Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Life Saving Lessons

This weekend I learned a lesson or two in life saving, fortunately not of the human kind.

No, my life saving lesson concerns my olive trees. Thankfully not as important as any family member, human or animal, but nonetheless, worth saving. Or at least trying to save which is where I'm at for the moment.

You see, I have 2 potted olive trees and have had them for a couple of years. One longer than the other, but still, both have become small members of my family. While one of the trees seems to be quite happy overall, the other has had a bit of a hard life. It seemed to be doing well when I brought it home from the nursery as do the majority of my plants, but then things took a wrong turn.

I think the biggest turning point came though when we moved in mid-winter from the UK to France. We arrived at our new home in subfreezing temperatures and I think this olive tree has never forgiven me for that, despite all my efforts.

I share this photo with you only in the faith that you will not judge me by my tree.

My tree lost quite a few branches in the cold and I had little choice but to trim it back in the hopes that it would flourish again. I thought I had done a decent job given what I had to work with, though I will admit that it rather looks like a bad haircut. Lately, however, it's been looking even worse. Hard to believe, I know.

On top of the rather gloomy looks of the tree, we've also had this terrible sappy substance all over the floor where I kept the trees for the winter (along with the lemon tree and rosemary). I just shrugged it off as the lemon tree giving off sap as citrus fruits can be sticky, can't they?

Then I noticed these tiny black lumps on the stem and branches. To be honest, I noticed them a bit a go, though I won't admit to how long ago that was exactly, but I just shrugged those off as well. You may at this point be beginning to understand why it's best that I chose against having a career in landscape architecture. As much as I do love plants, I don't seem to be the best mother for them.

Yesterday something suddenly clicked. I think I was actually looking up information on my rose bush and just got distracted, though I'm not sure. Whatever the means, I ended up looking into the funny little black lumps on my olive trees and was I in for an eye-opener.

Those little black lumps are not a natural part of the bark nor are the miniature olives in the making. No, those little black lumps are insects! Insects with no legs no less. Okay, maybe not NO legs, but "reduced" legs. They are very deviously disguised if you ask me. Who's ever heard of an insect with no legs! But there's more. It turns out that these little insects known as scale secrete a sticky substance suspiciously like the substance covering my floor and trees. It was all coming together now.

My tree is infested with scale. YUCK. What I find slightly paradoxical is that from what I've read, this type of infestation occurs in groves of trees that are very dense. Now as you can see from the photo of my poor suffering tree, dense is perhaps not a word one would choose to describe it. I'm perplexed. But standing around scratching my head isn't going to get rid of these little parasites.

So I spent yesterday scraping legless insects off my trees and today washing the tree, leaf by leaf by leaf. And I'm far from finished. It's going to get the royal treatment for a while (as well as my other little trees) with a lovely hand-wash, new pot and soil, and apparently a nanny to watch out for any more scale that may erupt.

With a little luck, it may just perk up again. Maybe.


Duni said...

I'm sure with your tender loving care your olive tree will grow back eventually. Hope you get some sun!

Cupcake said...

And this is why I don't do house plants - well that and the fact that my cat keeps trying to eat them.

myminimocs said...

bummer - keep a close watch you don't want that to spread! sounds like you've got a recovery plan well under way!!!

SoBella Creations said...

I hope your trees bounce back!

Lin said...

Scale infestation is extremely hard to overcome, I hate to say. You have to keep fighting it, washing, spraying, and still--they return. I hope you have better luck than I did with fighting those little buggars. In the end, you may just have to toss the plant--it is exhausting and expensive to keep fighting them.

Star of the East said...

I love your stories like these :) Hope you can safe your Olive tree, at least you are doing your best!