Sunday, 9 May 2010

Saving the orchids

I keep a small family of orchids on the window ledge in my kitchen. One yellow (the exotic snob who sits at the end of the line and faces away from the others), 2 tall fuchsias (exactly the same height, twins), and two pale pinks (the smaller one is my favourite, and was a gift given almost five years ago). For the last month, they have been under attack from a persistent army of gross pests called mealy bugs. I found them one day and had to scope out some serious gardening forums to find out what they were.

These creepy parasites look like small smears of cotton wool, and when you loom over and zoom in - white, hairy wood louse with stinger-like tails. Each Sunday, I fill a small bowl with warm water and washing up liquid and use a mountain of cotton buds to swab these little fuckers off, some kind of strange, night-time plant surgeon in my yellow marigolds. They like to hide between the petals, which makes for fiddly procedures, and frequently laze out snug little homes in the openings of new buds and stems. Ants pass them from plant to plant like a miniature animal tram. They are attracted to the mealy bug's secretion, which is their version of golden syrup but looks to me like the sticky trail of a foul snail impersonator.

It's a slow process. But I think we're winning.

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