A NEW PLAN FOR WARDING OFF DEER

I've whined about the deer problem in my garden many times before and there is no perfect solution. Every year I learn more in the war in combatting them and what I learned last year was that they can do major damage in winter.

Up until last year, we've had many years of mild winters. But last year we had a very cold and very snowy winter. The snow that fell early in the season never melted so it just kept piling up. That meant that the deer could not get to their usual food sources. The deer population by us has also flourished in recent years, so there is a lot of pressure on the environment to feed the herd.

Last year they ate anything they could reach, so even plants and trees that they had never shown interest in before were targeted.

And weather experts are predicting this winter will be as bad as last. So I took some extra precautions in protecting some plants.

This is not a method I've ever seen before and it is completely untested, but it's cheap, easy and easier on the eye than a lot of other protection methods.

To my knowledge, the only way to protect a plant from deer in winter is a physical barrier. If a plant also needs protection from the cold and wind, that may come in the form of burlap, but if it just needs protection from gnawing, that generally means some kind of fencing. Except deer have a knack for biting through fencing, so you can't just wrap a plant in it; you have to get the fencing away from the plant to create a gap. That means that you have to set poles in the ground.

Lots of deer fencing isn't pretty either.

So I thought as long as I had to put poles in the ground anyway, why not try something that is a little less noticeable and much less expensive.

When I was researching deer fences for the property, I learned that deer have pretty lousy sight. I also believe that deer are pretty lazy, so they usually won't work too hard for something that isn't really special, and in winter, nothing is really special (well, maybe cedar trees but they've already eaten everything 7 feet high and lower).


I created a large string "cage" around the viburnums that were munched on last winter.


So I used nylon string to create a string "fence" around specific shrubs and trees. I tied clove hitches (perhaps that should be the second in my how-to-tie-knots series) around each pole, spacing the string out about 7 or 8 inches. On some of them where the string got a little saggy, I also created a big string X on each side.


At some point I'll go back and tie a little something onto the string (ribbon, maybe) so the deer can easily see that it's there. I made sure to place the poles far enough away that a deer can't just stick its head in between the lines and reach the plant.

I made a large string "cage" around the viburnums on the east side of the property because they were hit by the deer pretty bad last year. I also made one around the new 'Mariesii' viburnum by the bird feeders (a favorite deer hangout) and around the Japanese maple, which they also did a number on last year.

Will it work? I have no idea, but I know I'd much rather look at my string cages than big fences. Only time will tell if its enough to keep the deer moving.

Do you have to protect plants from deer in winter?

FRIDAY FINDS

I am such a sucker for a workout fad. I didn't even finish this article before I ordered the foam roller. What can I say, she had me at "taller and thinner." I've been doing it for almost a week and it's definitely helping with my neck pain (I get that tense neck thing so many women tend to get).

I'm telling you, everything Loi touches is amazing. Check out this basement "man room" and be prepared to be envious.

I'm trying hard to balance the urge to STOP THE MADNESS that has made Christmas creep into early November but also not end up rushing around like a mad woman so I don't even get to enjoy the holidays. So I'm trying to gather Christmas decorating inspiration so I have a plan when it comes time to decorate. These containers are really fun and different from what I've done in recent years.


Yep, I need a cocktail tower.

Lemon and Rosemary Drizzle cake. Um ... yum!

It seems like a lot of bloggers have been having babies lately and as I do not have that in common with them I generally just ignore baby posts. But this might be the cutest baby ever.

That's it, gang. I hope everyone has a great weekend. Perhaps we'll get a little farther on the garage pergola this weekend (there's now a bandsaw involved).



DECORATION FOR THE DRIVEWAY

A few weeks ago I told you that I was contemplating adding some fence panels along a portion of our driveway. I'm still very much in favor of that happening, especially since the house next door recently sold. We don't know what the situation with the new neighbors will be, but odds are they will be around much more than our previous neighbors.

The other idea I've been tossing around in my head for several months now is something to dress up the driveway. You might recall that I was hesitant to have the gravel driveway paved. I looked into the cost of lining it with cobblestones or some kind of decorative edging but that was very expensive. As many of you predicted, I already love the paved driveway and I can't believe we waited 12 years to do it.

But it is a bit blasé. My mind usually goes to plants when I start thinking about how to spruce up an outdoor space and that's where I landed with this quandry as well. But whatever happens next to the driveway needs to be tough as nails. We get a lot of snow and ice in winter and plow the driveway, which pushes the snow well off of the driveway. There is no planting that will stand up to being driven over or plowed in winter that I'm aware of.

See what I mean? It's a little boring, right?
Snoozefest ... especially now that all the containers are empty.
More and more I've been craving symmetry in the garden. There is no one more shocked by this revelation than I am, I assure you. But what I love about our house and yard is that is casual and comfortable so formal symmetry has no business here.

And that got me thinking about a line of planters on either side of the apron, which also serves as the approach to our front door. At first I thought pleached trees (think of free-standing espalier where all the branches grow into one another to create a living, raised wall), but that won't work for winter. But cute little lollipop trees absolutely would work.

So imagine this: three large planters on either side of the apron, situated across from each other (possibly set in an alley of small riverstones or something to avoid having to mow between them, but that's up for debate). In each planter, a short tree with very densely packed foliage, preferably something that turns color in fall. I'm not thinking of anything that approaches topiary territory, for as much I like that look in some circumstances, that would never work in my yard. Rather, I'm envisioning something with a mostly round habit but a bit more free-form than a topiary ball.

I did a couple bad Photoshop mock-ups to better explain what I'm thinking of. Both are a bit out of context since the photos were taken in fall, but hopefully they'll give you an idea of what I'm contemplating.

Here's one with very formal topiaries and I think you can see what I mean when I say that's not right. Ideally I'd like the canopies of these trees to almost touch when they have grown for a few years.


 Here's another with the tree concept a little better represented (although I would want more trunk) with terra cotta pots that don't work at all and are rather distracting.



There are obstacles to this plan, which is why it's been rolling around in my head for several months with no action on my part. Six large planters are expensive. And I guess I've proven that we could build them, but honestly, I don't want to spend all winter building them when I know someone else could bang them out in a weekend. I'd probably call on Ryan who built our kitchen cabinets and the built-in in our bedroom for this project. I'd also have to solve the planter liner issue, because the steel box in the planter we built was a huge unexpected expense. I imagine staining the planters a soft gray, similar to the color of our deck underskirting.

I've contacted a local nursery about suggestions for a tree that might work and they very nicely came up with several suggestions, the most interesting of which is a small cultivar of hornbeam that would be appropriate for pollarding, which is what they suggest for the look I'm going for.

Caring for the trees would be no easy task. Obviously they have to be watered and tended to regularly. They would need feeding as well (something you don't have to worry about with a tree planted in the ground). Every three to five years I would have to root prune them, meaning they would have to be completely removed from their containers while dormant, cleaned of all their soil and pruned at the roots, similar to what you do with bonsai.

And in fall, they would be moved, containers and all, to the backside of the garage where they could winter in a sheltered area free from the ravages of the plow.

It's an expensive and arduous proposition, but I feel like it could completely change the feel of the yard and the entry to our house.

No decisions have to be made yet, but obviously if I'm going to do it, the sooner I can get Ryan working on the planters, the better. In the meantime, I'm just letting that idea marinate a bit.

I have a Pinterest board dedicated to this concept so if you're interested in a little inspiration, check it out here

GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT GARDEN CLEAN-UP

I forget how difficult it is to keep on top of photos when Daylight Savings Time ends. Seems like I'm only home when it's dark these days.

The deep freeze is scheduled to arrive this week and stick around for at least a week. Temperatures next week will struggle to break 20. In other words, it was time to get going on my garden cleanup.

Here's how I prioritize garden cleanup in the perennial garden.

1. Pots. Pots must be cleaned out (and by this I mean dumping the soil and plants out, not actually scrubbing them, which I realize you are supposed to do but I rarely get around to) and moved into the garage to get them out of the way for shoveling and to avoid damaging them.

I finished this project up Sunday and I'm feeling much better just having that done.

The Venus dogwood gets a heap of chopped up leaves over its roots. The poles will come into play later for protection from deer.

2. Leaves. I don't like tons of leaves left sitting in the garden over winter. They form a huge frozen mat that takes forever to thaw and they never break down. So I try to get as many leaves out of the garden as I can. Then I run over them with the lawn mower a couple times before bagging them with the mower. The chopped-up leaves are then either used for leaf mold (kept in a separate pile or bins), added to the compost pile or used as a winter mulch around the roots off plants I want to offer extra protection to.

These chopped up leaves are like gold to me. I'd take as many of them as I possibly could. Mr. Much More Patient has wisened up to this and has started lobbying for a fancy new riding lawn mower (that we don't need) with a huge leaf mulching/collecting attachment that he says would work so well he'd even go collect neighbors' leaves.

The main garden is mostly cut back and ready for winter.

3. Cutting back perennials. I've read plenty of articles that suggest it is better for the health of the plants to leave them standing over winter and certainly it is good for wildlife. What it is not good for is the gardener in spring. That's a lot of work added on to an already busy season.

I split it about half and half. I like to leave ornamental grasses standing as well as sedums. I will leave a few coneflowers standing for the birds and I always leave all the spent flowers on the hydrangeas. I will also leave everything that was newly planted this summer standing. And the same goes for things like clematis that shouldn't be pruned until late winter. Although I only have about half of the gardens (half of the half of the stuff I clean up) finished, this is a project that can go on as long as I can get in the gardens, so I'll probably pick it up again over the weekend and even beyond if we get a little warm spell.

Anything I can do now saves time in spring and there is never enough time in spring.