Our new Sweet Cherry tree, just a stick in the ground when we planted it back in November, now stood taller and fuller with lots of lush new growth…and was hosting many, many Blackfly.

Using the Spray Away technique passed on by his mum – fill plant sprayer with warm soapy water, aim, squirt, bye bye Blackfly – DH worked his way around the tree, diligently turning each leaf, always thorough, some might say obstinate.  Let’s go with persistent.

But so were the pesky Blackfly.  Next morning, the Spray Away technique having been proved inadequate against such fickle foe, the Wash and Squash method was hatched (oof) using a dunk and swish technique to shift the most stubborn beastie – grip the infected leaves and shoots, dunk into a bowl of hot soapy water and swish enthusiastically, then squash the hangers-on.

And they really can hang on.  Next day there were plenty of the pests in situ (though DH swears there weren’t as many).  Time to bring out the big guns.  Introducing ‘Pulverisation des taches noirs’, and by chance there was just one small Sweet Cherry tree’s worth left in the container… so DH let them have it right between the siphunculi.

DH, not sure if the ‘Pulverisation des taches noirs’ had pulverised them completely (I said he was persistent), mooted a trip to the Garden Centre as the purpose of a trip into town.  Suggestions of a visit to the local château, a walk along the canal or just coffee at the local café were routinely and summarily met with friendly disdain, but a mission to find a killer spray? Oh yeah, on y va.

If you thought cherry-friendly pulverisation was a big gun, think again.  This upgrade was big, strong and extremely dangerous.  A box so light it felt like it contained only air set us back €12.  In fact, it contained two sachets, rather like tea bags, that you had to lower into a very specific amount of water using your gloved hand, agitate without splashing then top up with another very specific amount of water.  The sachet dissolves in the water so no chance of danger to human life.  The skull and crossbones were very persuasive about reading the instructions.

Now the poison (no other word for it) was in liquid form and ready to show who’s boss.  All precautions had been taken.  DH, wearing said gloves, old gardening clothes and Sherriff-style neckerchief around his face in the absence of a face mask (at my insistence) began to spray.  From behind the hedge I shouted useful advice.  Very useful as it turned out when I literally saw the wind change direction as the spray started back in DH’s direction.  ‘It’s coming towards you!  Don’t breathe in!’

I could see his dismissal of my wittering from my cowardly hiding place (he has very animated eyebrows).  I only wish I had some, as then there’d be no need to inhale before getting my message across.  Puzzlement turned to understanding as DH, finally interpreting my wild actions and flailing arms, wandered over to find out what was wrong.  Had I been stung?  Safe behind our bush I explained, my breathing shallow, no words wasted.  His eyebrows declared his understanding of the situation and he advanced with purpose from the other direction, nozzle raised, brows lowered, challenging the enemy, with me on ‘wind watch’ at a safe distance.

Did it work?  The numbers certainly dropped.  There was no rain, so a good chance of success, though ideally the process needs repeating after 8-10 days.  Watch this space for the next instalment of Pest Patrol.

The Pulveriser