Oh, Deer!

Friday, August 28th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Chrysanthemums give the brightest colors for fall. Choose them in bloom now at your nursery.
    • Take house plants outside and wash down dusty leaves. Let them dry in the shade before bringing them back inside.
    • Divide Astilbe and Oriental poppies now. Replant healthy roots and add some bonemeal in the bottom of the hole when you replant.
    • Trim foliage on grape vines to allow more sun to reach the fruit and ripen the grapes.
    • Keep apples picked up from under the trees to help control the spread of coddling moths, which make wormy apples.

Oh, Deer!

Deer are extremely adaptable, beautiful creatures whose habitat is rapidly changing. As forests are cut and houses are built, deer populations have expanded with few predators to deter them. Deer normally graze on grasses and “browse” on leaves, twigs and small branches of trees and shrubs. When desperate for food, however, they will eat almost any plant.

There are three main approaches to gardening in deer areas: fences, repellents, and deer-resistant plants. Fences are the most effective if they are sturdily built and 7 feet tall.

Chemical repellents range from lion scent to rotten eggs to foul tasting concoctions. These are sprayed on new foliage or used to saturate cotton balls and give off an unpleasant odor. Liquid Fence Deer & Rabbit Repellent has a strong odor and has proven to be very effective, environmentally safe and biodegradable.

Simple repellents such as bars of soap or human hair hung in an area, hot sauce or blood meal are effective on a limited basis. Changing repellents frequently may offer the best control. However, a starving deer will simply ignore all repellents.

Gardeners and biologists alike have been observing and ranking deer plant preferences for many years. Numerous lists have been compiled of “deer resistant” plants. However, deer tastes vary from herd to herd and few plants can be called “deer proof”. Resistant plants will only succeed if there is something else for the deer to eat. Deer damage is always worst near the end of summer.

Some plants have strong smells that deter deer from eating them. Deer rely on their sense of smell to determine what is safe and desirable to eat. Strong odors confuse them, so they are more likely to go looking for food elsewhere. Included in this group are herbs like rosemary, sage and lavenders. Escallonia, Russian sage, junipers, and calycanthus also have scented leaves and are avoided by deer.

Other plants have sticky or fuzzy foliage that deer don’t like. They also seem to leave gray-leaved plants alone. Lamb’s ear, santolina, germander, snow-in-summer and Crown pink (Lychnis coronaria) and very deer resistant. Rockroses, sunroses, Pacific wax myrtle, and yarrows are reasonably safe bets.

Prickly foliage is usually a deterrent. Barberry, Oregon grape, holly and grevillea are almost never eaten. Then there are the odd ones like Japanese boxwood and daylilies, which for some reason they don’t like.

So take a look around your neighborhood to see what your local herd has left alone, and then try some new ones. But remember, the deer don’t read the deer-resistant plant lists!

Pest-resistant Flower Bulbs

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Plant pansies, snapdragons, stock, calendulas and primroses now to replace summer annuals.
    • Garlic sets can be planted now for an easy crop that you can harvest next spring. Choose from hard-neck, soft-neck or Elephant garlic varieties now available.
    • Compost your leaves as they fall, don’t burn them! Leaves make wonderful compost that breaks down into rich humus by next summer.
    • Chrysanthemums can be planted in pots or flower beds for bright and cheerful flowers to enjoy this fall.
    • Look for rich, bright colors in the foliage of deciduous trees and shrubs. Burning bush, Liquidambar, snowball bush and maple trees are beautiful right now.

Pest-resistant Flower Bulbs
What to plant this fall where deer & squirrels are voracious

Garden pests such as deer and squirrels are a real problem, especially in the fall. Despite centuries of land development, the deer population in the U.S. is far greater now than when the Pilgrims landed. For gardeners in rural areas where such creatures are voracious, the big question is: what won’t those animals eat?

In fall, gardeners gear up to plant spring-blooming bulbs. Some of the most popular bulbs, such as tulips and crocuses, are considered treats by animal pests. While others, such as daffodils and hyacinths, are generally shunned because of their bitter taste.

Of course, if deer are truly starving, they’ll eat just about anything, including the bark off trees! But planting bulbs they don’t like will greatly improve a garden’s overall survivability in problem areas.

Daffodils and Hyacinths are poisonous to squirrels and rodents, and when interplanted with edible bulbs, will protect them from burrowing animals. All kinds of Daffodils are shunned by deer. You can plant the large King Alfreds or the small, fragrant Narcissus and they will bloom for you year after year without fail. The bulbs spread and multiply each season, so you’ll have more to enjoy every year.

Hyacinths come in beautiful bright colors: red, pink, blue and white. Their strong fragrance is a sweet breath of spring, so plant some where you can enjoy their rich perfume.

Chionodoxa or glory of the snow is one of the first flowers of spring. Its elegant, sky blue flowers with white centers have 4 to 12 florets per stem. The delicate six-inch tall flowers bloom in February-March. They prefer full sun, but tolerate partial shade, and adapt beautifully to the rock garden, the flower border, or under trees and shrubs, and naturalize easily.

Grape hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum, is an all-star performer. Its long lasting flowers and long blooming season make this brilliant blue flower a champ in endless garden applications. Mass plantings are spectacular, especially when combined with other bulbs like yellow daffodils or tulips of any color. Four to eight-inches tall, muscari performs best in well-drained locations. Try planting these little bulbs close together in mass plantings in the lawn or garden to create a blue “river of Muscari” effect made famous at Holland’s Keukenhof Garden. Muscari also naturalizes easily.

Snowflakes, Leucojum aestivum, are among the easiest bulbs to grow. The nodding, white bell flowers tipped in green on 12-inch stems have as many as nine flowers to a stem. They flower in full sun or part shade and bloom more profusely if left undisturbed for several years.

Enjoy creating a beautiful spring garden with bulbs that are ranked high on beauty and low on pest-appeal.

Flowering Rockroses

Friday, June 12th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons can be pruned now without sacrificing next years bloom. Ask at your nursery if you need help.
    • When you finish cutting asparagus, feed the bed with good, rich compost that will also act as a mulch this summer.
    • Cover cherry trees with bird netting to protect your crop.
    • Finish planting the summer vegetable garden. Seeds of early corn, and beans can go directly in the soil and plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash, cucumbers and basil can be set out.
    • Red, white and blue petunias or combinations of these with lobelia, geraniums, impatiens and salvia will make a nice display for the Fourth of July.

Tough, Colorful Rockroses

Well-known for their showy spring flowers, rockroses are sun-loving, fast-growing, drought-resistant shrubs that are tolerant of poor, dry soil. They are ideal plants for informal plantings, rocky hillsides or along country driveways.

Since rockroses grow wide, they are at their best where they are not confined to small areas. Use them on hot dry banks, tumbling over rocks, or in a planting of drought resistant shrubs. Given plenty of room, they are beautiful, picturesque shrubs.

Rockroses, or Cistus, are Mediterranean natives that have a long flowering season in late spring. Scattered flowers begin to appear in April; by the end of May the plants are covered with large petaled single flowers; then the blooms taper off through June.

The flowers drop their petals when they fade, so they don’t leave brown, dead flowers on the plant.

Rockrose flowers come in white, pink and lavender-rose, a very striking color. Some plants will grow only thirty inches tall while others reach four to five feet with little effort. Another genus, Halimium, are called yellow rockroses, and they have showy flowers as well.

It is important to choose a variety which will fit the site chosen as rockroses resent severe pruning. Prune only to protect a path from encroachment or to eliminate dead wood or occasional lopsided growth.

Rockroses keep their leaves throughout the year, and are effective at preventing erosion on banks and suppressing weeds underneath them. They are drought tolerant, thrive in rocky soil, and are generally deer-resistant. They also make a pleasant background for flowering bulbs.

There are two requirements for growing rockroses: good drainage and very little summer water. They will often appear at first to respond to frequent irrigation, but the excess water greatly increases the chance of die-back, induces lanky growth and shortens the life of the plants. Plants grown in more natural settings may live for 20 years or more.

Plant rockroses in full sun and add a little lime at planting time. Irrigate deeply and infrequently for the first season. By the second year, most plants can survive without water.

These are truly carefree plants that will delight you every spring with their showy flowers.