Winter 2011-2012

Well, I didn’t keep up with the blog very well. I’m making it a New Year’s Resolution to do better in the future. Winter is a bit dreary, but it has been mild so far. I had plenty of time to clean up all of the gardens and get a fresh layer of mulch put down (22 yards) AND clean up the leaves which is a daunting task with the property surrounded by large trees, mostly Oaks, which are prolific in dropping their leaves but of course do it grudgingly, bit by bit instead of just dropping all at once which would be more considerate. (Like Maples, which are at least polite enough to shed the majority of their leaves in a short period of time, making clean up easier)

I got a new ‘toy’. It is an electric leaf shredder. It was very cheap, about $120 on I wasn’t expecting much for the price, but couldn’t afford to step up and buy a real chipper like I wanted, so I decided to give this thing a try. It is a Flowtron LE-900 “The Ultimate Mulcher Electric Leaf Shredder”. It is basically a tub with a weed whacker string head at the bottom and you feed the leaves in the top and the string beats them all to hell and they drop through the holes at the bottom. It reduces huge piles to just about nothing but finely shredded material. I made a bin for the leaf shreddings and was worried it was too small, that I would have to erect a second in order to handle the massive leaf load, but it turned out I didn’t even fill it halfway! That machine rocks! But it cannot handle sticks or anything large, they will just clog it up. Small price to pay considering the price difference between it and a realy chipper.

Also had a chance to get the deer fence up while it was nice out. I have to fence the back and side yards and also seperately fence my Knockout Roses by the Driveway. Otherwise the d$*& deer will strip everything to sticks over the winter. I am very lucky, in the summer they pretty much leave most things alone, although last spring they did get a clump of oriental lilies which ticked me off, but all in all they are much better here than at a lot of my client’s homes. I have sites that they eat stuff they are not supposed to touch. Junipers (especially Blue Pacific which is a favorite) Mahonia beali, Little Princess Spirea are a few things that are supposedly on the list of things that deer will NOT eat are delicacies to them at one site in Gaithersburg. Sprays of Liquid Fence every 7-10 days with a power sprayer to blanket spray the gardens (I use about 7 Gallons per spray) (And I dilute the concentrate a lot less than the label recommends) keep them mostly at bay. But if I miss a spray, all bets are off, they will go nuts and chow on everything. But they are really strange creatures. I have other sites in Potomac where they eat different things and leave other things alone that they devour elsewhere. I have one site in North Potomac, where the owner has over a dozen Nellie Stevens Hollies in the far back, and I put one Dragon Lady Holly right on the house corner. Do you know those little Sh*(&s don’t touch the Nellies, but ate the Dragon Lady to the trunk. I don’t get that. They also eat the Rhododendrons, which isn’t too unusual, but leave the skip laurel totally untouched. And yet another place where they leave the Rhodies alone but they eat the Skips and Nellie Stevens. There is a short list of plants I have not seen them eat anywhere (And Mahonia beali USED to be on that list until this year)

Here are the best deer proof plants in my experience: Boxwoods, Cephalotaxus (Japanese Plum Yews), Microbiota (Siberian Cypress), Pieris, Juniperus chinensis (Chinese Junipers), Imperata (Japanese Blood Grass), Calamintha nepeta nepeta (Calamint), Perovskia (Russian Sage), Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’ (Yarrow, but not all varieties – they particularly like the soft ferny green leaved varieties like ‘Summer Wine’), Stachys (Lamb’s Ears), Deutzia ‘Nikko’, Osmanthus, Bamboo, Berberis (Barberries), Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ (Blue Star Junipers), Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’ (Dwarf Japanese Garden Juniper), Cedrus atlantica varieties (Atlantic Cedars), Cedrus deodora varieties (Deodar Cedar Varieties), Pinus densiflora ‘Burke’s Red Variegated’ (Japanese Red Pine), Buddleia (Butterfly Bush), Magnolia grandiflora (Southern Magnolia) and different Iris varieties. (I haven’t seen them bother Japanese, Flag, Bearded, or Siberians)

I will update this list as I think of things. A few things that they ‘Don’t Eat’ but do: Monarda (Bee Balm) Coreopsis verticillata, Spirea, Blue Pacific Junipers (as mentioned above), Laurels (Skip, Otto Luyken, etc.) I’m sure there are a bunch more and like I said earlier, it really depends on the site and the deer and how hungry they are.

Stinkbugs were so/so this year. Not as bad as last, but still a pain in the neck. My tomatoes were doing just beautifully until they showed up and ruined everything. They also LOVE my piles of firewood to overwinter in  – found the only thing that I can spray is Bifenthrin (according to the Ortho Home Defense Max label) so I am trying to keep those critters from coming in with the firewood by spraying it in the summer. Some still made it so I have to bang the logs together when I move them to dislodge the little @#$@*s.

Am looking forward to a better lawn next year. Spread 12 yards of topsoil/leafgro mix and heavily re-seeded this fall. I also planted a TON of bulbs due to our warm fall and mild winter so the gardens should be full this spring. Had to keep the pansies and tulips in back where the deer won’t eat them, but put in plenty of Hyacinths, Crocus and Daffodils near the road.

There is finally snow on the ground now and it has gotten quite cold. I have been working on some updates for the website and sorting pictures of plants and jobs from last year. I’d rather be outside gardening, but what can you do, sometimes you just have to think about it!


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