Wednesday, July 23, 2014


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (7/21/2014)

        After spying aphids on my red elderberry, I took my nozzled hose to blast them with a merciless torrent of water.  As I was making sure to aim at the underside of the leaves, our Legislature and Governor came to mind.  The aphids had attacked the tender new leaves, not from the top of the leaves where they can easily be seen, but on the underside, hidden from the eye.  A Superior Court in Phoenix had just ordered the Legislature and Governor to pay revenue to the public schools in Arizona that they had for years quietly diverted to their own pet projects.  They are naturally squeaking and jibbering as though they had been caught with their snouts in the public trough.


          The aphids were covertly attacking my red elderberry at its new growth, certainly trying to stunt it and eventually even destroy it.  By taking money the voters had taxed themselves for education and siphoning it off for their pet projects, the Legislature and the Governor   were stunting the growing edge of our society, the public schools, by sucking the sap of education.  They’ve been engaged in such shenanigans for a long time, gradually reducing support for our three universities and community colleges, slowing sucking the sap from the new growth of our society.

          As with aphids, they hide on the underside to suck away at the juices of society.  Finding aphids on one’s plants, bushes, trees leads to a feeling of an impotent rage at these parasites who are surreptitiously trying to destroy a garden.  If the aphids get the upperhand, then a garden’s future is dismal.


          If repeated and frequent blasts of water don’t work, then insecticidal soap is the ammunition to use.  Just spraying the infected plants won’t do.  One has to get down and spray upward to get the underside of the leaves.  More often than not, the gardener gets a good soaking, too.  A little soap never hurt anyone.  This is one reason not to use a poisonous spray for fear of afflicting oneself.  The other reason is that it’s not too bright to use poison because it kills everything, the good and the bad.  Also, it’s best in a fight never to become that which one despises.  The aim is to get at the underhanded and hidden, one might even say, the closeted malaise in the garden.

          One of the disquieting aspects of gardening is that the battle against aphids and white flies is never over.  As in defense of our freedom, one must be eternally vigilant.  Sad but true, gardeners must always be on the prowl to check out the undersides of their gardens if they want to enjoy their beauty and bounty.  In gardening as in politics, it pays to snoop.


          We have friends in this battle of the undersides, lady bugs and green lacewings, to name a few.  Lady bugs, which incidentally were named after the Virgin Mary, can be purchased at commercial nurseries and let loose in the evenings to devour both the aphids and white flies.  Happily, both the lady bug itself and its larvae find aphids and white flies particularly tasty.

          Green lacewings can be purchased either as larvae or as mature insects and hung out in the garden to destroy aphids and white flies.  Generally, they are sold in thousand insect lots.


          Also, an astute move is to develop gardens friendly to ladybugs and green lacewings.  Dill, yellow yarrow, coriander, cosmos, and Queen Anne’s lace are a few of the plants favored by both of them.  To the contrary, zinnias and nasturtiums are seemingly offensive to the aphids and white flies.


          Sometimes, gardeners and citizens lose a skirmish, but that’s no reason to give up the battle.  Particularly in household plants, a white fly infestation in dangerous because unless thwarted they can take over the whole house.  If a plant is badly infected, the best thing to do is throw it out encased in a plastic bag and put in the garbage can and sent to Environmental Services.  As with all things, it’s important to know when to keep and when to throw out.

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2014

Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera for the Arizona Daily Sun.  Smith emails at and blogs at








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