Ever-Blooming During the Good, the Bad, and the Bugly: Thistles, Thorns, and Now Thrips

‘Oregold’, a glorious hybrid-tea shines in shades of yellow.

Thistles, Thorns, and Now Thrips?

Nearly every morning I inspect my rose babies looking for damaging insects such as aphids, sawfly larvae, Japanese beetles, and thrips. Thrips, though terribly difficult to see, as are most of these critters, leave obvious evidence on fragrant or light-colored rose petals. By their very nature, thrips thrive by sucking the life out of the rose bud and its petals if they are even able to bloom. This summer I added the wonderfully fragrant, lavender colored Memorial Day rose to my garden. Just a few feet away I also planted Oregold, another hybrid tea rose, which produces a lovely bloom in vibrant yellow. Unfortunately, Memorial Day suffered from thrips. In a short amount of time, my Oregold rose also succumbed to them. I hadn’t known such microscopic creatures even existed until I noticed my Memorial Day rose petals had a bizarre brown edging. I hoped this delightful smelling rose bush was suffering from heat exhaustion. But even after thoroughly watering the bush in addition to the temperatures subsiding, shades of brown still smothered her every bud and bloom. Shortly thereafter, my Oregold, who once provided large layers of glorious yellow petals, now was hampered by dilapidated edges of brown or petals that appear dry and shriveled as well as buds that won’t open, all of which are common side effects of thrips.

Consequently, I went to the trusty internet to determine what is plaguing my newly adopted roses. After doing a little research, I took a closer look at my roses and could identify them. Yikes, it’s thrips! To determine just how bad the rose bushes were infested, I took a white piece of paper and tapped the blooms over the paper. Sure enough the once nearly invisible thrips were now clearly visible though ever so tiny! To ward them off, I hosed them down with water and then gave them regular dosing of neem oil. I prefer to use more organic measures than resorting to systematic insecticide. The infestation of thrips proves yet another example of why beneficial bugs like ladybugs, hoverflies, and lacewings are desperately needed in a garden as they love to feast on such devastating creatures.

“I am the Lord; I called you with righteousness and I will strengthen your hand; and I formed you, and I made you for a people’s covenant, for a light to the nations. To open blind eyes, to bring prisoners out of a dungeon, those who sit in darkness out of a prison..” Isaiah 42:6-7

As I went about decontaminating my roses, I pondered on the simple fact that a light colored and or fragrant rose attracts such insects. Light, in general, attracts bugs. How interesting that sometimes though as we may live out a lifestyle of worship as the light of the world and emit a sweet aroma as daily living sacrifices, we too can attract pestilence in our lives. It would seem the more you blossom as a fragrant, light colored rose in God’s garden, those who choose to reject Him or merely believe in God but don’t live according to His instructions, find themselves harboring contempt towards you. Perhaps they don’t understand or more specifically, don’t want to understand. In fact, to them, your decision to obey God and His Torah, which is defined as light (Psalm 119:105-106; Proverbs 6:23) and to live a lifestyle that reflects His light, may be more like a stench in their nostrils than an inviting fragrance.

​In particular, have you ever overcome something horrific while giving God all the glory for helping you be victorious? Some would have preferred to see you suffer or succumb to the thrip infestation as it sucked all joy from your petals of praise. Instead, you were willing to be anointed with God’s neem oil or you chose to bask in His light rather than the darkness seemingly attacking you. You chose to thrive despite the thrips. You overcame your enemy and walked out of that battle with the enemy’s goods because you, through God’s grace, turned the experience into something beautiful as it molded your character. By doing so, you are emitting the sweet fragrance God enjoys as you triumphantly obey Him through thistles, thorns, and even thrips!

‘Memorial Day’, a highly fragrant hybrid-tea.

Ever-Blooming During the Good, the Bad, and the Bugly: Bee A Good Hostess

A bee enjoys ‘Fourth of July’, a climbing rose.

Bee A Good Hostess​

One may think bugs, any and all bugs, are pesky nuisances invading our glorious garden, but the truth is without many of them, our garden wouldn’t thrive. Not only do insects, such as the honey bee, provide important roles, but they provide a variety of products as well like certain medications, candles, cosmetics, furniture polish, and of course, honey! Other insects, though ugly and inconvenient, provide proper nutrients to the good insects our garden needs. Often found roaming around our rose gardens are beneficial bugs like lady bugs, hoverflies, and lacewings. Conversely, bad bugs for our roses are aphids, thrips, and sawflies to name just a few. But are they really all that bad? After all, without the “bad” bugs the good bugs would have nothing to sustain them. Did you know just one adult ladybug can devour 50-60 aphids in day?

Most gardeners just want the bad bugs gone without considering the overall environmental factors. While you could spray your rose bushes with insecticide to kill off the bad bugs, you’ll also harm the good ones. Other organic methods include purchasing neem oil concentrate from your local nursery. Be sure to carefully follow the mixing directions though and only apply neem oil during the early morning, evening hours, or on an overcast day as spraying neem oil on your rose foliage during high heat days will burn the leaves. Another option in preventing bad bugs like thrips and the dreaded Japanese Beetle from infesting your rose plants would be to release Heterorhabditis Bacteriophora Nematodes into the soil. These small worm like creatures will seek out and destroy many annoying and dangerous threats to your rose garden before they have a chance to be seen!

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​Moreover, assuming you will want your rose garden to thrive for years to come, it would behoove you, the Master Gardener, to be a good hostess by creating an inviting environment for the beneficial bugs to reside. In some ways, bugs are much like us in the sense that they need food, shelter, and water. They also appreciate convenience.

By providing a steady food source, you’ll keep your lady bugs, lacewings, and hoverflies happy. But before the aphid buffet shows up in the Spring, you’ll need to provide plant life that will nourish your good bugs earlier in the season. By planting herbs that bloom early and also provide good nectar, the good bugs will want to move into the neighborhood! Herbs such as mustard, dill, and parsley will be sufficient. You many also want to plant lavender, but leave room for growth as lavender tends to consume much space. Mint and thyme will provide a soothing smell to your garden while Angelica, is not just the name of my youngest daughter, but an herb that especially attracts ladybugs – bonus!

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In addition to the herbs, you’ll also need a bird bath, water feature, pond, or other water source free of chemicals like chlorine. Apparently, even bugs get thirsty and need a bath now and then! Once you’ve created such a welcoming open house, or rather, open garden, it won’t be long before the good bugs set up a nursery of their own by laying their eggs on

our rose foliage. But when the weather turns cooler, don’t let your hard work go to waste, be sure to provide them with ornamental grasses and soft wood twigs and branches, like willow, poplar, and ash for them to stay cozy throughout the winter months. Whether you are a novice gardener or expert, your roses will appreciate your efforts as you build an inviting and thriving rose garden.

For I know the thoughts that I think about you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. And you shall call Me and go and pray to Me, and I will hearken to you. And you will seek Me and find [Me] for you will seek Me with all your heart. And I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will return your captivity and gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will return you to the place whence I exiled you.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

When I compare the similarities of our garden to our lives, it’s interesting to note how God allows the bad bugs in our garden of life to manifest something spectacular in us as well as God’s heartfelt intention towards us. So often we blame evil or Satan, as the source of our troubles forgetting that even Satan had to seek God’s approval before doing any harm to our garden (see the book of Job). In other words, God, as the Master Gardener, recognizes the bad bugs, but perhaps He’s allowing them in our garden for a reason. Perhaps the reason is to discipline us for our disobedience or perhaps He is developing us into the fragrant, beautiful, disease-resistant rose He intended with no actual wrong-doing on our part such as the accounts of Joseph, Job, or Esther. However, other times, the unfortunate turn of events may actually be a result of our own unrighteousness. In the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet repeatedly warned of the Jewish people being taken captive should they continue to live as they desire rather than live as God desires found in the Torah. The Prophet Jeremiah foretold the Jewish people would be taken captive by Babylon for 70 years, but in the end, that God was using it all to cause them to repent, to seek Him with their whole heart, and in turn God will gladly regather them and bless them while continuing to teach them His ways and will for them as the light to the world. Interestingly, this same prophetic word is applicable to the future of the Jewish people and others who keep God’s holy covenant eventually being gathered to Jerusalem, Mount Zion, in Israel as a light to the world one fine new day (see Jeremiah 29-31; Isaiah 51-56, 60-62, 65-66; Ezekiel 36-37; Hosea 14; Zechariah 8-10, as a few examples).

​I want to reiterate the fact that often the seemingly bad bugs attacking us as rose plants could have been released for the sole purpose of teaching us how to reflect our Master Gardener’s glory and splendor to a dark world needing to be enlightened in God’s light and love. How even more glorious and brilliant and yet challenging it is to be ever-blooming, testifying of His love, His wisdom, His justice, and His will when you are currently living amongst the pestilence of life!

In a perplexing manner, God is being a good host as He continues to develop His righteousness in you. He is busy creating a holy, eternal garden or environment where you and others may indefinitely thrive by allowing not just the good experiences or good bugs to benefit from you, but by equally, if not more so, using the bad and down-right ugly experiences to also cultivate beauty.

In doing so, His intention is to develop an ever-thriving, ever-rejoicing, and ever-blooming garden of God within you during the good, the bad, and the bugly. How we respond to such pests and said treatments remains to be seen.

“For when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness.” Isaiah 26:9-10

An unidentified beetle enjoys the foliage of a rose.

Ever-Learning

aphid

{photo credit: Kathy Keatley Garvey}

Now that it appears Spring has fully sprung, I discovered an influx of aphids enjoying my aspiring rose buds. Aphids are tiny insects that smother the tips of rose canes, foliage, and buds while sucking the life out of any given plant. Left unchecked they can damage a rose bush and therefore, prevent a hopeful bud from blooming. Aphids often camouflage with the greenery of many plants, although they can come in a variety of colors. Perplexed as to why an abnormal amount of aphids were clinging to my canes this Spring, I reached out to my local rose society for answers. Despite my roses’ healthy foliage, nutritious soil, and lack of disease, most likely the mild winter didn’t suppress the previous year’s aphid population and their eggs allowing for more to flourish this year. Thankfully, with rose gardening comes an informative community of rosarians ready to help one succeed in growing beautiful roses whether through your local rose society or online. Facebook groups offer a fun way to see blooms from all around the world while getting answers fast! Regardless if one is educated through the web, books, experience or all of the above, gardening, particularly rose gardening, requires an attitude of ever-learning!

Similarly, I have found as a rose in God’s garden, we too need an ever-learning attitude for there is always more to learn about God, His Word, and His principles. After all, it shouldn’t surprise us that there is an infinite amount to learn about an infinite God. If you aren’t growing in God, then you probably are shriveling just as the aphids do to the foliage of a rose. Perhaps now is the time to reach out to your local body of Christ, being the church, to get the answers, accountability, and the encouragement you need to thrive just as I needed to reach out to my local rose society for help.

To learn more about treating aphids and other insects commonly found in the garden, get a copy of my book Ever-Blooming During the Good, the Bad, and the Bugly.