Early-Morning Call to the Garden

Early-morning gardening will be a memory of this spring and summer in Mallorca. To be honest, it hasn’t entirely been a matter of choice to be working in the garden before we can see the sun over the valley ridge.

You have to be up early to see the cactus flower

In previous years we’ve done little to the garden once the hot weather starts – apart from sporadic watering. But we’ve had to take action after the demise of several substantial agave plants, courtesy of the snout-nose weevil. That something so small can cause such destruction still astounds me.

Our early-morning gardening has seen us clear the dead plants one by one, leaving large, empty spaces. We had to find replacement plants that weren’t spiky, to make future gardening less painful. We also wanted more colour and flowers. Because we already have some pink oleanders that have grown well with little attention from us, we decided to buy some in red and white.

Gabriel the Garden Guru

We went to Viveros Hermanos Llabres (established 1940), after seeing it recommended on the Mallorca Gardeners Facebook group. Why had we never been before? We’ve now made three visits and each has been an informative experience, with pleasing purchases.

Arriving for the first time, we couldn’t see anyone around – until an ancient Mobylette pootled into view from around the back of the building. This was our first meeting with the nursery’s Gabriel, who told us his beloved (and rusty) 70-year-old Mobylette had belonged to his grandfather.

Gabriel’s an affable chap with a good sense of humour and excellent knowledge of plants. Tell him whereabouts you live in Mallorca and he’ll know the plants to suit its micro-climate and type of terrain. He’s a straight talker too and will put you right if you’re thinking of planting something that’s not going to work here. Thank goodness I didn’t mention my yearning for a magnolia.

©Jan Edwards 2022

Irony & the Snout Weevil Strike

Agaves in our Mallorcan garden
Agaves were the start of our garden

In my last post, I wrote about the challenges of keeping our Mallorca garden’s agaves under control. What I didn’t mention was that The Boss had suggested removing a few of these plants to make gardening less risky in the future.

I’m all for simplifying life where possible, but we’ve had these agaves in our garden since they were very small. They were the foundation plants in what would become the garden, having cleared the part of our field closest to the house almost seventeen years ago.

Most of these agaves are now taller than I am and they provide a striking (sometimes literally) contrast to the other plants we’ve added over the years. I couldn’t bear the thought of removing any of these architecturally interesting plants and, after some discussion, we agreed to review the situation next year.

Nature Intervenes

Oh, the irony. We recently went into the garden and found that one of the agaves had fallen down – separated somehow from its core, which was still in the soil. We were mystified but told ourselves it was probably due to the plant’s considerable age – or the shock of The Boss’s recent pruning of it.

He duly removed the toppled plant, its core, and roots. Now we had only twenty-four agaves left. Still enough to start a tequila farm, although neither of us is partial to the famous Mexican tipple, made from the blue agave.

A message came from Vicky, one of our part-time neighbours, who’s created an attractive garden at her property here. Had any of our agaves been affected by the snout-nosed (aka snout-nose or snout) weevil? We’d never heard of such a creature and I went straight to Google in search of more information. It seemed likely that one of these voracious little beetles was at the heart – literally – of the problem. They may be small, but they’re a huge pest.

Plenty of choice for the snout weevil
At risk of attack from the snout weevil

The Evil Weevil

The agave snout-nosed weevil is about half-an-inch long, black, and has a downward curving proboscis that it uses to deadly effect. This proboscis pierces the tough core of the agave, where the weevil lays its eggs. When the grubs hatch, their first meal awaits them: the agave heart. The plant keels over. Once the grubs have eaten their fill, they bury themselves into the soil to pupate. It’s unbelievable that such a tiny insect can lay waste to a plant that’s taller and wider than I am (not that I am especially wide, I should add).

A Solution as the Solution?

I found a website that could be useful when it comes to battling the snout-nosed weevil: American gardener Debra Lee Baldwin’s article on Agave Snout Weevil Prevention and Treatment seems to offer some hope, if action is taken. However, a few friends have informed me that we should expect to lose more agaves. And possibly other succulents.

It seems The Boss’s agave-trimming in the future may be a lot easier, after all.