Virtue Rewarded and a Grass Divided

So the bad news is that once again there are Fourlined Plant Bugs (FPBs) in the garden.

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These bugs are eclectic in their plant preferences. In my garden, though, they seem to go particularly hard after members of the mint family such as Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) and Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum).

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Anise Hyssop with same.

The first couple of years after the FPBs arrived, those two plants were so chewed up that they hardly bloomed at all (they weren’t killed, though). I think they were vulnerable because they bloom in early summer. That’s when the FPBs are most active – by mid-summer they’ve laid their eggs and disappeared for the remainder of the year.

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Fourlined Plant Bug. Photo from University of Florida Entomology Department.

The good news this year is that the FPB numbers are greatly diminished, as is the damage they are doing – much less noticeable. The Culver’s Root and Anise Hyssop should bloom pretty normally this year.

I like to think this is an example of virtue rewarded. Despite my distress at the lost blooms, I refrained from using insecticides or even insecticidal soap. Excessive numbers of any given insect pest are supposed to draw predators who will bring the pest’s population into balance. I hope that’s what happened here – though apparently there isn’t a lot known about the predators of Fourlined Plant Bugs.

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Replanted Switchgrass after division.

And did I mention I finally divided those two big Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) clumps? Switchgrass needs only infrequent division, but these were planted over ten years ago.  I was hoping I could put it off for another year. However, when I saw the grass coming up in a ring around a dead center, I knew that action was required.

It wasn’t a pretty process. The clumps had a diameter of about 30 inches and weren’t coming up without a fight. They were pretty awkward to handle, and I ended up sitting them on my knee like a favorite grandchild (not best practices, I know). I used my folding saw to cut the clumps into divisions.

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Switchgrass in its summer glory.

After planting the most vigorous-looking sections, I was taken aback by all the empty space around them. I think I’ll mulch the open area and let the Switchgrass and its expansionist neighbors (looking at you, Asters and Bee Balm) do their thing.

Also, I noticed that the replanted clumps started getting crispy at the tips when we had a sudden heat wave and a dry spell. The poor guys have lost most of their roots, so I started watering them by hand.

Let’s close on something more pleasant, shall we?

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Weigela seen over the back fence.

There’s an old Weigela of some kind in the back garden that we inherited from the former owners. It was on its last legs when we moved here. I pruned it and gave it some compost, and now its blooming pretty well, even though it gets only part sun.

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It still seems out of place in our garden, somehow, but I’ve grown fond of it.

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American Cranberrybush

Another shrub that bloomed very well this spring was the American Cranberrybush (Viburnum opulus var. americanum). I think its lacecap flowers are some of the nicest of any Viburnum, though sadly they are not fragrant.

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Those tiny florets in the center are fertile, while the larger ones around the outside are infertile. I have the straight species plus the varieties ‘Wentworth’ and ‘Redwing’. Though ‘Wentworth’ is supposed to produce lots of berries, this year it’s had fewer flowers than any of its cousins.

That’s all for now. I’m happy that I won’t have to divide that Switchgrass again for at least another ten years.

 

29 Comments on “Virtue Rewarded and a Grass Divided

  1. I missed the first line entirely, and was trying to decipher what combination of cusswords was meant by FPB. I was actually enjoying the guesswork but I couldn’t get the combination just right….

  2. When it comes to dividing switchgrass, I call in a friend to do it. He is younger and stronger than me. Bravo for you at tackling it cause I know how hard it is. I have never seen those bugs here, so keep them in Chicago. Still waiting for my cranberry bushes to flower.

  3. Grass clumps are difficult to divide. I have a wad of grass that needs to be divided. I might put it off again after reading this. I have never seen a FPB. They are a colorful bug. I hope I don’t encounter them here. I have an old red blooming Weigela that looks old but blooms up a storm every year. Looks similar to yours. Only mine is in a lot of sun. Poor thing gets no attention yet is faithful with it’s blooms.

  4. What a glamorous bug he is, but obviously one we can do without
    I hope you don’t cut up your grandchildren with a folding saw; your description conjured up a rather alarming picture.

  5. I think I’d better start lifting weights to prepare for the feature division of my grasses. Hadn’t heard of FPB’s before this blog so I looked them up. I may have them. Every plant in this place, no matter what it is, has tiny spots out of the leaves. I’ve been doing nothing since sometimes this kind of stuff passes with the change of the year. The weigela’s lovely.

  6. That’s one pest I’ve never heard of – hopefully it doesn’t grace my garden anytime soon as I do enjoy my mint! There is a clump of ornamental grass that I need to divide as well and, like yours, it’s probably 10+ years old and will be a pain in the butt to divide so I’ve been putting it off. This year will be a no-go as well, but hopefully I’ll be able to get to it next year.

  7. I have switchgrass, sea oats, and dwarf fountain grass that I want to not only divide but relocate. I may make a driveway border with the fountain grass… someday. The rest will probably end up somewhere in the backyard. Not looking forward to the task.

  8. This is good to know, about the FPBs. I planted some Culver’s Root last year – I’ll be on the lookout for these guys.

  9. That’s sobering news about the 4LPB’s attraction to Veronicastrum virginicum. I’m planting my first two Culver’s root today, and was under the impression they bloomed in July, high summer. The 4LPBs here do a number on the tasty and useful spearmint, leaving the useless and invasive chocolate mint untouched. Your post will at least get me to check the Vv’s regularly until the prime 4LPB season passes; thanks!

    • Is 4LPB the official acronym? Good to know. The Culver’s Root here is about to bloom in a week or so. I have the cultivars ‘Fascination’ and ‘Lavender Spires’, perhaps the straight species blooms later.

  10. Thankfully, the ‘Heavy Metal’ switchgrass I planted 20 years ago is still solid in the center. The only tools that have worked for me in grass division are a small ax (stainless) and a rubber mallet to pound it through. Need to reduce/divide or eliminate overgrown Miscanthus ‘Silberfeder’ here, and am so dreading the work that I’m considering glyphosating it next spring.

  11. You have my sympathy re the bugs, I am plagued by lily beetle and greenfly, maddening it is! Glad you sorted the grasses! Hopefully they will thrive soon.xxx

  12. Good stuff, the bugs are less and you didn’t resort to pesticides. Now about that switchgrass division on your knee. Err no! That is not a good plan

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