Thursday, March 15, 2018

Get more for less when your work in your garden

by Kristina Hughes, Clear Creek County Master Gardener

Gardening can be hard work. How many times have you gotten consumed with a project and worked yourself to exhaustion? I’ve mentioned in my previous blogs that I work as a gardener and I can attest to the wear and tear on my body. I am always looking for ways make things easier and do tasks more efficiently. There are so many benefits to gardening efficiently: your body feels better, you can more work done, the work is more pleasant, you can get closer to the garden you want with less effort.

It so happens that there is whole field of study devoted to exactly this issue: ergonomics. The definition of ergonomics is ‘an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that people and things interact most efficiently and safely ‘ (Merriam-Webster). I had the opportunity to google ‘gardening ergonomics ‘ recently and found a bunch of information which I am excited to try out next season.

Resist the temptation to push limits. It’s so easy to say to yourself ‘I’ll just stretch a little farther to reach that plant’ or ‘I can squeeze a little harder to cut this one branch that’s too big for my pruner’. It doesn’t hurt in the moment (usually), but I try to remind myself that it will hurt later. It may feel easier in the moment to use the tool in your hand rather than stopping to get the bigger one, but tomorrow’s work will be harder because your body will have taken the extra strain. Take the long view and pace yourself.

Keep joints in alignment for the most power and the least strain. Research has shown that twisting your wrist can result in a loss of 25% of your power. Avoid reaching and other awkward positions.

Allow the tool to do the work. Sharp tools require less less effort (and do less damage to the plant). And choose the right tool for the task rather than forcing it.

Alternate tools and body positions to minimize strain. Consider using ambidextrous tools which can be switched between right and left sides of the body. I have started doing simple tasks like weeding with my non-dominant hand in order to distribute the workload across both sides of my body. And I am experimenting with ambidextrous pruners.

Consider modifying the handles and grips on your tools. Pistol-style grips are easier on your hands.

Here are some other resources which can help you customize for your situation:

Arthritis and Farming article from CO-Horts blog January 15, 2018

Excellent advice from physical therapist, organized by body part

Accessible Gardening flyer from West Virginia University

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Spiders gotcha crawlin’?

By Kurt Jones, Chaffee County Extension Director

Most spiders are regarded as beneficial and should not be destroyed. Many people fear spiders because of stories or myths about them. Others object to spiders because of their habit of building webs in and around the home.

Spiders differ from insects in that they have eight legs rather than six and only two body regions instead of three. Some spiders spin a web while others do not.

Indoors, many spiders may be found in basements, crawl spaces and other areas where it is somewhat damp. Other spiders, however, prefer a drier situation and can be found in the upper corners of rooms, in attics or in floor vents.

Life Cycle

After mating, female spiders lay eggs in clusters called egg sacs. A few species lay their eggs in dark hiding areas and not in a silken sac.

Some female spiders guard their egg sacs; others carry the sacs with them. A female may          produce several egg sacs in her life. Eggs usually hatch into small spiders within three weeks.  Mating and egg laying can occur at any time of the year, depending upon species.

Are Spiders Dangerous?

Two species of spiders found in Colorado can be harmful to humans if they are bit.  The black widow spider and the brown recluse spider have poisonous bites. These two spiders are not aggressive and bites are uncommon. Their bites are rarely fatal but can cause serious illness.  Medical attention should be sought in the case of bites from these spiders.

Black Widow Spider

The black widow spider, Latrodectus hesperus, is common throughout Colorado. This spider can be found in undergrowth, under stones, in the openings to rodent burrows, in hollow trees or in any other kind of protected area. Around the home it may be found in garages, window wells, crawl spaces and occasionally in basements. It likes undisturbed areas in and behind objects.  Homes in new developments will be bothered for some time from natural populations in the area.

The female black widow is poisonous, while the male is not. The female is about 1 1/2 inches long. The body, excluding the legs, is about 1/2 inch, jet black or dark brown, and usually has red markings that can take the shape of an hourglass on the underside of the abdomen. The male is smaller with brown markings. The two sexes may be easily distinguished by their sizes and by the pattern of the red marks on the abdomen.

Brown Recluse Spider

The brown recluse spider, Loxosceles reclusa, is rare in Colorado. There are a number of other possible causes for symptoms similar to a bite from a brown recluse spider. In Colorado, these should be considered more likely than a brown recluse bite, given its rarity in our state. Specimens have been found and positively identified in the southeastern portion of the state. Brown recluse spiders occasionally have been brought into other parts of Colorado with household effects being moved in from other states where this spider is common. The brown recluse can live both indoors and outdoors, but in cooler climates it prefers to live in houses. It usually is found in bathrooms, bedrooms, closets, garages, basements and cellars.

The brown recluse spider is about 1/2 inch long, usually tan or buckskin, with long, dark brown legs and a violin-shaped dark mark immediately behind the eyes. The base of the violin mark is on the head with the violin neck pointing toward the abdomen. The brown recluse spider is the only spider with three pairs of eyes; all others have four pairs. It produces little webbing since it hunts its food.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Upcoming class- Seed Starting and Planning your Mountain Vegetable Garden

Seed Starting and Planning your Mountain Vegetable Garden Wednesday, March 14   6:30pm   Exhibit Barn (230 Norton Dr, Black Hawk, CO)   $5   
We will discuss how to start seeds so that they are ready to plant out when the weather warms, and how to pick varieties that are suitable for the mountains, as well as how to maximize your garden.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Selective Plant Shaping … An overview of Pruning and what it means to our gardens and varying plant groups

By Jan Boone
Image by Lewis Landscape Services, Inc.

Perhaps one of the most confusing things in our foothill’s garden work is also a key factor for our garden’s health and appearance, maybe even seasonal crop production.  When we look at the winter landscapes and think of the coming potential for our usual wet Spring snows and cold damage to pines, fruit trees or shrubs, we mustn’t forget that selective pruning may come in different ways throughout the cycles of our growing seasons.  Before you or I feel the urge to pull out hand saws, clippers or just our own nimble fingers, it’s beneficial to our plants and ourselves to review some plants and re-visit some basic techniques. Enhancing our know-how or simply modifying past favorite methods when it comes to shaping our plant landscapes can produce new and often valuable results.

Pruning really is a valued practice in our gardens.  The Valerian shrubs on my hillside and Nepeta (catnip family) plants along the driveway immediately come to mind.  Of course, the deer and elk often help w/the Valerian shaping but the Nepeta really has few worries, except for the occasional odd browsing by critters.  Alas, my cotoneaster is a frequent victim of browsing damage, so a good trim is usually called for after a hungry herd wanders through the yard! I have watched with amazement over the past few years a small white lilac that blooms along a dirt roadside near a house that has had infrequent work going on inside.  I’m amazed how it survives to bloom with only filtered light in pretty basic soils and absolutely no care pre or post bloom.  It must have resilient roots way down deep!  Many of our local houses enjoy spirea, viburnum or lilacs in their yards, especially as they produce their Spring branches filled with blossoms.  I’ve lost track of the times I get asked when is the best time to shape or prune these plants!  One of the best references I can share is CSUExtension Garden Notes #619 on Pruning Flowering Shrubs.  It includes shaping, shearing and thinning tips for these plant varieties.

Here’s a good list of reasons for pruning:  Help in allowing a plant to heal from weather related damage, also insect or general structural damage; to train plants or trees to enrich a habitat and/or to control size (i.e. clearing out plant suckers or squash runners); to prevent injury to people or from insects.  It is often helpful for the container and vegetable gardeners to prune, thus promoting flowering and fruit production.  Whether it is a diseased fir limb or an ignored fruit tree with erratic production; or even plants and vines in the vegetable garden, there will come the time you will want to consider pruning. 

Photo by

When to prune may be the definitive question for every gardener.  Timing requires focused attention and expertise.  Sometimes by learning what doesn’t work on a favorite blooming plant or tree can reinforce what should have been done in a different manner or time frame!!  Don’t take the chance and instead refer to a good seasonal overview for pruning in Cornell University’s CooperativeExtension, Bulletin #23 An illustrated Guide to Pruning Trees and Woody Shrubs, page 27.  It provides a reasonable outline that you can monitor and adjust to your own garden and microclimate needs, also considering our altitude and quirky weather patterns.  For another good resource on pruning of fruit bearing trees.  Review CSU Fact Sheet#7.003 on Training and Pruning Fruit Trees.  There are also good CSU Fact Sheets on Aspens.   You should visit  For Aspens, remember that dressing pruning cuts, cankers or wounds usually only provides safe harbors for the potential of insect and abiotic growth.

When thinking ahead to our upcoming spring & summer growing seasons for flowers and vegetables, knowing how to prune affords several options in productive methods These also apply to containers and ground plantings. Consider this … Do you recollect the differences in deadheading and pinching as opposed to utilizing a tool to cut??  Deadheading rids a plant of it’s spent flowers.  This has aesthetic appeal as well as the benefit of increasing blooms and potential fruiting. Many experts consider deadheading most effective in herbaceous annuals, encouraging renewed flowering for blossoms and may impact eventual fruit formation in differing varieties.  Deadheading also takes away dead tissue that can harbor insects or other abiotic diseases.  It also prevents a flower from setting seed.  Perennials that flower don’t rely on seed production, so the practice is not a good option.  Pinching is used to modify growing tips of herbaceous plants.   It’s often a go-to method in the vegetable garden to encourage additional fruit bearing branches. By removing the tips of branches, chemicals in the plant’s stem are activated to grow added shoots or branches, thus promoting a fuller appearance. 
Photo by Tractor Supply

For those striving for the elusive and ultimate heirloom tomato, pruning awareness is essential. In determinate tomato varieties, getting rid of suckers from the bottom of the main stem (which is reproductive) helps to open up the plant, making it fuller and more adaptive to additional growth. With indeterminate tomato varieties, prune up to the second flowering branch.  The stem is non-reproductive.  Finally, as you consider pruning, know the fundamental characteristics of your plant type.  Removing damaged or spent tree limbs is far different from encouraging tomato growth.  Do good research and be aware how microclimates and wildlife around your garden may impact the results of your efforts.

We cannot overlook the right tool for the right pruning job.  Pole and pruning saws are obviously of little help in your vegetable beds, but the correct hand clipper can save hours of frustration.  This is true when working on your ornamentals as well.  Last season’s Russian Sage flowering stalks will disappear quickly into the compost pile!  If you are using a pole, hand saw or other tool to work on a diseased tree or woody trunk of a large ornamental, disinfection of the tool afterwards is important.  Did you know that pruning cuts made at the peak of the growing season will normally carry a higher risk of transferring plant pathogens? Fire Blight is easily transmitted on dirty tools.   Research, clean and read labels carefully for your garden tool disinfecting.  Homemade remedies mixed with water can inadvertently do more damage than good.  Remember, manufacturers change ingredients, so check those labels.    Bleach solutions to disinfect may be preferable for many, but it will be corrosive on most metals. Research also shows the use of Isopropyl alcohol (70%) will not kill all bacteria.

A Good plant worth growing for enjoyment or food is also reliant on good soils, water and added supplements where warranted.  Take a look at potential candidates to prune now, as winter is here and branches are bare, then again as the seasons progress.  Your end result of selective plant shaping can optimize strength, form, aesthetics and crop output.  Enjoy the results of your thoughtful work this growing season!

Post-holiday Bulb Care

By Irene Shonle, CSU Extension Gilpin County

The holidays are behind us, and many of us now have pots of withering Amaryllis and paperwhites.  While it’s harder than I consider worth it to get paperwhites to rebloom again in our climate (they are not hardy for planting outdoors), don't throw out your Amaryllis.  With a little care, it can bloom again next year --even better than it did this year!

 The secret is to keep the plant actively growing after it blooms to recharge the bulb; it takes a lot of energy to produce such big flowers. If the bulb does not produce a flowering stalk the next blooming period, it is likely that has not stored enough nutrients during the post-blooming period.

After the flowers have faded, cut the flowers off to prevent seed set. Only cut the flowering stalk after it turns yellow, a green stalk continues to produce energy for the bulb.  In order to feed the bulb for next year's show, water and feed the plant regularly with an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer. Put the plant in the sunniest possible location for the rest of the winter to encourage strong leaf development. I have found that putting the pot outside during the summer after all danger of frost helps maximize photosynthesis and gives the best results. Make sure to slowly acclimate the plant to full sun to avoid sunburn (gradually increase the time spent in the sun each day for about a week).  I have also noticed that critters don't seem to bother either the leaves or the bulb - a bonus around here.  Remember to feed the plant a few times during the summer in addition to regularly watering.

For blooms in time for the holidays, stop watering in mid-August and bring the pot inside. Let the foliage die back naturally as the soil dries out completely. When the leaves have withered, store the dormant bulb in a cool, dark and dry place for a minimum of eight to twelve weeks. Then, about six to eight weeks before you want the Amaryllis to flower again,  place it in bright light and begin watering again - sparingly at first, so the bulb is not sitting in water.

If you don’t care when it blooms, there is no need to do the fall dormancy protocol. Continue watering and fertilizing the plant, and bring it inside before frost. Keep it in a sunny window, and it will usually bloom sometime in spring. The flowering stalk should emerge with or before the leaves if you have taken proper care of the plant. Watch as the number of flowers on the stalk increases in both number and size as the bulb increases in size.  Over time, the bulb may produce a new bulb, which you can remove and pot up separately. Amaryllis plants bloom best when they are somewhat potbound (crowded roots). They require repotting only every 3 or 4 years. The best time to repot them is after they have gone through a dormant period in the fall.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Baking and Cooking in the Garden

By Kurt M. Jones, Chaffee County Extension Director

I was at a conference recently and was visiting with some colleagues from across the Western United States.  The conversation came around to how baking, cooking and gardening all relate to one another.  It was an interesting analogy that I will attempt to recreate for you here.

If you think about it for a while, you realize that for many of us, Baking is a prescriptive activity.  You find a recipe that you like, maybe tweak it for high altitude adjustment, but then you follow the directions and let the science of chemistry and physics turn into delectable treats.  Gardening has similar attributes.  You pick plants that will work in our growing environment, arrange them according to their irrigation needs (what we call “hydrozoning”), and provide plant care including proper irrigation, proper plant nutrition to minimize stress, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques when problems appear.  Even our current Master Gardener textbook is entitled The Science of Gardening, and employs many of these concepts for those students.

I have to admit, I may be addicted to cooking shows.  I find it fun to see cooks sweat it out when presented with a basket of mystery ingredients and they need to create a meal from unusual ingredients.  They are judged on taste, creativity in how they use the basket ingredients, and cooking technique.  In other words, they are skilled in the art of cooking based on their understanding of the base ingredients and cooking techniques. 

Gardening definitely has an artistic component as well.  Landscape Architects utilize design concepts such as line, color, texture, form, unity, scale, balance, simplicity, variety, emphasis and sequence when creating themes for the outdoor “rooms” they create.  They create rooms by considering the plants that make up the floor, walls, and ceilings in the outdoor spaces based on a family’s desires for that space, and the potential of the site where the landscape will be located.  Plant selection and placement in the landscape is much more about its “fit” into the total picture, rather than the “pick and plunk” method that many of us employ.

Much like how the creative cook utilizes different spices and herbs to elicit different sensations on the palate, the artistic gardener utilizes plant materials and other garden elements to create different emotions for those who experience it.  Understanding the science behind how to grow appropriate plants successfully and keep them healthy is much like the baker who utilizes the science to create delicacies which compliment the gourmet meal. 

It is about time for lunch, so here ends the analogy between baking, cooking and gardening.  Happy Gardening, Cooking and Baking!

Thursday, February 8, 2018


By Sharon Faircloth, Master Gardener

We’re in the throws of another record, dry, winter.  The dry wind that brings those unseasonably warm days in the winter, cause substantial damage.  The seed catalogs are coming in the mail so spring MUST be just around the corner.  Hopefully, we’ll get feet of that lovely moisture-laden snow in March and April to help mitigate the stress created from so little precipitation (without the damage that can come along with that wet heavy snow)!

In the meantime, if you have no snow cover but do have water rights, consider watering trees, shrubs and susceptible plants.  Trees that are particularly susceptible are spruce, alders, mountain yews, maples, mountain ashes and conifers.  Watering can be done when temperatures can get to about 40 degrees by mid-day.  Ideally, you’d like to be able to get the water down about twelve inches and to give the enough time to soak in before temperatures drop.  Also, try to water to the drip line and beyond if possible.  If you’re on a well and watering outside is prohibited, you may want to contact a local arborist for a price to provide water, or look into getting a cistern.   Our trees are precious and water will protect that investment.

Some ways to mitigate dryness around all plantings is to use mulch.  Mulch can reduce moisture loss as much as 25-50%.  It also protects soil against temperature extremes and erosion.  Try applying 2-4 inches of heavier weight mulch away from the base out the drip line. 

Colorado native plants are an excellent choice for your landscape.  Natives are already acclimated to our environment, soil and local conditions.  They are unique and attract a wide variety of wildlife including bees, birds and butterflies.  They are also more pest and disease resistant than non-natives when planted in their optimum environment.  Natives typically require little maintenance and resources, once established. There is usually little need for fertilizing or soil amendment; just keep weeds away and then let the plants go to seed in the fall.  Clean out the dead stuff in the spring and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.  As always, you have to choose the right plant for the right place for the best chance for success.

There are a number of ways to incorporate natives into your landscape.  You won’t find natives at your local box store but there are local garden centers that source them and check out the Colorado Native Plant Society website for plant sales.   You can also start from seed.

Combining plants and seed will give you a bigger impact faster.  It’s very important to use the scientific names when choosing, as there are a number of similar varieties that are not native.  Also, if you’ve ever studied the Noxious Weed website, you may have seen plants that you like and wonder why they are being demonized.   One of the biggest problems with the “noxious weeds” are they are not native and have become invasive.  You will find many examples of very similar plants that are native for you to choose from.

As in life, we can’t control the elements but we can control how we react and deal with them.  We live in a magical environment where we have many, many challenges.  Try incorporating natives into your landscape for a unique, water-wise alternative.  If you’re looking for a new challenge, look into being a Native Plant Master! (

Native Plant Master program:

Thursday, February 1, 2018


By Cherie Luke

Sunflowers, an annual, are one of the easiest plants to grow. The botanical
name for sunflowers is Helianthus, helios meaning sun and anthus
meaning flower. They are part of the asteraceae family and are native to
North America. They have a habit of turning their heads to face the sun,
usually facing east when their flowers open.

Although gardeners in general love to grow the tallest and biggest
sunflowers, there are many varieties that are beautiful and fit nicely into
almost any garden setting. Sunflowers can be grown in colors besides
yellow and gold. You can find seeds at your local garden center in bronze,
purple, orange, and red, and in varying heights. At one seed catalog I
visited there were 42 sunflower choices.

Farmers in the U.S. started growing sunflowers commercially after WWII
because of their many uses. The commercial crop consists of two types of
seeds; confection and oilseeds. The confection seeds are used in baked
goods, trail mixes, granola, and cereal. Oilseeds produce a citron-yellow
oil pressed from the seeds which is low in saturated fat and high in
polyunsaturated fats. It’s an ingredient in magazines, soaps, cosmetics,
and is also marketed as wild bird food.

Plant seeds after all danger of frost is past and chose a site in full sun.
While the sunflower is not particularly fussy about soil type it does
appreciate a well drained, loose loam soil.
The easiest way to prepare sunflower seeds for snacking is by roasting
them whole. Begin by soaking unhulled seeds in water for 8 hours. Drain
the water, spread the seeds on a shallow baking sheet, and roast at 200
degrees Fahrenheit for 3 hours, stirring occasionally until crisp.
Be sure to include one of the many varieties of sunflowers in your garden
this year, you’ll be happy you did. Not only are they fun to grow, the birds,
bees, and other pollinators will love them.

You can find more information about sunflowers at Planttalk Colorado

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Post-Season Poinsettia Care

by Kurt M. Jones, Chaffee County Extension Director

            The holidays are behind us, but that doesn’t mean that you need to discard your poinsettias!  Poinsettias often lose their color in late winter, usually by mid-March.  When the plant has passed its stage of usefulness in March or April, remove the colorful bracts and part of the stem.  This cutting back can be done any time from March through mid-July, depending on the desirable size and shape of the plant.  Be sure to leave three or four leaves on each stem to insure sufficient photosynthesis.

           During the early summer, the plant will need to be repotted into the next larger size pot.  Use a well-drained potting soil, such as a blend of sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite and/or perlite.  Thoroughly mixing a phosphate fertilizer with the soil at the time of repotting is a common practice.

           Place the poinsettia in a bright area where the temperature will remain constant.  Water as needed to keep the soil moist to the touch, and fertilize with a complete fertilizer every two to three weeks.  During the summer, the plant can go outside provided it is partially shaded and temperatures don’t fall below 55 degrees F.   To keep the plant well-formed, trim tall growth at six-week intervals.  The last pruning should occur in late August. 
          Poinsettias are short-day photoperiodic plants.  This means that they set buds and produce flowers as the autumn nights lengthen, blooming naturally during November or December.  To flower and develop colored bracts, a poinsettia must receive as much sunshine as possible during the day.  Starting about October 1st, it also needs at least 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night at temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees F.  Stray light of any kind such as street lights, pool lights or lamps could delay or halt the reflowering process.  Keep this dark treatment until color shows in the bracts.  This normally happens near Thanksgiving, but could happen as early as two weeks before Thanksgiving.  Continue watering and fertilizing to encourage good growth.

           There are many pests that can infest poinsettias.  Insects should be washed off with a mild soap solution using a sponge or spray bottle.  Mealybugs and whiteflies may require a pesticide treatment or removal of infested plant parts.  Mealybugs can be treated using rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs.
         Cool, moist soil temperatures encourage root diseases.  If lower leaves start turning yellow and fall off, a root rot condition may be present.  This can be overcome by using a fungicide as a soil drench.
       One common misconception with poinsettias is the fear they are poisonous.  In a 1995 poll, 2 out of every 3 people held the false impression that poinsettia plants are toxic if eaten.  Research conducted at Ohio State University showed that rats fed unusually high doses of poinsettia plant parts were not adversely affected.  To equal this experiment, a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 500 poinsettia bracts.  Based on this research, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission denied a 1975 petition to label poinsettias as dangerous.  Poinsettias are not edible and are not intended to be eaten.  If eaten, parts of all plants may cause varying degrees of discomfort, but usually not death.  Keep all plants out of the reach of small children.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Aphids On My Honeysuckles!

Aphids On My Honeysuckles!

by Kristina Hughes, Clear Creek County Master Gardener

I’m writing this blog partly as a reminder to myself to attend to a problem I first noticed last growing season but whose best treatment is applied during the winter. Now would be a good time to deal with it.

I have several honeysuckle shrubs on my property. They are one of the few types of shrubs I can grow which don’t get savaged by the animals and don’t require extra water. I have been hugely pleased with them.

Photo by Kristina Hughes
This past summer, I noticed that the honeysuckle leaves looked odd: small, purplish and rolled length-wise, growing in tight little clusters as if the leaves had never fully expanded. From a distance the leaf clusters on the branches looked like they were covered in flecks of black and white dirt. When I looked more closely, I saw tiny white flecks and tiny green bugs, LOTS of them, all over both the outside and inside of the rolled up leaves.

I knew they were aphids because the tiny white flecks are discarded carcasses, like snake skins, which they shed as they grow bigger. And on the rear-ends of the living, green bugs there were little “tailpipes”, like two stubby tails.

Once I identified the bug as an aphid, I looked for information by googling ‘honeysuckle aphids’. The first part of the search doesn’t require explanation. The second part, “”, may be unfamiliar. It instructs Google to limit results to websites that end in “.edu”. I like to use this search-refining tool to get straight to the university-based information which forms the basis of the Master Gardener program.

W Cranshaw, CSU,
I immediately found web resources that described my problem exactly. The new growth on my honeysuckles had been attacked by a honeysuckle leaf-folding aphid, scientific name Hyadaphis tataricae. It’s also called honeysuckle witches’ broom aphid. Aphids are very common and usually don’t cause extensive damage to their host plant. They are a favorite food of many birds and predatory insects, which often keep the aphid populations at a reasonable level without human intervention. And if aphids get a little out of hand, they are easily knocked off the plant with a strong stream of water from a garden hose. Worst case scenario, one might choose to use an insecticidal soap which kills the aphids on contact. Aphids prefer sucking on new tender plant growth, so anything that stimulates new growth (such as cutting off the damaged areas) should be avoided. Pretty simple, right?

Unfortunately, I learned from a University of Wisconsin factsheet that the honeysuckle leaf-folding aphid has an adaptation which makes it more challenging to control. It sucks on the top side of emerging leaves and this causes the leaves to curl upward, thus enclosing the aphids and protecting them from the above-listed control measures. Predators can’t get to them easily because they are rolled up in their protective leaf. Strong sprays of water don’t easily dislodge them. Insecticidal sprays which kill on contact can’t reach the insects through the rolled up leaf. So these little aphids are especially tough to get rid of. Their saliva stunts the new growth of the infested plant and this can cause a decline in the vigor the plant. And several years of heavy infestation can kill the plant. I’m normally not very concerned when I find some aphids on my plants, because they are usually so easy to control, but these aphids seem to be different!

W Cranshaw, CSU,
Apparently, these aphids lay eggs which overwinter on the tips of the branches and in the curled up leaves. So, one strategy for control is to trim the branches to 6” below any obvious distorted growth during winter and remove any leaves. Horticultural oil is also recommended to control leaf-curling aphids. Horticultural oil is applied during the dormant season (winter) before bud break, but when the temperature is above 40F. These are the steps I am reminding myself to do soon.

Another strategy is to watch carefully for bud break in the spring and spray contact insecticides on the new growth before the aphids cause the leaves to curl up. So I’ll have to set another reminder for that step.

I am glad I noticed the problem and then found information that seems to match the issues, so I can take targeted, effective steps to solve it. I really value my honeysuckles, especially since I have limited choice of plants which can thrive on my property in spite of the animals and the never-dull climate here in the mountains. I think I have my work cut out for me!