Wildlife in the Garden

 

Photo of deer mother and babies

These are the guilty parties who have been nipping the heads off my daylilies. We had a bad convergence the other day, rain into the night, that prevented spraying the vulnerable flowers; then dry weather when it was too late to go out. That made a window of opportunity for Mama Deer and her babies.

 

Photo of deer trail through flowerbed

Photo of deer trail through flowerbed

Above are two deer trails I have created/enhanced in my under-tree bed. They look delicate, but deer have a tendency to blunder through the garden, knocking over edging, stepping on and breaking, or grinding, some of the flowers you were hoping to keep. I have four bits of advice for coexisting with deer:

1) Allow natural areas in your lawn; don’t take away all their usual food by having too-perfect grass. 2) Plant mostly deer-resistant flowers. 3) Spray the endangered things, including veg, that you want to protect from them. 4) Plant lots of anything you hope to see flower or fruit. A few will eke through under cover of other plants.

 

Photo close-up of squirrel nest

The squirrel population has been burgeoning this year. They’ve built themselves a squirrel McMansion up in the oak. But today, in a surprising and excellent development, I looked out my window and saw a Golden Eagle perched on the lawn. The squirrels were frozen in various semi-hiding places, giving off warning signals. It seems the rabbit population has gone down, so predators that depend on them may have to hunt other prey.

 

Photo of poison ivy leaves

Leaves of three. When poison ivy plants are just getting started, they don’t always have the characteristic lobes or teeth. One that looks like this, though it might disguise itself as a wildflower or shrub, is just as bad as the others.

 

Photo of garden pathway

This is the garden pathway, showing the deer trail pictured above, branching off. I load on as many fallen leaves as I can in autumn and winter, and you can see how completely they’ve decomposed by summer. Meanwhile, all the branches that come down make nice defining edges.

 

Photo close-up of nicotiana flower

Close-up of a nicotiana blossom, a nice purple, which seems to be one of the rarer colors.

 

Photo of cleome flower

Cleome is a funny sort of creature. The plants smell like sour lemon; they make these curious flowers with stamens like bundles of computer cable, and as the flowers fade, each petal/sepal (whatever it is) curls up like this, in a row. And they have thorns. Cleome are also super-easy to propagate from cuttings. Just include a leaf node on a piece of stem, and stick into moist garden soil directly.

 

Photo close-up of ageratum bloom

I always plant ageratum, reliable grown from seed; the periwinkle blue is a great accent to any other color. In this tight shot, you can see what the flower form really is.

 

 

Do We Have the Gall?

Photo of gall on azalea leaf

Here is a fascinating one, of a type I’ve never seen. This azalea leaf has been mutated by whatever creature formed the gall, into a shape that resembles an orchid flower. Functional, or not? You can see the red going up the center vein, but the cells of this leaf are also generally deformed. Some galls are caused by insects, some by mites, some by fungus or bacteria.

 

Photo of wildflower with tiny white blooms

Here is a cute, tiny wildflower. Even the little serrated leaves are cute.

 

Photo of foxglove seedlings

This is a swath of seedling foxgloves, all from the parent plant that died off after blooming last year. That’s nothing sad (mildly sad, maybe, but nature has her ways) because foxgloves are, most varieties, biennials. Some of the ones I’ve started this year have grown so big and robust, I hope they will bloom. Meanwhile, I’ve got plenty here to spread around to other beds.

 

Photo of cloche protecting monarda

You might have come across what looked like snipped-off leaves, on some of your garden plants. I added a monarda to my “round the tree” bed, and came out one day to find it had vanished. I dug up another piece from a stand in the front border, and that one got snipped too. I thought it must be a bird, but the leaves were left lying on the ground, so what could the guilty party have in mind? Another day, I looked through my back door, and saw a grackle snipping at a brand new store-bought monarda. So, if you’ve ever had a similar experience, I can testify I’ve seen the bird in the act. Maybe the strong scent, the oils in the leaves, helps them get rid of lice when they’re nesting. (Now nesting is over, they’ve left my plants alone.) Maybe the scent helps disguise the nest from predators.

 

Photo of lily eaten by deerPhoto of impatiens eaten by deer

Speaking of depredations. We had two solid days of heavy rain here in southeastern Ohio. Normally I use Liquid Fence to keep deer off my tasty garden plants, the lilies, daylilies, impatiens, elephant ears…besides which I plant as many deer resistant flowers as I can find. I have most of the usual ones; sometimes the deer will snip the tops off coneflowers or shasta daisies. But a convergence of circumstance put my garden at risk. The rain meant I couldn’t spray, and then…which is common at this time of year…a deer showed up during the early daytime. They are normally nocturnal in their foraging, so I’d expected to have enough time when things dried up, to stink up my plants for them. (Liquid Fence is a spray you mix that smells like a combination of garlic, pepper, and manure.) As you see, some of this year’s lily flowers got snatched away, and these impatiens I just planted are down to the nubs. The deer also chopped some centaurea, which won’t care, and my goatsbeard, which one or another deer tends to do every year.

 

Photo of cuttings in nursery box

But here are some new impatiens getting a start, as well as cuttings from some petunias I just bought. You can keep a nursery box like this all summer and stick cuttings in as your plants get leggy, or when you just want more.

 

 

 

The Gardener Looks Forward

Photo of yellow-bellied sapsucker sapwells on tree

 

This is the effect of a yellow-bellied sapsucker on my callery pear tree. These sap-wells won’t start to flow until the springtime. The male I’ve seen, who owns this tree and comes out to patrol it, may be living a little out of his traditional range (there must be a female around, too). He’s been making rows of holes on this tree for years, but seems to have moved to a new stage. Sapsuckers can actually kill trees—for myself, I’d rather have happy birds. They aren’t likely to attack species of tree that don’t produce volumes of sap, those being mostly maples, birches, and fruit trees.

 

Photo of frog statue in snowy garden

 

The frog is always getting knocked off his perch. I have visiting deer who come every night looking for corn around the feeder. A couple of males have racks, and I’m guessing they bump the frog trying to maneuver their heads into the space around the tubs and pots.

 

Photo of Tufted Titmice on snowy branches

 

These guys were easy to capture in the lilac. Tufted titmice are some of the tamest birds, and don’t mind letting a person with camera get close. They, the chickadees, the downy woodpeckers, and the Carolina wrens, all prefer to go on eating, whether I’m there or not, than fly off to hide in the brush pile.

 

Photo of seed packets

 

Here are all the seeds I’ll be starting around the last week of March, and in early April. It takes a few weeks for sprouting to begin with, and nothing other than hardened-off perennials can go out until the end of May, when frost is really finished. Growing your own gives you some gardening fun until the outdoors is ready, and also saves a lot of money these days, when a single perennial can cost fifteen to twenty dollars.