Ever-Blooming During the Good, the Bad, and the Bugly: An Aphid Attack

Aphids attack a rose (photo courtesy of GardenTech)

An Aphid Attack

​Spring, in all its glory, has a marvelous way of resurrecting my spirit. A spirit that seemingly had lost all hope in the blustery cold winter months. The hints of life burgeoning in my garden stirs renewed hope and energy within my aching bones. How exciting to see new canes sprawling out as if stretching from an oppressing winter! The new red leaves bursting in color declare, “I’m alive just waiting to bestow glorious blooms!”

​Irritatingly deceptive are the tiny green aphids that blend in perfectly as they cover an unsuspecting rose bud and other areas of the plant. Technically, aphids may appear in your garden as an assortment of colors such as black, brown, red, or even white. Aphids attack worldwide and their different species are in the thousands! Aphids arrive in the Spring, but can reemerge anytime during rose season seeking out the sap within your rose plant. They tend to cover the rose bud or hide under the plant’s foliage. Aphids can even transmit disease to your other roses. Thus far, every Spring when I look closely at my buds anxious for them to bloom, I am horrified to see a cluster of life sucking creatures curling the leaves around her, smothering her, and doing their best to prevent her from blooming!

​Thankfully, there are a few ways to resolve an aphid attack. One such option is to remove them by picking them off and squishing them although this method is quite tedious considering how many aphids typically plague a rose bush at any given time. Another much faster option would be to take a hose with a nozzle and blast off the aphids. This method won’t damage your roses and provides a quick, but temporary solution. Perhaps the best option is to develop an inviting host environment as previously discussed. Various herbs like dill, parsley, and mustard and flowers such as butterfly weed, tansy, Queen Anne’s lace and golden rod will attract ladybugs. Ladybugs thoroughly enjoy a tasty aphid and can devour the colony of pests in no time. You could also purchase ladybugs through an online source and release them into your garden. Follow the directions if you choose this option and understand most of the ladybugs will fly off but some will stay and enjoy the aphid buffet. Considering how aphids will seek out to destroy your burgeoning buds every Spring and into the Summer months, wisdom says to start establishing a welcoming host environment for the good bugs to permanently move in.

‘Peace’, a hybrid-tea

“And now, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto Me; moreover, I have seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.” Exodus 3:9

An aphid attack on glorious roses reminds me of the affliction of the people of Israel, also known as the ancient Israelites and today known as the Jewish people.  It seems quite unfair to notice and delight in a flourishing bud, such as God’s chosen people, only to have them smothered by pest likened to antisemitism!

Nevertheless, the Hebrew Bible repeatedly both warns and encourages the Israelites, whether natural born or grafted-in such as Caleb (Numbers 13:6, 14:24, Joshua 14:13-14/Genesis 15:19) and Ruth (Ruth 1:2,8-18), both grafted-in Jews, for example, to not fret and to even expect affliction, but in the end, God will literally save the Jewish people, collective Israel scattered throughout the world raising them to be victorious (see Isaiah 30, 41-42, 49, 53-56, 60; Ezekiel 34-37; Joel 3; Zephaniah 3; Zechariah 8-12 as a few examples).

‘Diamond Eyes’, a miniature rose

 “Even though you planned evil against me, Elohim (God) planned good to come out of it.” Genesis 50:20

Furthermore, suppose the oppressed rose bud was crying out to you, the master gardener, to rescue her from such bondage. She was unable to free herself of the smothering aphids but her gardener could. What if we learned to cry out to our Abba Father, our Master Gardener, rather than try to fight off the aphids ourselves or worse, choose helplessness and hopelessness by giving in to slavery, depression, or fear. Surely, He hears our cries (see Exodus 2:23 and 3:9). Sometimes though, for the greater good and for the bigger picture that we cannot comprehend, it may feel like God, our Abba, has abandoned us so we cry out like the Israelites did, which David penned about them stating, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” (see Psalm 22:1). But ultimately, they were rescued from the oppression of Egypt. We see from the Psalm in verse 5, “To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” David also encourages Israel and future readers, to understand the blessings coming to those who trust in the LORD when he scribes, “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” David further encourages the often oppressed and afflicted Israel while prophesizing about future world stating,

“You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all the seed of Jacob, honor Him, and fear Him, all the seed of Israel. For He has neither despised nor abhorred the cry of the poor, neither has He hidden His countenance from him; and when he cried out to Him, He hearkened. The humble shall eat and be sated; they shall praise the Lord, those who seek him; your hearts shall live forever. All the ends of the earth shall remember and return to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall prostrate themselves before You. For the kingship is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations..” Psalm 22:24-29

The point, sweet sister, is even though Israel or the Jewish people collectively and possibly those who align with them, may be heavily afflicted throughout the centuries, ultimately, God is grooming and preparing a world to come full of victorious overcomers! Whether you need to tediously hand pick those aphids right off of you, blast them off in one clean swoop, develop an environment full of ministering angels, or better yet, cry out to your Master Gardener, then just do it! I’m here to remind you, beloved daughter of God: He hears you. In His strength and His time, you can overcome the attacks of pestilence! ​

“For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

‘Miss All-American Beauty’, a 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!

graphic source unknown

​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!

graphic source unknown

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-Blooming Despite Life’s Prickles: The Bud Union

The Bud Union

Near the base of a rose bush you may discover what’s known in rose parlance as the “bud union”. The bud union is a marriage of two different roses for the purpose of providing a hardier and more stable bush. Typically, a bud union can be found on a hybrid tea or floribunda variation plant.

Commercial rose breeders mass produce root stock in their fields and then later graft in another rose variant to create the hybrid tea, for example. Most root stock in the USA is known as “Dr. Huey”, which if left to grow, produces a maroon colored rose. Dr. Huey is a climbing bush with much strength and aggression. Think of it as a rose bush on steroids! Assuming the graft is successful, a bud union will solidify and the intended design will eventually flourish. Consequently, many roses in our gardens today have a Dr. Huey lurking beneath. Frequently, Dr. Huey will present a “sucker”, or random cane emerging from the soil but not connected to the bud union base. Such a random cane is known as a sucker because it will suck much needed nutrients from the intended plant. If left to grow, the sucker’s canes, leaves, and blooms will be noticeably different than the rest of the intended bush. Also, if you experience a harsh winter and your bush consequently perishes, Dr. Huey, or whatever root stock that was used to design the plant, may emerge from the depths.

​Just like all people have pros and cons, both grafted and own-root roses have pros and cons. A further disadvantage to purchasing a grafted rose bush is the fact that some may be infected with the Rose Mosaic Virus, which is different than the Rose Rosette Disease. If the root stock is diseased, it will only be a matter of time before the virus destroys the entire plant. A plant may actually perform rather well for a season or two, but the Rose Mosaic Virus is systematic as it works through every crevice of such a union. Before purchasing a new rose bush, look for a certified virus free one!​

“And you shall be holy to Me, for I, the Lord, am holy, and I have distinguished you from the peoples, to be Mine.” Leviticus 20:26

As a single woman, particularly in my roaring twenties, I settled for what you may label an “unbeliever” in a bud union of our own. But like an infected rose bush, our marriage only thrived a season or two. It would seem my stable and hardy Dr. Huey was more like an aggressive Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!

​God commissioned Israel, who eventually became known as the Jewish people, to be the light to the world (see Leviticus 25:55; Isaiah 42:6-7; 49:3,6). Additionally, the Israelites, or Jewish people, were instructed, warned, and reprimanded by God for forming romantic relationships with those not of Israel (see Numbers 25, 36; Deuteronomy 7:1-11; Nehemiah 13; Ezra 9-10, as a few examples). Perhaps Abba Father knows it is hard enough to cultivate a healthy, lasting, loving marriage without the added difficulties of differing cultures and faith.

​Or, to put it another way, just like there is clean and unclean meat, there are clean and unclean men or clean and unclean relationships. I know as single women we sometimes feel like we are sojourning along a wearisome wilderness wanting companionship, marriage, and babies. The temptation to settle for someone outside of our faith, whatever faith that may be, lures our easily deceived hearts. May we be careful not to forget or forsake our devotion to the One True God exchanging our eternal relationship for other lovers (Hosea 2-3). Should we intentionally forsake Him and His will for us, we may be purchasing a virus infected plant rather than looking for the manifestation of God’s Holy Spirit as evidence in our “certified virus free” mate! Daughter, beware! Should YOU operate outside of God’s instructions regarding a “bud union” of your own grafting, you may end up being the “sucker”.

To learn more about the Rose Mosaic Virus and the Rose Rosette Disease, click here.

“Love and Peace”, a hybrid tea rose.