gardenchatter

Garden adventures and advice…


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Deer Resistant Shrubs

 

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Looking out the window to see deer frolicking in the distance is a magnificent sight. However, when the frolicking turns to feasting on favorite plants and shrubs, the beauty of the view turns to one of frustration, and the time and dollars needed to repair, replace or replant the damaged bushes. Fortunately, for avid gardeners and nature lovers, there are shrubs available that deer do not put at the top of their favorite food list and will tend to avoid in search of tastier treats.

Flowering Shrubs

There are flowering shrubs that deer avoid. Flowering varieties add color to the garden and many attract butterflies and birds to the area. Lilac (Syringa spp.) is a medium to large shrub that produces large, vibrant flower clusters each spring, changing to dark green leaves once the flowering is complete. Lilacs are available in a range of colors including pink, white, purple, blue and mixed. Lilacs are hardy to zones 1 through 12.

Butterfly bush (Buddleia spp.) is a nonstop bloomer and a true butterfly magnet. Growing from 6 to 15 feet tall, depending on the variety, the butterfly bush produces an abundance of flowers all season long. Hardy to zones 3 through 9.

Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia spp.) grows into a large, mounding shrub, full of long trumpet-like flowers that grow up to 10 inches long. A fast-growing shrub, flower colors include yellow, apricot, pink and white. Hardy to zones 7 through 13.

Bluebeard (Caryopteris spp.) sprouts blue blossoms from midsummer until frost arrives. A smaller shrub, bluebeard grows to 4 feet high and wide, depending on the species. Bluebeard prefers full sun, and the other flowering shrubs listed above will grow in sun or part shade. Bluebeard is hardy to zones 4 through 9.

Evergreen Shrubs

Evergreen shrubs add year-round color to the garden and some are distasteful to deer. Boxwood (Buxus spp.) is a breeze to care for and can be left alone to grow naturally, or pruned and kept at a specific height or shape. A dense evergreen, boxwood grows from 1 foot high for dwarf varieties to 7 feet high for other varieties. Hardy to zones 2 through 12.

Holly (Ilex spp.) varieties range in size from 1 foot high to up to 50 feet high. Smaller varieties create low hedges and the larger varieties work well for areas needing privacy or tall hedges. A dense shrub, prune any damaged or weak branches to promote new, healthy growth. Hardy to zones 4 to 9.

Mexican orange (Choisya ternata) quickly grows to 8 feet high and wide. Small flowers sprout during spring and summer, and shiny, dark green leaves fill in this shrub throughout the year. Hardy to zones 6 to 9.

Coprosma (Coprosma spp.) is a colorful evergreen shrub that spreads to 8 feet high and wide depending on the variety. Needing little water, the leaves on various types of this shrub are variegated with bright color. Hardy to zones 8 to 10.

Deciduous Shrubs

Various varieties of the Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster spp.) shrub are deciduous and one of many shrubs avoided by deer. Cotoneaster can be a low-growing shrub, or sprout to 25 feet high depending on the variety. Simple white flowers develop in spring and small, glossy leaves cover the plant the balance of the year. Hardy to zones 3 to 12.

Spirea (Spiraea spp.) grows to 6 feet high and wide, is easy to grow and adapts to any soil condition. Bridal wreath varieties develop clusters of cascading, white flowers and the shrub types develop small pink or white flowers in the fall. Leaf color varies by cultivar. Hardy to zones 3 to 12.

Elaeagnus (Elaeagnus spp.) are fast-growing shrubs that require almost no care. Dense and tough, deciduous varieties have silver-gray leaves that appear to sparkle in the sunlight. This shrub is heat and wind resistant. All varieties listed will grow in full sun or partial shade. Hardy to zones 2 to 12.

Shrubs With Berries

Attract birds instead of deer to the garden with deer-resistant, berry-producing shrubs. Current (Ribes spp.) plants provide dense growth to 12 feet high and wide, depending on the variety, and drooping clusters of white flowers develop into masses of sweet dark berries. Hardy to zones 2 to 12.

Mahonia (Mahonia spp.) is an evergreen shrub, sprouting bright yellow flower clusters that develop into dark bluish berries. The spiny foliage of mahonia can snag and this shrub is best planted away from heavy traffic areas. Hardy to zones 2 to 12.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa spp.) grows to 6 feet high and wide and produces pink or lilac colored flowers that develop into round, purple fruit. The berries remain on this shrub well into the winter months. Each plant listed grows in full sun or partial shade. Hardy to  zones 3 to 9.

 

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Dog Vomit Fungus

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Yep! That’s what it’s called. And those of you with dogs (or cats) will certainly see the resemblance. This little gem (pictured) startled me one day on my way to the back door and I wasn’t completely sure how it got there.

Dog vomit fungus (Fuligo septicai) is most often found sprouting on wood mulch or lawns during warm, wet weather – and has a tendency to magically appear overnight. Technically a slime mold, dog vomit fungus varies in color from bright yellow to an unpleasant orange tone as the mold begins its fruiting stage. As the slime mold ages over the next couple of days and conditions dry out, it becomes a dark, hard mass, then turns into a crusty mound and eventually moves into the spore state.

Migrating to moist and shady areas, the wind-borne spores patiently wait for the right conditions and when they arrive, absorb that extra moisture and open up to start the process all over again, producing a brand new patch of vomit-like mold.

While odd looking, dog vomit slime mold is harmless and won’t damage plants. It will disappear on its own within a few days, but if you prefer you can break it up with a rake or use a trowel to remove it before the spores develop.

(close up below)

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Rat’s Tail Radish

Want to grow a fun, non-stop vegetable? Then plant Rat’s Tail Radish.

Unlike the traditional underground, round, red radish, rat’s tail is an edible pod that sprouts from pale pink flowers that in turn, sprout from long, flowing stems.

A non-stop summer performer, rat’s tails are easy to grow and won’t fade away in the heat like most radishes do. This is certainly not a cool-season radish – they thrive during  warm summer days and prefer full sun. Similar in appearance to a long bean, (and a rat tail!), this edible pod is delicious fresh from the garden, is a great addition to stir-fry’s and is also an easy pickling vegetable.

Butterflies flock to the flowers and continued  pod harvest will also continue to produce new flower growth and in turn, more radishes.

Rat’s tail is an Asian heirloom that was introduced to the U.S. in the 1860s and has been growing ever since. Plant this interesting, easy-care and colourful radish every two weeks over the season for a continued harvest.

 


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Life Under a Walnut Tree

 

 

black-walnut-61599_640Black walnut trees can grace a yard, provide plenty of shade on hot summer days, and produce delicious nuts that both humans and squirrels enjoy. But those same trees aren’t always the best neighbours for the rest of the plants found in the garden.

Walnuts are members of the Juglandaceae family and produce a chemical called juglone that is toxic to many plants and vegetables. Juglone is found in every part of the tree but is most prevalent in the flower buds, nut hulls and roots. And those roots can extend up to four times the diameter of the tree’s canopy.

The science behind juglone is that this chemical is a respiration inhibitor which deprives sensitive plants of needed energy for metabolic activity, thereby causing nearby plants to struggle to survive, or not survive at all. Symptoms of walnut toxicity range from stunted growth, to partial or total wilting, to death of the affected plant. The toxic reaction often occurs quickly and sensitive plants can go from healthy and vibrant to dead within a couple of days.

So what does this mean for gardeners that want a diverse, vibrant garden?

  • There is actually a long list of plants that are tolerant to juglone (see below), but if the plant begins to looks stressed or is struggling to grow, it might be best to remove or relocate it.
  • Plant as far away as possible from the black walnut. Consider using raised beds to move the roots further away from any contamination in the ground. Remove any debris or nuts that do gather in the bed and ensure good drainage – it seems to help.
  • The toxicity can remain in the soil for years once the tree has been removed – the only way to truly ensure elimination is to remove all the roots as well.
  • Juglone will eventually break down in composted leaves, but it takes time. It’s best to either dispose of the leaves or compost them separately and use that compost on non-sensitive plants.

 

Plant Type Sensitive to Juglone Tolerant of Juglone
Vegetables Cabbage Squash
  Tomatoes Melon
  Peppers Beans
  Potatoes Carrots
  Eggplant Corn
  Asparagus Beets
  Rhubarb Onion
    Parsnip
     
Flowers Peony Aster, Astilbe, Bee Balm,
  Petunia Black-eyed Susan, Crocus,
  Chrysanthemum Daylily, Ferns, most Hostas,
  Forget-me-not Hollyhock, Impatiens,
  Autumn crocus Marigold, Morning Glory,
    Pansy, Phlox, Zinna
     
Shrubs and Vines Azalea, Blackberry – most Black Raspberry, Clematis,
  Berries other than the black Current, Forsythia, Euonymus,
  Raspberry, Hydrangea, Lilac, Honeysuckle, Rose-of Sharon,
  Potentilla, Yew Sumac, Pachysandra,
    Viburnum, Virginia Creeper,
    Willow, Witch Hazel


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Grow Potatoes in Bags!

Thought I would share my website link on “Growing Potatoes in Bags”. I have so much interest in this when I talk about it and a number of people have shared their success stories with me. It’s a method that works. And great for small gardens, patios or larger gardens that need the space for other veggies.

Use whatever potato grows well in your zone. Here in zone 5 I’ve used Russian Banana Fingerlings (shown on link below) and Russian Blue – this year I’m trying Yukon Gem.

Grow Potatoes in Bags

 

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TO THIS………………………………….                          Pot1


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Go Native!

 

If you don’t already, consider growing native plants in your garden. Plants are considered native if they originated and are growing naturally in a given area; they have adapted to the soils, the regional climate and wildlife – and will continue to survive climate changes like floods, drought, blizzards and frost. The list of benefits, and plants is long – and worth it in the end. Here’s a few reasons why we should all be going native…

Reduced Maintenance:
While there is no such thing as a no-maintenance garden, native plants offer a very low-maintenance alternative. Because they are resistant to pests, disease and drought, they don’t required the same level of attention that many other tender plants need to survive. Well established natives have deep roots that support them through dry times, they rarely require fertilizer and they help deter weeds and invasive species from moving in and taking over the garden. 
 
Soil and Water Conservation:
The deep root system of native plants increases the soils’ ability to store water and keeps that soil where it belongs. Natives also help reduce water runoff; their dense growth and large, lush foliage allow rainwater to drip into the soil rather than pooling around the plant or draining away. Native plants require far less watering than their non-native neighbours need, and they are strong, long-lived plants that rarely need replacing, providing overall good value for your gardening dollars. 
          
Wildlife:
Native plants provide wildlife with the habitat they need to survive. If you grow them, they will come. And stay. Native plants naturally produce the seeds, berries, nuts and nectar that the local wildlife enjoys. Natives provide a protective cover for wildlife – provide seeds, nuts and berries for mammals – insects, seeds and fruit for birds – nectar for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies and host plants for butterfly caterpillars. Plant a swamp or common milkweed; it’s the only larval plant that the monarch caterpillar lays it’s eggs on – bring monarchs back into your garden!
   
A Garden Full of Beautiful Plants:        
There are native plants available for every garden location – sun, shade, water, rock gardens and woodlands. Wildflowers in bloom combined with native grasses and ferns provide a stunning visual in any setting. Many native plants provide impressive, showy flowers, colourful berries, unique nuts and seeds and stunning fall foliage 
  
Create a Wetland:        
Add water features (or a pond) to your yard to encourage frogs, toads, dragon and damselflies to move in, and to provide a water source for birds and butterflies. These wetland creatures will thank you by working to keep the mosquito population down during the summer season. Use a variety of native plants in the pond, add large rocks and old logs to provide spots to soak up the sun and create mini-wetlands near a smaller water features by planting bog or pond plants in buried plastic containers to keep the roots wet. It won’t take long before your wetland neighbourhood starts to fill up.
     
Adding even a few natives into your current landscape each year will help to encourage a healthy and sustainable ecosystem you can enjoy for years to come. Grow a native plant – and save a life!


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Winter Evergreen Care

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Cold winter months and high winds can play havoc with the health and wellness of many of your shrubs and evergreens. Here’s a few simple tips to keep your landscape staples safe and provide the care they need to flourish once again when the warm weather returns.  

Water:  Make sure all your evergreen trees and shrubs continue to be watered during a dry fall, and give them a good, thorough watering before the ground freezes. Evergreens don’t lose their leaves like deciduous plants do and need to store water for the winter to prevent them from drying out. Add a layer of mulch for added protection.
                                                                                                            
Damage:  Snow on your shrubs is both good and bad – snow layered around the base can add extra insulation and protection – heavy snow on the branches can cause branches to bend and break. Gently remove any heavy snow buildup, starting at the bottom, to avoid damaging any weakened branches.
                                                                                                                       
Coverage:  Well-established evergreens are typically fine without being covered, but young, new plants may benefit from a burlap tent. Pound stakes into the ground around the plant and wrap the burlap around the stakes. This allows for good air circulation around the shrub, the ability to brush off heavy snow and provides protection from high winds that might hurt young branches.     
                                                                                                                                                              

Critter Protection: As the natural food source starts to dwindle, wildlife may turn to shrubs for sustenance. Protect possible targets with chicken wire, fences or barriers to make it difficult for wildlife to get to the plants. Alternatively, provide feeders for deer, squirrels and birds away from the shrubs – that way you are helping both plants and animals to survive the often far-too-long winter.