I have made myself wander through our gardened grounds here in Minnetonka where I have lived since January 1, 1974. Walking through and cleaning up the grounds isn’t as easy as it used to be. I had knee replacement surgery on my right leg late last November. That plus my elderly condition in general has delayed service in my keeping the grounds beautiful…..
……especially when I wasn’t around to keep deer and rabbits “in their place”. They must have thought I went somewhere South for the winter instead of being crippled indoors.
Most of you home owners cover your grounds almost entirely with grass. My gardened grounds has to be a bit more than a half acre upon which I have only a five minute mowing patch of lawn…..all of it quite mediocre.
I did apply Milorganite as recommended in our previous article this past February. Most of the damage had already been done.
Rabbits love arborvitae, at least those which have foliage reaching the ground. Yet, not all arborvitae are equally pleasing to these pesty rodents. Those shrubby with yellowish foliage seem to be breakfast, lunch, and Sunday dinner unless protection is provided. Don’t worry about the tree forms once they have reached adolescence….about ten feet tall…..There after the bark is too ‘barky’ for rabbit food. In a few years after adolescence, however, when the arborvitae tree bark is about a foot or more in diameter at your waistline, you can expect male deer activity in October and November to shred it into ribbons with its antlers while hunting down some doe to do their nature together.
Fortunately only females jumped my fencing during my recovery……some eatings, lots of poop dropped, but no scars on any of my countless trees from antlers.
This is the best time for pruning the lower branches made nude of foliage by rabbits. All you have to do is observe the ugly damage usually below the first foot or three above the ground, depending upon the snow depth of the past winter. Use a professional felco hand sheers for smaller woody cuts or a quality Japanese hand saw, but not the low quality stuff you usually see being sold at your local monster store. Use your eye as your art scope ready to make your eaten shrub beautiful….not necessarily for the moment, but for its future.
Remember, the conifers Pine, Spruce, and Fir are not pruned as if they are arborvitae, chamaecyparis, juniper or yew. Pine, Spruce, and Fir develop candle-like foliage clusters rather than a mass of new foliage of greenery, foliage which can easily be sheered if needed.
If you want to artistically , or need to prune back any of these new Spring-developing Pine, Spruce, or Fir candles, prune back only the fresh candles, but never previous years’ candles. Remember that the previous year’s foliage is not able to produce new buds on the old wood of these particular shrubs or trees.
Note: My snow drops opened bloom last Saturday. The rabbits have probably destroyed nearly all of my Crocus…but the Chionodoxa and Narcissus will begin blooming in April.
Do not forget, all Narcissus produce a chemical which makes them uneatable for the animal world.