again Miss Snippy feels compelled to put down the trowel, emerge from the
herbaceous border, and throw down the gauntlet. Yet another caller to a radio
garden show has set Miss Snippy to ranting and waving the secateurs. This time
the caller related how she’d recently noticed a strange, scaly growth on the
bark of several shrubs in her garden. So, without hesitation—and without
reading anything as dull as a pesticide label—she promptly grabbed the first
chemical that came to hand and sprayed the entire garden with Malathion.
let’s break this down: First of all, the strange growth was no doubt lichen,
which, you might remember from one of Miss Snippy’s prior missives, is nature’s
benign and interesting little tree decoration. Lichen is a symbiotic relationship
between a fungus and (usually) algae. They exist to photosynthesize, not to eat
trees. In any case, lichen doesn’t deserve to die, so it’s good that Malathion
doesn’t kill it.
insecticide is, however, great at snuffing out honey bees. Miss Snippy lives in
hope that the Malathion will cause the lichen to mutate into a big, fanged
freak of nature that feeds upon homeowners who don’t read pesticide labels.
Feed me, Seymour, indeed.
people; if the baby develops a rash, we don’t run for the cleaning cupboard and
douse him in Lysol (at least I hope not). Here’s the drill: 1) find out what
you’re dealing with, 2) find out if it’s hurting anything, 3) if forced to take
action, choose the least toxic control, and 4) follow label directions.
we haven’t yet finished with “Miss Malathion.” When the lichen survived the
poisoning, she proceeded to peel it from the branches (I suspect it also
bothers her that her garden is full of nasty dirt). “There,” she can say when
her beloved azalea—now devoid of lichen —goes to that great compost heap in the
sky: “I told you that scaly stuff would kill my plants.” Of course, the poor
azalea will have died from having its bark’s cambium layer skinned off along
with the tightly-adhering lichen.
moral is this: when it comes to the garden, a bit of benign neglect is
required. Also, some people should stick to plastic plants.
other matters, here’s something that even a few gardening experts have trouble
with: pampas grass. While the plant itself can give plenty of trouble —its
saw-edged blades being so sharp that, as a little girl, Miss Snippy’s fingers
bled if she so much as looked at them —the problem I refer to here is one of
pronunciation. “PAMPAS” rhymes with “stamp us.” The plant is from the South
American PAMPAS. It’s not pompous grass. It has nothing to be pompous about.
For heaven’s sake…you can’t even touch it.
the other hand, some plant names, such as wisteria and clematis (even dahlia
and tomato, if you’re feeling British), have a spelling that invites more than
one pronunciation, either of which is acceptable. If anyone tries to correct
you, you have Miss Snippy’s permission to call him or her a pompous
same is true for many botanical names that Miss Snippy sees listed with
different pronunciations in different gardening resources (names such as agave,
artemisia, ipomoea and gaura, to name only a few).
nomenclature is all made up anyway. Botanical Latin isn’t a real language; it’s
a mishmash of Latin, Greek, place-names, surnames, etc. So don’t worry about
mispronouncing botanical names, but do make an effort with common names such as
“pampas” and words like “foliage,” (not “foil-age”…don’t get Miss Snippy
started on “foil-age”).
Until next time,
gentle readers. Miss Snippy continues to listen to the garden shows with morbid