I noticed something moving on my Areca Palm near the front door and upon closer study I saw it was that great sci-fi character of the insect world, a Praying Mantis. His head followed my every move and seemed to turn a full 360 degrees as I walked around my plant trying to snap a good photo of him.
Had I reached in to pick him up he probably would have grabbed my finger with his folded, spiny forelegs. Then he might have chomped down on my finger because he is, after all, a carnivore. I did not test this theory. Although I did not want him to kill and eat any beneficial insects, I left him there because I knew he would eat some spiders and I had too many spiders lingering by the front door.
Such is life among plants and in the garden. We seem to always be contending with something, trying to balance this against that. We always contend with weather, of course. And we usually contend with hopping, creeping, crawling, flying, squirming things that are simply part of life in the garden. I don't know of any garden that has only beneficial, handsome insects and plants that magically grow just right without any help from the insect world. Come to think of it, gardens are rather like people who are occasionally creepy looking and who somehow manage to grow and thrive with the help of others. Gardens are alive, just as we are.
I get frustrated with all this aliveness, of course. At the Alpharetta Community Garden, where I have a plot and where I volunteer, we’ve had to outlaw squash plants because every year they get overrun with squash bugs. The aforementioned evil critters are quite alive and multiplying in our raised beds. We dealt with them one year by means of a Shop-Vac, which I found most gratifying. There’s nothing like vacuuming away the hundreds of insects that are ruining your plants. It only slowed them down. After suffering through two years of a squash bug population explosion, we finally said, “No squash plants.” That’ll show those squash bugs.
On the other hand, there are times when being in the garden among all of that buzzing, bending life is nothing short of sublime. My favorite thing to do in the early evenings of July is to go to the Alpharetta Community Garden and sit on the bench amidst the Bee Balm and Coneflowers. In the summer, these plants are alive with pollinators. It’s like being in downtown Atlanta on Monday morning; only the flowers are the skyscrapers and the honeybees, bumblebees, beneficial wasps and hummingbirds are the people. This is a view of garden life that should not be missed.