14 May 2015

Saving Private Iris

Iris Eruption

Who knew slugs could take up residence in the very same area surrounded by forest wildfires just two years ago?

We enjoyed a gorgeous, non-characteristic eight-day rainstorm that brought out creepy crawlies. Snails without shells. I had to look them up to find out how they got here, if they are good or bad, and what to do about it if hundreds of them are crawling up the irises.

Yes, slugs do in fact occur in Colorado when the weather's just right. They can do quite a bit of damage. I could see part of that damage on my iris leaves. I was not a happy camper.

The best way to get rid of them, I learned, is reduce humidity and raise the temperature.

Okay, let's see, where's that arid desert climate button? Or perhaps I should drive my car more than I ride my bike and trigger some of that global warming? Ha ha ha ha!

I like this Seattle-like weather, and I hope it sticks around for a while because my garden knows the difference between rain and tap water, and my flowers prefer rainwater. However, I don't want the ugly little beasties to multiply and replenish my garden for the next tropical storm.

feeling sluggish

Second best way to get rid of slugs, I read, is caffeine.

We'd just dropped a Mountain Dew-addicted friend off at the airport. We'd stocked the fridge for her and still had a few sodas. We don't drink soda. Particularly Mountain Dew. We had a hilarious name for the nasty yellow stuff when I was in high school... I wasted no time pouring Rocky Mountain Pee Water on the irises.

The Colorado State University Extension office was right. The slugs died on contact with the Sugary Camel Pee. More rain came a bit later in the day and hopefully washed away or watered down the pop so the flowers didn't have to drink it.

I've since learned salt does the trick, too. A few of my co-workers told tales of putting out a bit of beer in recycled lids; the slugs are attracted to the beer, crawl in and drown. A few of my co-workers like the Mountain Dew idea better because they don't like wasting "good beer."

munchkin monster

While checking around for more sign of slugs, I discovered the true columbine-chewing culprit(s).


I'd thought the neighborhood deer had devoured nearly all my tender columbine shoots before taking a siesta on top of my hyacinths and squishing my salvia sprouts flat just a few weeks earlier. I was very happy my mostly deer-resistant and bunny-resistant garden seemed to indeed not appeal to the mule deer appetite. But I was pretty annoyed with these fellows for nearly killing my columbine.

The Lizard had been washing mud off the mountain bikes in the driveway, just a few yards from the snoozy bucks. After I pointed my finger and accused the grungy-looking (because they are shedding their winter coats and even a bit of antlers) criminals, The Lizard squirted the deer with the hose in an attempt to gently show them they are not welcome in this diner, er, um, yard.

They glared at him and then rolled their eyes. They did not budge. We clapped our hands. We made loud noises. We tried to shoo them.

They truly do think our property is their flat and our backyard is their dining table.

stripped bare

Now, taking a closer look at the newly re-gobbled columbine, I realized the deer were innocent. I had unknowingly falsely accused them. The new columbine leaves, or what was left of them, were covered with tiny green caterpillars. Inchworms. More creepy crawlies. They were having a feast. Perhaps even a family reunion. More than 20 of them on one small plant with one small bloom about to open.


Once again, I did some quick research to find out what to do about "tiny green caterpillars" and found an organic chemical-free recipe for caterpillar reduction that would not be harmful to pets, children, birds or other wildlife. The best remedy, of course, is a long list of hungry dinner guests: birds, spiders, ground beetles, etc. Too early in the season for praying mantises.

Water, Sriracha powder, olive oil and peppermint essential oil were quickly combined and generously sprayed all around the columbine. One by one, the tiny green caterpillars in a variety of sizes, which would have one day grown and transformed into brown moths, fell to the ground.


Now that my drought-tolerant garden roots are hardy, I don't have to water at 4:30 a.m. before pedaling off to work on days I ride. But on rainy or misty days, I do have to inspect the irises with a flashlight or headlamp before I pedal away.

I guess living in the country like we do, I should expect a variety of garden terrorists. It seems to always be something.

There are times when it's tempting to throw in the towel. And then the flowers begin blooming. Then all the time I must spend weeding and controlling creepy crawlies proves priceless. A beautiful garden is a heavenly thing.



open, open, open...


  1. haha poor deer, getting the blame. Funny how they just rolled their eyes at you though. "Stupid humans" haha blah to the slugs, nasty little buggers. Let them drown in beer.

    1. The weather certainly is providing an idea climate for them, Pat...

  2. Good pics! The last several months have reminded me of living in western Oregon. Especially the slugs, my field sites were full of them.

    1. You probably had much bigger and much hungrier slugs in Oregon, Lizard. I don't know what I'd do if I found any as big as the ones I've seen in Washington!

  3. ewwwww great pics! I sent your link to a friend in the netherlands who just did a post on slugs too. Her blog is teatimegardening.

    1. Thanks, LeeAnna! I'll have to pop over there and see if she has any recommendations...

  4. And your garden is heavenly indeed. I'm glad you're getting some rain (I like to call it "God watering the plants instead of me"), but I hope no more CCs show up!

    Our irises are swelling, and our volunteer wild columbines are covered in blossom right now. :)

    P.S. Guess what I found on Saturday's ride ... wild forget-me-nots! Had never seen them before so it was quite exciting. My wildflower book calls them "true forget-me-not". Photo in next cycling post.

    1. How exciting, Sue!!! I can't wait to see your photos!!!

    2. They turned out to be something else ... Greek valerian. But they sure do look like forget-me-knots!

    3. I think they are beautiful anyway, regardless of the name, Sue! You can't go wrong with blue flowers!!!


Dusty words lying under carpets,
seldom heard, well must you keep your secrets
locked inside, hidden deep from view?
You can talk to me... (Stevie Nicks)

All spam is promptly and cheerfully deleted without ever appearing in print.

If you are unable to leave a comment and need to contact me, please use the email address in the sidebar. Thank you!

Related Posts with Thumbnails