I have a very perplexing and alarming garden mystery. We have a lovely butterfly delphinium that we brought to our new house when we moved two years ago. At the old house (less than a mile away!) it flourished and flowered. It has struggled here and didn’t even seem to come up last year. This spring I was surprised and happy to see it emerge and look very healthy, but suddenly it began to disappear. Something is eating it, yet I can’t see any bugs on it or signs of other critters. Both the leaves appeared to be chewed and the stems cut. Since I can’t see the culprit I don’t know what to treat it with. I tried garlic spray and that apparently made it much tastier. It is down to one leaf and I so want to rescue it. Please help!
PS. We have a number of other varieties of delphinium that are doing just fine with no signs of chomping. And none of the other plants in the vicinity are being eaten. Whatever this little beastie is, it has a thing for butterfly delphiniums.
I have sort of solved this myself. Or at least found a short-term fix. Since we never saw any critters of any kind on or near the plant during the day we figured the beast only feeds at night. So we’ve been covering the recovering delphinium with a pot weighed down with a rock every night. So far so good. The plant is making lovely new growth. I’m worried that if we forget even once that will be the end of it, so we have a post-it reminder trail around the house. I hope once the plant is too big to be covered with my biggest pots the danger will be past, but I don’t know. But this lovely plant is worth the Sherlock Holmes work.
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Welcome! I’m Margaret Roach, a leading garden writer for 25 years—at ‘Martha Stewart Living,’ ‘Newsday,’ and in three books. I host a public-radio podcast; I also lecture, plus hold tours at my 2.3-acre Hudson Valley (NY) Zone 5B garden, and always say no to chemicals and yes to great plants.