Month: July 2020

Growing carrots: expert advice

Growing carrots: expert advice

As probably the most popular root vegetables of all, carrots are a must-have for every garden. You can find helpful advice on planting and cultivating carrots here. Growing carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) in your garden has one advantage in particular: the tasty roots can…

The best berries to grow in the garden

The best berries to grow in the garden

Here is a list of the best types of raspberries, blackberries, currants, blueberries, gooseberries, cranberries and lingonberries to grow in the garden. For many gardeners, berry bushes are their favourite plants to grow. Even though raspberries and blackberries sometimes take up a lot of space,…

Types of celery: leaf celery, stalk celery & celeriac

Types of celery: leaf celery, stalk celery & celeriac

Celery has an unforgettable aroma. These are the differences between the tuber-forming celeriac, stalk celery and leaf celery.

Celery (Apium graveolens) belongs to the family of the umbellifers (Apiaceae) and is probably the best known representative of the celery genus (Apium). This plant genus includes thirty different species. One of the species is celery, which has several distinct varieties each with a specific name: celeriac, stalk celery and leaf celery.

Celeriac (Apium graveolens var. rapaceum)

Celeriac, also referred to as turnip rooter celery or knob celery, forms a tuber. This is a storage organ, which is formed partly from the root and partly from the shoot. The tuber is sensitive to cold and must therefore be harvested before the first frosts in autumn. It can be used raw or cooked. By freezing or conserving celeriac, it can be preserved and used for longer.

Stalk celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce)

This celery variety is known as stalk celery. It only forms a small tuber, but its leaf stems are stronger and thicker. It has a less pungent aroma and is therefore perfectly suited for salads and other vegetable based dishes. If, for example, the stalks are wrapped in newspaper from mid-September and thus protected from light, they fade. The so-called blanched celery, which is known for its refined and sweeter taste, is the result. Since celery can cope well with cold, it can be harvested fresh throughout milder winters.

Leaf celery (Apium graveolens var. secalinum)

And last but definitely not least: the leaf celery. As the name suggests, this type of celery is enhanced with foliage similar to that of parsley. Leaf celery can be also used in a similar way as parsley to spice up salads and other dishes. One of the most prominent advantages of leaf celery is that it can be dried and used as a dry spice without losing its strong aroma.

Celery offers an impressive number of varieties and definitely deserves a place in every garden.

The difference between spring onion, onion & leek

The difference between spring onion, onion & leek

Learn how to distinguish the spring onion from the leek and the “normal” onion. The different characteristics are explained here. The large genus of Allium encompasses numerous species of plants. Once several dozens of synonyms for one plant are included, it can all become a…

Growing sweet potatoes: care, varieties & harvesting

Growing sweet potatoes: care, varieties & harvesting

How to grow sweet potatoes at home? Here are the best varieties of the sweet potato and tips on planting, care, fertilising and harvesting. Already in the 16th century, the sweet potato (Ipomea batata) conquered the European market, even before the omnipresent regular potato. However,…

How to get rid of the box tree moth?

How to get rid of the box tree moth?

The box tree moth is feared by many gardeners and box tree lovers. All the methods of eliminating the box tree moth are explained here.

The box tree moth (Cydalima perspectalis) is an insatiable pest. In a case of a heavy infestation a young or a small box tree (Buxus) can be completely defoliated in a matter of days. Although the robust bushes often survive the moth plague – their appearance suffers after the caterpillars’ feast. Unfortunately, repeated and prolonged infestation can even lead to the death of the plant. We will introduce you to the various methods which effectively combat the harmful box caterpillar and will inform you about the advantages and disadvantages.

Box tree moth treatment

At what time and with what chemical spray, household remedy or natural product can the box tree moth be eradicated? In the following, you will find a variety of methods as well as information on their effectiveness and references to our special comprehensive articles. This is an overview of the various control methods:

Means of treatmentReliableImmediate halt in feeding Gentle to beesGentle to beneficial animalsNaturalEasy to use/practical
Pheromone trapsNoNoYesYesYesYes
Conventional pesticidesYesYesYesNoNoNo
Neem productsYesYesYesNoYesNo
Homemade remediesLessNoYesYesYesDepends

Box tree moth treatment: when is the right time

When to use sprays against the box tree moth and how about the other measures of treatment? This depends on the stages of the development of the pest. Young box caterpillars are protected from the agents in sprays because they live in the webs inside the shrubs. The pupae in cocoons are also well sheltered. However, eggs and freshly hatched larvae can be removed from the bush by pruning, and the older caterpillars, that live on the outside of the box tree, can be treated with sprays or simply rinsed away with water from the gardening hose. In order to fully understand when and which measure has an effect, you must get to know your enemy: eggs, caterpillars and moths occur in a very specific order and in 2 to 3 generations a year. This article describes the biology of the box tree moth and explains when and what method to use.

Tip: The use of pheromone traps is an effective tool to follow the development of the box tree moth in your own garden. Pheromone traps allow you to act directly and can give you a heads up before the larvae hatch. The traps emit sexual pheromones, which attract the males of the box tree moth. Based on the activity of the moth, it can be established when exactly the eggs are laid and predicted when the caterpillars will occur.

Treating box tree moths chemically

If you want to control the box tree moth with insecticides, there are various products and active ingredients available, which are summarized in the table below. However, these insecticides can also have harmful effects, which is also indicated in the table under this paragraph. Please note that products that are marketed as ‘non-hazardous to bees’ often have an enormously harmful effect on other no less important or useful organisms. For this reason, we strongly advise against using any of the active ingredients listed below in your garden. If you would like to find out more about the properties of spray agents, you can do so in a list of authorities approved plant protection products.

Active ingredientEffectNotes
AzadirachtinContact poison, inhibits feeding, larval development and reproduction, causes deathHarmful to various insects, arachnids and aquatic organisms
ThiaclopridSystemic and contact poison, causes paralysis and deathIn undiluted form harmful to humans, harmful to various insects, arachnids and aquatic organisms
AcetamipridSystemic and contact poison, causes paralysis and deathSlightly harmful to various insects, arachnids and aquatic organisms
Pyrethrin, rapseed oilContact poison, anaesthesia and deathHarmful to various insects, arachnids and water organisms

Note: The active ingredient azadirachtin is obtained from the seeds of the neem tree. Neem products are frequently used in organic farming and are considered ‘organic’. However, the isolated active ingredient is equally harmful to many non-target organisms just as conventional insecticides. Homemade brews made from natural neem oil, on the other hand, are often less concentrated and also contain substances that have a deterring effect on all insects which can prevent contact with the harmful azadirachtin.

Treating box tree moths naturally

We recommend to combat the box tree moth naturally. The use of low doses of neem oil is a possible option. The spray liquid must be applied regularly and also acts as an effective deterrent due to the ingredients Salannin and Meliantriol. It simply keeps the moth at a distance because of the unpleasant smell. Next, the use of beneficial insects is also a possible solution: nematodes of the species Steinernema carpocapsae parasitize and kill the box caterpillars. However, in order for the nematodes to reach the caterpillars at all, a very special formula of the spray liquid is necessary, containing bonding and swelling agents. Promoting and supporting beneficial organisms is the best and most nature friendly option. Native garden birds and wasps feed on the moth and caterpillars and help inhibit the spread of the pest.

Authorities and experts recommend the use of highly specific Bt preparations. They contain a special strain of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which exclusively impact the harmful box tree moth caterpillars. The bacterium has to be absorbed by the caterpillar through feeding, a toxin is released in their intestine, which causes the insects to stop feeding and subsequently die. Caterpillars that do not feed on the box tree are not attacked by the bacterium – admirals, swallowtails and other moths and butterflies are therefore safe.

This article provides a comprehensive guide to the possibilities of natural control.

Treating box tree moth with household remedies

The box tree moth can be kept in check to a certain extent with some easy and homemade tips and tricks. If the infestation is small, it is still worth collecting the caterpillars by hand and cutting out the webs manually. If you observe the flight of the nocturnal moths – and thus the mating – by means of pheromone traps and use the hedge trimmer two weeks later at the latest, you can remove the eggs and freshly hatched larvae that have been laid on the outside of the bush. Covering the entire box tree using a net can curb the egg deposition right from the start. The nets of course obstruct the view of the beautiful shrub, though. If you want to reduce a heavy infestation quickly, you can also use the gardening hose and wash away the box caterpillars out of the buxus branches. Or you can cover up individual box trees in black plastic bags and let the sun heat up the shrub to eliminate the caterpillars.

cydalima perspectalis
The voracious caterpillars can be treated with household remedies [Shutterstock.com/ Zerbor]

We would advise against the use of baking powder and algae lime, because these agents are ineffective or even harmful for your box tree. Last but not least, supporting birds and wasps in the garden is a great preventive measure against the box tree moth. These species feed on the moths (possibly even the box caterpillars) and thus reduce the pest population. You can find detailed information about these household remedies in this article. Please note that household remedies often require more time and effort and can be less successful than some specially developed remedies.

Tip: The caterpillars of the box tree moth contain many toxins, which they absorb from the equally poisonous boxwood. Just as it is possible for most people to touch the box tree, skin contact with the box tree moth is not dangerous. However, please do not eat either the moths and caterpillars or the box tree. Here you will find further information on the poisonousness of the box tree moth.

Geranium care: maintenance & diseases

Geranium care: maintenance & diseases

The flowers of geraniums are stunning. Here is our guide to geranium care from the right way to prune, water, fertilise and avoid diseases. Pelargonium (also known as geranium) belongs to the family Geraniaceae. Most of the approximately 250 wild species are native to South…

The 10 most fragrant flowers for your balcony & garden

The 10 most fragrant flowers for your balcony & garden

Are you fed up with dull plants without a scent? These 10 plants have the best fragrance that will not disappoint even the finest of noses! Just thinking of nature and flowers is generally sure to evoke the scent of a meadow. But what would…

10 shrubs & trees with the best autumn colours

10 shrubs & trees with the best autumn colours

Colourful leaves are synonymous to autumn. Here you can find out which shrubs and trees develop the most vibrant foliage in autumn.

For many people autumn is their favourite season. Above all else, the brightly hued leaves have always fascinated both young and old. The parks, gardens and forests ditch their typical green and please the senses with the vast array of colours. However, not every plant bears a vivid yellow, orange or red coat in autumn. These ten plants have the best colours at this time of year and flaunt the most intensely coloured foliage, so that you can enjoy this season in its full splendour.

Plants with the best autumn foliage

If you want to transform your garden into an autumnal paradise, some of the following shrubs and trees should definitely be integrated into your garden. 

10. Ginkgo

The ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) is widely cherished in its native China. One of the best qualities of the gingko is its spectacular autumnal wardrobe. It is hard to overlook this gorgeous tree even from afar for it almost glows with its golden yellow foliage. Fortunately, you do not have to travel to Asia anymore to admire this tree. The gingko tree now grows worldwide and enjoys popularity even in Europe. Particularly in sunny locations this tree grows like a charm. However, before you make up your mind to invest into this tree, consider that the gingko grows up to 40 metres tall and develops a large crown of branches. This can obviously lead to serious issues if enough space is not provided. Additionally, female ginkgo trees develop fruits in September that are notorious for their unpleasant odour. For this reason, many gardeners take care to buy male versions of the ginkgo tree.

9. Barberry

Barberries (Berberis) have been growing in popularity amongst gardening enthusiasts in recent years. These plants owe their popularity predominantly to the fact that they are extremely easy to care for. As a rule, the barberry does not need to be watered or fertilised after being planted – it is completely self-dependant. Moreover, there are many varieties of the barberry to choose from. The barberries are evergreen and will keep your garden private even once all the other plants have lost their foliage. Yet, there is more to this plant than its evergreen leaves: the gorgeous blossoms of the barberry also make the barberry the centre of attention. What is more, the barberry also bears small, red fruits with a complex flavour. The fruit are slightly sour and make a delicious addition to autumnal dishes. The numerous varieties of the barberry with their vibrant colours will also spice up your garden in autumn. The Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), for example, becomes bright orange to deep red once autumn strikes, while the foliage of the Berberis thunbergii ‘Aurea’ shines in a beautiful golden yellow. So, if you would like to include a plant with a brighter colouring instead of a simple green hedge into your garden, you will not be disappointed with the barberry.

8. Witch hazel

Witch hazel (Hamamelis) is a plant that has been long intertwined with human history. It has been used by the indigenous peoples of the American continent as a medicinal plant to treat skin inflammation, amongst other ailments. Although we cannot vouch for the healing properties of witch hazel, we cannot deny the magical beauty of this shrub. The witch hazel is certainly one of the most beautiful flowering shrubs of all. When the witch hazel wears its seasonal veil in autumn and winter, it stands out a mile. While all the other plants are in deep winter slumber, the witch hazel suddenly sprouts thread-like, bright yellow to carmine red petals. A truly breath-taking sight particularly on a snowy day.

7. Staghorn sumac 

The staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) bears unusual sour berries that are reminiscent of vinegar in their taste. As a matter of fact, both in French and German the staghorn sumac is commonly referred to as “vinegar tree”. In Germany, the berries have also fallen into disrepute and have long been considered poisonous. The truth could not be further from this widespread belief, the sumac berries are, in fact, very healthy and tasty. The staghorn sumac is native to the North America, where its fruits have long been used for the production of the famous “Indian Lemonade”, which is a true vitamin C bomb of a drink. When the berries remain on the otherwise bare branches of the tree in winter, the vibrant red fruit look fabulous as they stand out against the pristine white snow. The autumnal colour of the staghorn sumac is just as brilliant as that of its berries in winter, which is one of the reasons why this tree is gaining popularity as an ornamental plant. During autumn, its leaves turn orange to bright red. Especially in combination with evergreen hedges or dark purple asters, the staghorn sumac displays its full splendour.

6. Japanese maple

The Japanese maple is an autumn classic. With its delicately shaped leaves, which turn yellow-orange to brick red in October, it also looks simply wonderful. In addition, its picturesque growth with the short trunk and the sweeping crown reinforces its impressive effect. As a rule, three species are grouped under the name Japanese Maple: the red emperor maple (Acer palmatum), the Amur maple (Acer japonicum) and the golden maple (Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’). The golden maple has a particularly bright and intense yellow colour in autumn, which is beautiful to look at. In autumn, the red emperor maple turns into a dancing sea of flames and, with a height of up to seven metres, is considerably larger than the golden or Amur maple. The Japanese maples grow leaves in a wide variety of shapes and colours. With almost 400 different varieties, into which the three species of the Japanese maple are divided, almost every gardener will find a perfect fit for their garden.

5. Chuckley pear 

The chuckley pear (Amelanchier), also referred to as serviceberry or sarvisberry (among other nicknames), is a great tree for the home garden regardless of the season. In spring, the tree blooms in gorgeous star-shaped flowers and, in autumn, the leaves of the chuckley pear develop an incredible colouring. There are almost 25 varieties of the chuckley pear and they are all easy to care for. Their colours vary from copper red to bronze and especially the North American species are outstanding in their autumnal hues. The fruits of the chuckley pear are also not to be overlooked, although many gardeners do not realize that they are edible. The small blue fruits share a lot of similarities with blueberries. The fruit of the chuckley pear are just as healthy and tasty as their shrubby counterparts. In some countries, particularly in Germany, the fruits were used for a long time as a substitute for currants, which is why the chuckley pear is often still called “currant tree” in the German vernacular.

4. Parthenocissus 

It is not just trees and shrubs that can glow in the bright autumnal shades. How about a fence or a garden wall? For Parthenocissus, this is no problem at all. The undemanding climbing plant is not only wonderfully easy to care for, it also grows quickly and hides bare facades under its green leaves. In autumn, instead of being bright green (the colour the plant usually sports in spring), the leaves turn deep red. Incidentally, the leaves change colour particularly intensively when the plant is exposed to a lot of sunlight. Another reason to grow the Parthenocissus is the fact that, while draping the garden wall or a fence, it will act as a natural air conditioning system, which will provide a pleasant oasis of cool in summer.

3. Chokeberry 

Bright red leaves and deep black berries – in autumn, the chokeberry (Aronia) is truly phenomenal. The beauty of the chokeberry is not restricted to autumn, though. In spring, it blooms in stunning white flowers, which is why many choose to cultivate it as an ornamental plant. Furthermore, the fruits of the chokeberry, sometimes called aronia berries, are not to be left unnoticed either. Depending on the variety of the chokeberry, the small fruit range in colours from maroon red to deep purple. The berries of this plant are edible, beneficial for health and full of flavour. They are rich in vitamin C, folic acid and antioxidants. The berries can be utilized in various ways. They are typically used to make jam, juice and liquor. Although the berries are delicious fresh, they should be consumed with caution because of their laxative effects. One of the best ways to enjoy these fruits is dried. With all this being said, it is perhaps important to mention that they are quite sour to taste, which is why they might not be for everybody. But in any case, the chokeberry is worth growing even simply for its ravishing autumnal colours.

aronia berries
With its gorgeous black berries and stunning red leaves the chokeberry is a double win [Shutterstock.com/ Alalal]

2. Bodinier’s beautyberry 

It is not the leaves but the berries that give this plant its charm. The Bodinier’s beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri) certainly deserves its name. The stunning purple berries of this plant can’t be confused with any other in the plant kingdom. The small fruits have a pearl shine to them, which makes them stand out even more. The berries appear strictly in autumn, so the bush is rather inconspicuous the rest of the year. The beautiful berries linger on the plant until December and make the bush look as if it was embellished with a Christmas garland. However, do not let the at a first glance appealing berries deceive you. Despite their appetizing appearance, they are poisonous to humans. Other than that, the bush is perfect and requires little to no maintenance whatsoever. This makes the Bodinier’s beauty amazing for beginner gardeners.

1. Star gum tree 

The star gum tree (Liquidambar) will brighten up your garden with intense red fireworks of leaves. This unique tree comes from North America, where it is commonly called sweetgum, and has leaves similar to those of a maple. On its native continent it is grown mainly for its delightful scent, whereas in Europe it is a popular ornamental tree. One look at the plant and it is clear why it is so beloved. When it comes to autumnal colours, the star gum tree is an easy winner. It comes in shades ranging from deep violet to mustard yellow to blood red. Additionally, it is not uncommon for the tree to appear in a gradient display of colours, which makes it a truly one of a kind plant. A single leaf can have several tones of colour, too. All this makes the star gum tree a definite feast for the eyes. It is appealing to other senses, too. If you rub the colourful leaves between your fingers, they release a pleasant fragrance.

Top 10 strangest fruits in the world

Top 10 strangest fruits in the world

Are you fed up with the ordinary bananas and oranges? These rare fruits will definitely inspire you to try something new! The diversity that nature has to offer is simply astonishing. Especially in the world of plants, Mother Earth did not hold her creativity back,…