By Mel Bellar
Sprung it has, and it amazes me how different it is each year, bringing new surprises and challenges. I had an unusual turn of events this year. We rarely see rabbits in our garden; I guess because we always have two or three fierce fearless felines who don’t understand their limitations and at least scare the bunnies. If I could only teach them to attack the deer!
Well, after the snow finally melted this year, it looked like the aftermath of a wild warren party. There were so many piles of pellets in our walkways that they ran together, making it look like streams of coco puffs rather than pea gravel paths. I can just imagine a bustling metropolis of the little critters cruising around under the mounds of snow from condo to condo in their tunnels, thumbing their little noses at the cats inside, enjoying my nice paths, eating the buds and tender stem ends off of every shrub. I think that they also chowed down on the evergreen perennials like the variegated yucca (yucca filamentosa ‘Bright Edge’), coral bells (heuchera), and even barrenwort (epimedium). I usually blame this on the deer, but this time I am pretty sure that it was the rabbits. I have always felt a little smug and very grateful about our lack of problems with rabbit damage, but this winter they ate the bark off of numerous shrubs as well. Perhaps I should be grateful; it appears the bunnies had a taste mostly for the burning bush, Euonymus alatus, which is on the invasive species list. So I say “good job, girdle away”. I actually am happy to have an excuse to replace them with something more interesting. Oh yeah, Pucker, Percy and Paw Paw are back on the job so hopefully the silly wabbits are on the wun.
Back to the damnable deer; I had no deer damage on my conifers this year! Woo hoo! I will happily take the rabbit rampage over the deer any time. If I were a rich man or won the lottery (which I don’t play) I would have a really nice, good-looking deer fence. In lieu of that good fortune, I use Plantskydd, a very nasty smelling blood-based deer repellent. Two good sprayings, one in late November, and one in late January seem to do the trick. Last year I missed the mid-winter spraying as I was in Ecuador. The dreaded deer ate things they hadn’t touched in the prior NINE years. They ate my beautiful golden Oriental Spruce, Picea orientalis ‘Aurea’ (they aren’t EVEN SUPPOSED TO EAT SPRUCE) and my almost seven foot gold cone juniper, Juniperus communis ‘Gold Cone’, among other things. I was teeth-gnashing, hand-wringing distraught; they deformed my beautiful conifers. This year I arranged for the second spraying and even in the deep snow, spraying the exposed tops had good results. Part of my spring cleanup this year was pruning my deer-ravaged conifers from last year. It took a while for them to grow in enough, but thankfully the spruce and juniper were not destroyed beyond the point of recovery. With some careful pruning I was able to at least make the damage not so obvious, and by the end of this season they will hopefully look almost like their old selves.
I can’t promise that Plantskydd will always work; it could just be dumb luck and superstition on my part, because as I said in my opening remarks, each year brings new challenges and the deer are always full of surprises. Well, I am not taking any chances, and I highly recommend Plantskydd for those with gardens without fences. It is good to protect your spring and summer plantings as well. ~
Mel Bellar is the owner of Zone4 Landscapes and a passionate Andes gardener