A large and healthy Rosmarinus officinalis has been blooming against the allotment shed for the last six weeks and looks in perfect health but it was not so two years ago.
Unsightly brown damage on the tips of the leaves which were nibbled and blunted had left the shrub in a poorly state. The cause was Chrysolina americana the rosemary leaf beetle which arrived in the UK twenty years ago from southern Europe and is found mainly in the south of England. The adult beetles are easy to spot being 1cm long with distinctive metallic green and purple stripes down their wing cases. The larvae are small slug-like grubs very visible and found on the underside of the leaves and both feed on new growth and sometimes on the flowers.
From August to April is the peak of their activity scuppering the joy of lovely new leaves and flowers in early Spring. My method of elimination worked by hand picking the beetles off for several months before digging the plant up in Autumn and shaking it over a dark towel to loosen the larvae. I hosed it over before re-planting on the allotment where it seems to be in perfect health. Sage and thyme are prone to attack by the same bug but these show no signs of damage this year.
A sensible allotment neighbour left her ruby chard over Winter -this was it a week ago-and has been cropping it non-stop. I wish I’d done the same it’s definitely the hungry gap season for me with nothing other than rhubarb, Spring cabbages and sparse asparagus for the next month.
This lovely aquilegia is in bloom at the moment but I don’t remember buying it so can’t name it. I’m delighted to have it and it’s most likely A. fragrans since it has a very delicate scent of roses.