The bush is perfect! No black spot or other diseases, no aphids to speak off (I do pick them off about once a week if I see a cluster). It has produced numerous shoots this year and stands about 120 cms tall, in spite of having been pruned quite hard in the winter.
So what am I doing? Boasting? Well, not really – there is a point to this. Our garden has had NO chemical fertilisers or pesticides put on it for the past 3 years. The entire garden is remarkably pest free. Now, that is in part due to the very cold winter, which killed off many nasties and seems to have left us with wonderful floral displays. But it is also due to the fact that this bush has had a dressing of our own well-rotted compost, and every day, gets a pot of cold darjeeling tealeaves and water poured over it.
I learned this lesson a long time ago from my uncle Tom in Jersey, who carried seaweed up from the beach to turn his patch of sand into a beautiful garden that produced the best peas and potatoes you have ever tasted each year. And, being a good Scot, he was much to careful to buy nasty poisons, and knew that the seaweed was far too good a fertiliser and soil sustainant to pollute with rubbish.
The agricultural and horticultural industries would like you to think otherwise, and festoon our garden centre shelves with vast quantities of potions and poisons and magic ingredients to ensure the fecundity and health of our gardens. But in fact, what they do is destroy the balance, which results in pests becoming far more prevailant than they would be without them.
Gardens are not like single-crop intensive agriculture: they depend upon diversity and a healthy ecosystem being sustained. Pest problems can mostly be dealt with by a bit of hard work, or sustained attention and husbandry: ie. good gardening. Chemicals are short cuts that often create as many problems as they solve.