Friday, March 01, 2013
Atrium Honeydew Sleuth
A closer look, however, revealed that a war was going on. The greenhouse sheltered not only plants through the Michigan winter, but also legions of spider mites, aphids, scale, white flies and mealybugs that had grown immune to an arsenal of pesticides. Each week, a mild mannered horticulturist would don a moon suit and fog the whole conservatory with a cocktail of chemicals. And each week, the insect pests shrugged it off and went back to sucking the plants' juices.
This being in the pre-internet era, it took weeks of phone calls and correspondence to gather information about parasitic wasps and ravenous ladybugs and lacewings that could take the place of toxic sprays. Meanwhile, the conservatory staff were using me as a sounding board for all their complaints about each other, convincing me that humans can be miserable even in a northern winter's version of tropical paradise.
This last visit, though, I noticed the characteristic blotching on an umbrella plant.
I asked the dentist's receptionist about who takes care of the plants. She gave the service a rave review, saying they'd never had a problem with pests. I broke her bubble reluctantly. There's some pleasure in remaining oblivious to these sorts of things, but at the same time it's more interesting to know that something dynamic is going on in what otherwise looks like a static planting. Otherwise, one has to settle for the magazines in the waiting room for diversion.
Hopefully, word will get to the plantcare people, some soapy water will be used to kill the aphids by dissolving their waxy coats, and the next chapter of that plant-filled atrium's story, to be read on the next visit, will be "problem caught early, problem solved."