The late Spring/early summer period is the time to check ornamental (flowering) and fruit trees for pests.

Ridding your plants of pests can be done naturally without commercial chemical sprays. However, either way, trees and shrubs will need periodic checking and reapplication through July.

Leaving pests unattended encourages their proliferation and can potentially damage the tree.

Camellia

I spent an hour yesterday removing scale, aphids and ants from several leaves on our camellia.

Both were present on certain branches on the tree: parts nearer the base, some in the middle and a bit on top.

New leaves provide a soft, sheltered place for aphids to breed. Scale appears near new growth, often in the join between leaf and branch. Gardening Know How has good photos of both aphids and scale, although my aphids are blackfly, which look like tiny bugs.

On a camellia, they produce what is called sooty mould. They excrete honeydew onto the leaves, too much of which can reduce photosynthesis. The honeydew attracts ants. The ants protect the aphids because they want more honeydew. It is important to brush off the ants when getting rid of blackfly.

A chemical solution is Roseclear Ultra, which I tried a couple of weeks ago on a lower portion of the tree. Whilst that worked to a certain extent, I later found an explosion of blackfly on other branches.

Not having anything else to hand, I decided to use dry kitchen — paper — towels instead. We’ll see how this works out. I gently wiped the sooty mould off the top of the leaves and then did the same to the underside to get rid of the blackfly. I also used paper towel to get the scale. Keep crushing the paper towel as you fold it over and go for another affected area. This took about an hour, involved perhaps two dozen leaves and several sheets of kitchen towel.

The blackfly like to breed in the newest leaves before they open, so checking the insides of the leaves soon to open is important. If you see an ant, blackfly is sure to be nearby.

I have seen neem oil mentioned, however, the gardening product is quite expensive.

Cherry tree

In another area of the garden, we have a dwarf cherry tree. After three seasons, we are finally getting fruit!

This tree has spots of infestation from cherry aphids, also black, in colonies on the underside of the leaves. They, too, excrete a sticky substance which ants love.

I used dry paper towel again to wipe off as many of these as I could, as well as two or three tiny green and white caterpillars.

I followed this with soapy water, again applied to both sides of the leaf with paper towel. A wash of tobacco soaked in water would also work, although I did not want to get nicotine stains on my clothes.

Gardening Know How has this simple soap recipe. Although it is for scale, it will no doubt work for aphids, too:

You can use bleach-free dishwashing liquid (1  1/2 teaspoons per quart of water) in place of commercial insecticide soaps.

However, this will not work for the following:

Do not spray on hairy or waxy-leaved plants.

A gentle soap will do the trick. Anything stronger, such as household cleaners, may harm the leaves or kill the plant.

When in doubt, try on an inconspicuous area of the plant first.

Additional advice

Wear an old long-sleeved shirt or smock. Put it in the wash when you finish to avoid bringing ants and aphids into the rest of the house.

Put used kitchen towels into a plastic bag and throw everything into the outdoor waste bin afterward for the same reason.

Keep checking and reapplying any treatment every one to two weeks in early summer.

One can encourage insects such as ladybirds, but ours have always been in short supply. I did see one on the cherry tree last week, but she probably had her fill in a short space of time.

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