Wednesday, January 9, 2008

My Most Efficient Insect Eliminator

One of my favorite times of the day is around 7am when I go out to pick up the newspaper and kill aphids. To spot these villains requires careful scrutiny at point-blank range, since aphids are tiny and often the same color as the plant. Crushing them between thumb and index finger is easy, fast, and requires no tools or poison. In the pink light of sunrise, the act of closely inspecting buds for aphids and then rending the bugs into chorophyll paste can bestow upon the gardener the calm of meditative practice. Especially if you're still in your pajamas.

More than thirty years ago I bought my first horticulture book, Southwest Gardening, a 1953 classic by Rosalie Doolittle and Harriett Tiedebohl. Their names alone conjure up a lost world of flowered chintz, secateurs, and Rose Society luncheons. You can often find this book at Half-Price Books and it endures as a winsome time capsule of now-out-of-fashion garden sensibilities (basically the authors were trying to reproduce Eastern U.S. gardens in New Mexico).

Nevertheless Rosalie provides much practical advice about many horticultural techniques I still use today. Her skilled line drawings, which include both the merely decorative as well as instructional diagrams, are wonderful--the one pictured here cannot do justice her prolific artistry. Despite using more water than we would today, Rosalie accomplished much working on caliche and in arid windy conditions. I never squish aphids without thinking of Ms. Doolittle's specification of "the most efficient insect eliminator."

2 comments:

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

Excellent! I find the implement pictured also very useful for squishing grubs.

I love those old gardening books. I've collected them over the years from Half Price as well.

Annie in Austin said...

Nice picture, Kiwi! Fingers work great for some insects, but I like my green scissors for caterpillars.

I like old books too - I have one called Gardening in San Antonio from the 1950's- and found it interesting that they were already recommending plants like Esperanza and Barbados Cherry back then.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose