Foliage Follow-Up–Hostas

This year I’ve added a lot of hostas to the yard.  I won’t show you the ones with the fragrant flowers.  They’re the only ones the deer came through and ate–go figure.  So I have no idea if the flowers are fragrant or not.  Maybe next year.

The only reason to grow them really, was for the fragrance–otherwise they’re just nondescript leaves–so it doesn’t really matter that the deer ate the leaves.  And they’re under a japanese maple which was why I chose that variety for that spot–I didn’t need pretty leaves there but I thought fragrance might have been nice.  Perhaps next year I’ll spray–or perhaps not.  We’ll see.

This is the one my husband “The Spoiler” chose for the new bed we put in.  I wasn’t crazy about it but it has grown up and filled in nicely–and the deer are avoiding it so that’s a plus.

This is the one I chose at the same time.  It’s grown a lot more slowly but it’s in a bed that dries out a lot more quickly.  We had 3 1/4″ of rain last week and when I was planting some more new hostas Saturday the bed was already like dust.  Amazing.

There’s also a lot of competition from tree roots and overhanging trees so naturally things will grow more slowly as well.  That’s fine.  I don’t need these things to take off in their first year anyway.

Once ‘Krossa Regal’ went in, I realized I had a big blank area that needed more hostas.  I was a little reluctant to add them after what had happened with the deer and my new fragrant ones, but I didn’t like looking at the bare dirt–and I figured I could always spray if I really had to.  So I added 3 additional hostas, complimenting ‘Krossa Regal’ and some unknown variegated variety that was there.  This one is called ‘August Moon.’

This is ‘Earth Angel’, the largest of the three.  If it reaches its potential, its spread could be 3-4.’  That may not happen in this soil.

And this is ‘Sun Power.’  No, I really didn’t need one for sun in this spot and I don’t think it will stay quite so chartruese-y (although I will be delighted if it does!)  I was going mainly for form here to match the form of ‘Krossa Regal.’

Finally, this is one of my all-time favorites, and, as you can see, quite a nice spreader.  It’s dwarf variety called ‘Kabitan.’

Critter Control Week–Deer

No, thankfully, I still don’t have this much snow in my yard–this photo was taken in February.  But that was when the herd of 7 deer were regularly rampaging through the yard, eating everything that wasn’t nailed down, and trampling things that they weren’t eating.  So I’ve just completed a ton of pruning this past weekend!

Deer only have one set of teeth, not upper and lower sets, like we do.  So when they grasp a branch to each, they rasp at it, ripping it off.  Further, enzymes in a deer’s saliva inhibit new growth in the ends of that mangled branch.  Hence the pruning.  You want to prune anything that deer has been nibbling on to cut off the nibbled end and get those enzymes off.

But if you’re not an animal lover like me and don’t want them nibbling in the first place, what do you do?

The only fool-proof way to foil deer is with a fence, I’m afraid.  And not just any fence, but with an 8 foot high one.  Deer are very adept jumpers.  That wood pile you see my friend standing behind there is at least 4′ high and she scaled it as if you or I were stepping lightly off a curb.

Not into fencing your place as if it’s Fort Knox?  There are temporary things you can do.  Deer netting can be set up around vulnerable gardens, newly planted plants and shrubs, and vegetable gardens.  The netting can be taken down if, for example, the hostas go dormant in the winter or the vegetables are done for the season.

If even that’s too much, there are many excellent repellents on the market.  The trick with repellents, however, is that they must be applied consistently (read the bottle–every one will have a slightly different application rate), they must be applied as described, particularly if you’re using a predator urine, and it helps if you rotate among 2 or 3 different repellents during the season.

Also repellents that repel by smell are more effective than those that repel by taste–you really don’t want the herd having to bite the plants to be repelled.

But that of course means that you often must smell the repellent too and they often repel with such lovely ingredients as “putrescent egg solids,” (i.e. rotten eggs) fermented fish and other vile scents.  If you use them in humid weather the scent can linger for hours.

When I give my “Critter-Proofing” lecture, we hard core critter proofers trade stories of how and when to apply the particularly stinky repellents.  If you have a summer place someplace else, that’s great–apply it as you are leaving for the summer place for the weekend.  The scent will surely be gone when you return home Sunday evening or Monday morning.

For the rest of us, many of us apply it early Monday morning–before the sun gets really intense.  That way it has the whole day to dissipate before we return home in the evening.

And the sun helps it to dry quickly so that we don’t have to smell it.

Oh Deer!

[Image from Wikipedia]

Think of this as my public service announcement: it’s deer mating season so we all need to be extremely careful when we drive at night for the next few weeks.  For those of us living locally, it’s also hunting season (as I expect it is in a good part of the country) so that makes the deer more active, more skittish, and more prone to leaping in front of our cars without any provocation (or so it seems.)

I am always a bit amazed when I talk to other gardeners how little they know about the life cycles of the creatures that visit their gardens.  Granted, we’re all busy people, but I have an innate curiosity about the wildlife in my yard and I took it for granted until I started lecturing that others did too.  It was then that I realized that others had very little knowledge of the creatures, their habits or life cycles.

I know with some it’s just a question of not particularly caring: they just want them gone.  With others, it’s a time issue.  And for a third group, perhaps they’ve just never thought much about it.

Whatever the reason, now is the time that everyone should be thinking of deer and their life cycles.  According to statistics cited in the  New York Times and provided by State Farm, the number of deer to automobile collisions has increased 21% in the last 5 years.  These collisions cost insurers billions, are often fatal to the animals involved and in several hundred cases a year, are fatal to the humans involved as well–so they are nothing to be taken lightly.

And these are just the collisions we know about.  The article estimates that almost again as many accidents are unreported as are reported.

As one who drives in a heavily populated “deer” state, and also as one who hit a deer very early on in her driving career (the deer survived) I can tell you that we are fortunate that at least if the deer are looking at you, they are easily spotted.  That enabled me to slow down enough to minimize harm to me and my passengers, the car, and of course to the deer, who rolled over, got up, and ran off.

Even so, the memory sticks with me 32 years later.  It’s not something I would ever willingly repeat, and if I can stop any of you from having a similar incident, I’d love to do that.

Deer mating season in the colder regions ends earlier than in the warmer ones–but the end of both roughly coincides with the end hunting season and the end of the year.  So from now until then, take a few extra minutes and be extra vigilant on the roads–you never know what is waiting for you around the bend–or what may come crashing out of the woods at you!