Control of Cutworms — Submitted by Reg & Marlene Powys-Lybbe

 Fear of moths (mottephobia) runs in our family both my mother and my aunts were deathly afraid of the menacing- miller.  As a young boy I scored points for tracking down moths and killing them when they ventured inside.

How does this relate to cutworms?  Cutworms are the larvae of miller moths.

The Pale Western Cutworm is the cutworm most common in Alberta.

 An excellent resource on insect – pests and their control is “Insect Pests of the Prairies” published by the University of Alberta. The information that follows is based on material in that text and personal experience as related to glads and dahlias in particular.

Preventative measures-

1.  Delaying cultivation of the ground in August and September

The adult female prefers to lay her eggs in loose soil. If the crust which normally forms over the soil in summer is left in place the females are more likely to seek a more suitable site to lay her eggs.

2. Watering -The eggs of the moth do not hatch until spring (March to May) depending of soil temperature.

Once the eggs hatch into larvae (April to June) if there is a period of 12 consecutive days of 6 mm of precipitation in a row cutworm populations are drastically depleted. Gardeners could insure that such an event as this occurs.

Mechanical Control-

When cut worm damage is observed, you can usually locate the cutworm alongside the shoot (stem) that is damaged. Simply, dig with your finger around the stalk and you will often locate cutworm – which you can dispose of. This is best done in the morning. Note- cutworms are rather well camouflaged and you usually have some difficulty seeing them. That they are generally moving once dug up helps.

Occasionally, with glads the cutworm will be right in the stem just above the bulb and squeezing the stem will kill it. Usually however the cutworm will stay close to stem its food source rather than in it.

Note – if the stem or stalk is not cut off it will survive the damage. With dahlias in particular, the stem is likely to be completely cut through – New shoots will develop but the blooming date will be delayed.

Trying to find the cutworm is important as it spends a rather long time in the soil and will move on to new plants or the new shoots as they develop.

Chemical Control –

1.       Dusting glad bulbs with bulb dust at the time of planting is effective in controlling cutworms on glad bulbs and would probably work for dahlia tubers too.

2.       Spraying with a systemic  insecticide  will help control the cutworms

3.       Contact chemicals will work as well –both sprays and dusts.  Although the cutworm spends most of the time underground; when feeding it comes to the surface cuts off what it wants and pulls it beneath the surface to continue its consumption. If the infestation is not wide spread, you may wish to target the particular plants showing damage or a particular area where the cutworms seem more active rather than generally spraying or dusting everything. As the cutworm feeds through the night and early morning it is generally most effective to spray (dust) in the evening.

Control of adults-

Once the larvae pupate – further control is probably not practical until the adult moth emerges. Natural- predators of the moth such as bats and birds are your best bet at control the adult stage. Bat boxes can be purchased which provide shelter for the bats.

But, if you have family members afraid of millers, knowing that you are rearing bats in your yard is unlikely to encourage visitors.

One of our cats used to love moth hunts when she was alive. I would take her outside and hold her close to where the moths were flying by the door light. She would catch the moths against the wall and proceed to eat them. Our vet assured us that they were a good source of protein though they were too crunchy for my taste


Thursday June 14

Wayne and Larry took a ride up the road to the Muttart Conservatory and visited with Yolanda, Eric and James. Yolanda, the lady in charge of planting the tubers and raising the dahlias to show stage was concerned the plants were getting to big and going to be ahead of schedule with the flowers.

Wayne took two books from the American Dahlia Society with charts on the time it takes from first appearance of the bud to full  flower, Yolanda was ecstatic, that was the information she was missing! Wayne then showed her how to pinch and prune the buds to force the flowers at different stages so she could time the blooms to be continuous for the August 4th to September 16th show. They also discussed changing the fertilizer to enhance the flowers.  Some of this will be covered in the bud pruning session at Lorne McArthur’s on July 31 so if you have questions make sure to attend … it’s on the calendar.

We took pictures in the greenhouse and you can see the plants are in excellent condition. We will visit again on the second week of July to check the progress on the plants.

Next we visited with Eric, the young man in charge of the plants once they are moved to the Exhibition Building. He showed us a layout floor plan and explained that they moved the bricks to created the raised flower beds on the plan. Eric then gave us tips on taking pictures and made arrangements for us to get in before the show started to take our pictures.

James checked in back and forth to make sure everyone had what they needed. Everyone was enthusiastic and excited… it should be a great show!! And all of this because of an idea and a lot of hard work and trips back and forth  by Margo Kusiek … what a worker!!!! Thanks Margo it will be great to watch this all come together!!

There is a bus trip scheduled to leave Red Deer on August 13 to visit the Muttart display and view two gardens, please register with Lorne McArthur  (403-346-4902)or Wayne Roberts (403-347-7482)  so we know how many are going. Cost for the bus is $30.oo for members and $40.00 for non members. Details are on the calendar.

To view slideshow, please do not click the [show as slide show] button. As misleading as this sounds, simply click any of the pictures and the slideshow will appear in a much superior fashion.

Dahlia planting tips


Water plants two days before planting.

Plan and place stakes before planting ( common spacing is 30 inches between larger  plants and 20 to 24 inches for smaller plants).

60 inch stakes with 12 inches in the ground is good support.

Dig hole twice the size of pot and sprinkle in a small amount of slow release fertilizer (14-14-14 or 10-10-10)

Place plant in hole, tamp in and tie up immediately. (leave slack in loop or it will grow into stem as plant develops)

Water thoroughly and leave for two weeks, unless extremely hot.  ( This allows for strong deep root development)



 It is time to pull your tubers out of storage and give them a thorough check. Look for any rot, if the tuber is 3/4 rotten discard. If it is 1/2 rotten you can cut the bad part off as this will sometimes save your tuber. Check for broken necks on your tubers, and if they are weak or broken discard. Also check the top of the tuber for stem rot. This will show up as black rot above the eye of the tuber. You can trim this up and a good idea is to spray this area with lysol. With this all done check your medium that you have your tubers stored in and make sure it is dry. If it is moist put in fresh dry medium. With this all done put your tubers back into storage and check them again Feb 1.  Good Luck

Designing the Holidays

Linda O’Connor, a floral designer working with James Harasimowicz on the Barton House, runs a cut flowerfarm in Ransomville called Summertime Blooms. She hopes that when visitors walk into the Barton House they see a “peaceful elegance.”

Her holiday decorating recommendation is to keep holiday decor simple.

She recalled how, this past summer when she marketed her cut flowers at area farmers markets, she would take a single flower, like a sunflower or dinner plate dahlia, and place it in an empty wine bottle. “People would say, ‘oh my gosh, I never thought to do that.”

O’Connor suggests doing the same for the holidays. Take a few empty wine bottles, add a single fresh flower in each and some assorted small candles to illuminate the bottles from the base.

“For the winter I would probably use a hydrangea and some grasses,” she said, adding she is currently working with white flowers for the Barton House but that holiday decorators could use any color flower that goes with their decor.

“I like to use blue wine bottle because they really set off the flowers but you could use green bottles for the holidays or clear bottles and put red water in them,” she said.

When asked whether to strip the labels first, she noted: “If it happens to be your favorite wine, you can leave the labels on. I have one from a brewery in Ellicottville called Snowfox. I leave the label on because it has snow flakes and a little white fox on it so it works for the holidays.”

“And it was a good wine, too,” she said with a laugh.

Her biggest recommendation for the holidays is to enjoy them. “I m just thinking people need to sit down and enjoy their family and friends for this holiday instead of trying to do all this stuff.”

Exert from: Designing the Holidays.

Post an example of how you decorate your table for the holiday and help share creativity with our community.

Submissions will be added to our Arrangements Gallery.

Ernie Henderson Tribute

The Alberta Dahlia and Gladiolus Society along with CGS; ADS,NAGC  and the Montana Dahlia Society can with little doubt claim to have had oldest living member of any  active society of gardeners.

Ernie Henderson was 106  at the time of his passing, November 9, 2011.

This picture of Ernie, with his grand champion dahlia Elma Elizabeth, was taken at this year’s (2011) show in Red Deer. Ernie first started showing flowers in the late forties. Gladiolus and dahlias became his particular passion.

Exhibiting was not new to Ernie as he had grown up showing heavy horses. As well as showing horses and flowers he had a brief “run” at showing dogs; in particular, Cocker Spaniels.

He was an accredited judge of gladiolus, dahlias and horses.  During her life Fanny, his wife, would often inquire whether the weekend was to be a “horsey one” or a” flower one” as Ernie was frequently off to shows as an exhibitor, judge or both.

Ernie also had the distinction of being the oldest living person to have served with the RCMP. In 2005 wearing his Red Serge Jacket (see photo) Ernie was the parade marshal for the Little Britches Parade here in High River (see photo). In that year both Ernie and Alberta  turned 100. As a member of the RCMP Ernie was part of the first Musical Ride. Along with his horse, Pard, he was  an extra in the movie “Rose Marie” starring Nelson Eddie and Janette McDonald.

Ernie and his friend Bill McClaren were awarded life membership in ADGS  at our founding meeting. This was most appropriate for these two were great friends- Though showing  Ernie did much to raise the interest  in dahlias here in Alberta. Ernie rarely if ever missed the mall show of the Montana Society in Kalispell, until the last few years; when other friends questioned the wisdom of his travelling to the U.S.
On the door of his room at the Medicine Tree manor Ernie had a sign stating” Gardeners don’t grow old they just lose their bloomers”- This is, perhaps, more humorous to those of us pre-Victoria’s Secret but Ernie never did lose his bloomers as illustrated by his accomplishments.  Also,some of us are still growing his dahlia introduction Alberta Flame (B FD Flame ).
The Alberta Dahlia and Gladiolus Society thoughts go out to the Henderson family. Click here to post your personal condolences.

Promoting the growing and showing of dahlia and gladiolus flowers.