I've come to realise that the main reason why I'm feeling rather morose about my garden at the moment is the state of my Fuchsias. They've always been one of my late summer mainstays but this year they're looking far from their best. The reasons for this are twofold: our cold winter and a rather pesky bug.
Although I only grow hardy Fuchsias, the winter cold has laid them to waste somewhat. I've said goodbye to all the ones I had in pots plus F. 'Mrs Popple'. Others like F. 'Lady Boothby' and F. 'Garden News' are still at the rather pathetic shoot stage. Only F. 'Hawkshead' and the F. magellanica cultivars are really strutting their stuff so far.
Then there's the state of the pictured F. 'Genii'. As you can see it's looking rather blistered and bruised. It's the same at Threadspider's and we initially thought it was a virus. However, when I came to photograph my plant for this blog, I noticed lots of tiny holes close to where the worst of the blistering was. This made me reach for my RHS Pests & Diseases - a great book to have in your library because the guide is mainly picture based and you can start at the level of 'Leaf Problems' and work your way towards finding the cause in a matter of minutes. Sure enough on page 29 my culprit was laid bare: capsid bugs aka Lygocoris pabulinus.
Bugs are a sucking insect and their mouthparts are modified into a feeding tube. They can be a transmitter of viruses, but in the case of capsid bugs their saliva is toxic to the plant. This leads to the formation of tiny holes in the leaves where their feeding took place, plus the blistering of the plant material around them. Flowers can also be damaged or not form at all. The main months for damage are May and June, though there can be two lifecycles completed over a full growing season.
Organic control is to inspect plant shoots and to remove any of the critters by hand. This can be a little tricky because I've found they tend to fall onto the soil at any sign of plant disturbance. This link shows you a photograph of what to look for (towards the bottom of the page) alongside some of the other bugs which may be mistaken for it. They can be brown or green: this link shows you a picture of a green one.
It's not just Fuchsias that are attacked. My friend L emailed last week to ask what was putting the loads of tiny holes in her Hydrangea and Caryopteris leaves. Sure enough when I asked her whether the foliage was also blistered, she confirmed it was. The RHS says they can also attack Chrysanthemum, Clematis, Dahlia, Forsythia, Magnolia, Phygelius, roses and Salvia - eek! They like fruit and vegetables too, particularly apples, bush fruit, potatoes and beans.
However, it's not all doom and gloom. I've spent the past week or so resigned to having no blooming Fuchsia in my single terrace bed this summer and I've even contemplated removing it altogether. Tonight I'm glad I've stayed my executionary hand: I've just been for my usual evening stroll around the garden and there are definitely shoots of recovery to be seen. I'm now going to cut back all the damage to see if that encourages further healthy growth and some flowers at last :)