And will my fennel survive the caterpillars?
We’re seeing torrents of news here in Maryland about Brood X cicadas, now droning on at volumes as high as 100 decibels (like a lawnmower starting), covering our sidewalks, landing on our very persons (yuk!), and really, really overstaying their welcome, after several weeks.
Last month, in anticipation of their arrival after a 17-year wait, the news was all about protecting our precious small trees from cicada damage, warnings I honestly ignored. Buying and then draping trees with netting wouldn’t be easy, or fun. Plus, the ones I worry most about are too tall to get netting over anyway.
So I’m taking my chances, and they’re not looking so good right now. You see above my beloved ‘Osakazuki’ Japanese maple showing cicada damage. The damage is caused not by eating plants but instead by burrowing their eggs into small branches, which break off, fall to the ground, after which the digging and hibernating begin for the next generation. We’re told that established trees can generally take this kind of abuse as minor pruning, but that younger ones are at risk.
So will this maple I planted in the fall of 2015 survive? As of today I see five broken branches, and I’m knocking the little bastards off the trunk on their way up to do more damage as fast as I can.
Mind you this is the only tree in my garden that’s getting bombed by cicadas. It’s about 10 feet tall and I wonder why the bugs prefer it to my other Japanese maple, full-grown at 25 feet or so, which is being spared their attention.
In this photo from mid-November you can see why I’m fussing over this particular tree. After giving me shade while I’m sitting throughout the season it then dazzles me with fall color. This is the view from my living room window on a rainy day. On the right are some Amsonia hubrichtii showing off their yellow-to-orange fall color.
(To explain the CDs hanging on rebar poles, which visitors think is an artpiece of some kind. But no, this spot had become a path for local deer, who even dared to stop for a rest IN my perennial border, so this contraption is designed to deter them. I’d read that the reflections off the CDs spook them. It’s been almost a year and no deer yet, but as I type this I know I may be jinxing myself. I’m spraying monthly anyway because there are also rabbit and groundhog invasions to worry over.)
Over in my front yard, Black Swallowtail caterpillars are going nuts over the bronze fennel planted among other perennials, all chosen to attract bees and butterflies. Other plants seen around it are Joe Pye Weed ‘Little Joe’ and wood aster.
And here’s what that fennel’s going to look like very soon – just sticks, no leaves. So when these fat-and-happy critters have stripped every bit of foliage off every single fennel, will the garden look worse? I say no, because fennel plays no real aesthetic role here -just vertical accents here and there. It’s not like losing a fricking Japanese maple!
But WILL the fennel die, or simply sprout new growth? Hey fennel-growers, anyone know?