. Heyjude says:

    Urgh! Sawfly! I had it on my twisted hazel a couple of years ago and I picked off as many leaves as I could and sprayed with soapy water. Seemed to work as it has been fine since, but I am always on the lookout for them. The wind was terrible today, for the first time ever my hydrangea in a large terracotta pot was turned over! Luckily nothing seems to be broken, but I have not had that happen before.

    • Cathy says:

      On twisted hazel, oh dearie me 🙄 It is only recently I realised that the sawfly species are specific to the plant they infect. Shame about your pot, but I trust it is not broken – you wouldn’t think that a big pot would be affected

  2. tonytomeo says:

    The main reason that I have not used elderflower for anything is that I want so many elderberries for jelly.

  3. I have no experience or advice to offer regarding sawfly as I’ve never heard of it before. Hopefully that means we don’t have it here. It sounds very much like a nasty pest.
    I’ve heard of elder cordial, but have never tasted it and have never known anyone who makes it. We picked elderberries as children and my Mom made elderberry pie – always a favorite at our house. My sister has elderberry bushes, so I hope to be able to pick some before the birds get them.

  4. The bruised leaves of the elder steeped in water and sprayed onto caterpillars is an old recipe.

  5. carolee says:

    I have one large elder that each year produces enough blooms that I can 7 quarts of elderflower syrup for making Hugos, make 3 quarts of dried flowers for teas, and still enough berries for 4-5 batches of jelly! I’ve dried berries in the past for muffins and scones, and used them in apple or peach tarts. This year, I’m making some cordial, because there are still jars of syrup and jelly left. Love the fragrance of the blossoms.

    • Cathy says:

      Elderflower tea sounds interesting – how do you dry the flowers?

      • carolee says:

        Just gently run your fingers through the clusters and the flowers fall off. You need to gentle so you don’t get stems. Then I spread them on baking sheets and just let them dry for 2-3 days, shaking a bit daily to turn them over. Once dry, store in airtight jars. 1tsp per cup of boiling water, or mix it with green or black tea, if desired. I first bought Elderflower tea at Harrod’s in London, and have been addicted since, but since London is so far away I make my own now!

  6. Anna says:

    The very word sawfly conjures up a nasty image of a beastie with a huge proboscis and razor like teeth. I’ve had problems with them on my goosebery bushes in the past 😱 A friend of mine has used neem oil but not on roses. She used it on her lilies against the dreaded beetle and it was most effective. Hope that you enjoy that cordial Cathy.

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