February update

Decided to go out and enjoy the sun a little today. Really quite mild and pleasant. First thing I see is more rabbit damage in my container pots. I had hoped that they had moved on… I was wrong.

Flat of hebes mowed down by rabbits
This was a flat of very nice Hebes... No more

Deciduous shrubs and trees, conifers, and broadleaf evergreens  were all on the menu. Worst of all, to me, is when they nip the plants off and leave the corpse just sitting there. At least finish eating it! I bet this vine maple (Acer circinatum) seedling on the left will send out a new sprout. But, the form on this Thujopsis dolobrata on the right is pretty much ruined.

I suspect this is where the rabbits are lurking. They feel safe under there. It’s directly across from where the demolished plants were.

I tried putting some hardware cloth under there, but couldn’t a good angle or enough leverage to staple it in place from behind. I thought of maybe holding it in place from the front with strips of wood would work, but decided that I wouldn’t like the look of a different shade of wood running along the bottom of the shed. My fingers were numb by this point so I gave up in defeat. I did end up moving the remaining plants to a shelf. I still want to seal this space up though. I just need to mull over some better options. It bugs me that they have a hiding spot.

The rabbits didn’t get my coyotebush (Baccharis pilularis) cuttings (below left) from north California yet. They don’t look the best though. They’ve dropped about half of their leaves and the rest have some winter damage. I don’t know if this was because of their location in the shade next to the house or because of their provenance. This species is dioecious and I just happen to have both a female plant and a male plant from the same location. I planted them today and we’ll see how they do (below right). You can’t really see it, but the female is much more upright, while the male is more sprawly and messy looking. I wonder if this trait holds up for the species as a whole? Our local variety of coyotebush (bottom photo) from up the hill looks much, much better than the north California selections. We’ll see. If they look bad next winter I will rip them out.

Moving on to some winter damage. The Agave parryi ‘JC Raulston’ is looking worse than last month, but hanging in there. I tried to clean it up. Slimy, stringy mush is hard to cut, even with sharp scissors.The little strings of xylem just don’t sever easily. After reading about the agaves up in Portland posted over at the danger garden blog (here, here, and here), I felt much better about my own situation. It’s weird though, because this winter seems more mild than last year’s (at least at our house). The agaves evidently disagree.

Nearby, one of my Euphorbia clavarioides completely melted. Meanwhile, the one planted about 15 feet away looks a little damaged, but otherwise okay, and the one protected under the eaves is fine. Microclimate makes a big difference.

Euphorbia clavarioides killed by winter

My Desfontainea spinosa finally croaked this winter (left). I don’t mind. It wasn’t really thriving and had only bloomed once in the past 10 years. I pounded in a couple large Mahonia x media branches (right) that a friend gave me to propagate. We’ll see how that works.

On the good news front, my other Cylindropuntia ‘Golden Lion’ hasn’t rotted yet. Hoping it takes off this summer and that the needles get broader and more golden so that it shines like the gorgeous specimens I saw at Cistus Nursery. I got cuttings off of the one that rotted – we’ll see if they root.

My Agave bracteosa ‘Calamar’ was completely unfazed. This one is planted in pure clay, folks. Yeah, there’s a little bit of tip burn, but who cares? This looks great!

In the “stupid gardener” category are our row of arborvitae that I planted for privacy a few years ago. Somebody (me) thought that they could get away without watering them last summer because they had been in the ground for years. By the time I noticed that the scales were starting to turn dull, it was too late. It’s always more frustrating when it’s a dumb mistake on my part. The whole situation points to the fact that I probably should find an evergreen that is more drought tolerant. But, there isn’t really anything else that I can think of that is so narrow (I want to save space on the other side) and fast growing. Oh well, time to start over again…

Pacific sanicula (Sanicula crassicaula) at its best. I love the shape and texture of the leaves. I need to remember to press some leaves into concrete to see if I can get a good impression for one of my garden projects (future post)

Can’t wait for the weather to stay a little warmer so I can finish these steps up. Feeling better about the way they look.

I’ll leave you with a couple shots of some wood rot on one of our dead trees. The patterns are caused by rot occurring at different rates. The soft tissues (from early spring growth) rot first, while the harder tissues (from later in the year) rot more slowly.

This deep reddish brown color in the warm sun makes me very happy.

02/06/2023 – 02/12/2023: Alternating periods of rain and clouds or frost and sun, depending on the whims of the weather. Rain = 0.5 inches. Less rain than I was hoping for. Lowest temperature for period = 35°F, highest = 51°F.

Notes: I heard my first robins on Tuesday, February 7th. Wednesday, the roads were pretty icy and I passed 7 cars in the ditch on the way into work.

Garden chores accomplished: Seed planting, garden cleanup (fallen branches, cutting back dead stems and foliage), uncovering plants smothered by poplar leaves, taking cuttings (Azara microphylla, Veronica cupressoides, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’), grafted apple tree with four more varieties and did a little bit of pruning.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Kris P

    I never got Mr McGregor’s attitude toward rabbits until they suddenly took up residence here. For the first 8 years, I never even saw one and neighbors who’d lived here for decades longer than we have also said they’d never had issues with them. The first year they disappeared relatively quickly, presumably taken out by coyotes, but now they’re voracious year-round residents. I’m guessing that the people who campaigned to rid the area of coyotes have upset the natural balance (even though trapping coyotes isn’t a widely endorsed practice). However, the owls have been helpful of late. I hope you find a way to protect your seedlings.

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      I am just a tad less drastic than Mr. McGregor. I’ve live trapped five of them over the last few years and relocated them to the forest. I have to say, I dislike deer more. Luckily, we have a deer fence that is holding up.

  2. danger garden

    Yesterday I discovered a aspidistra leaf cut at the base by a rabbit and just left there to upset me. Of course he didn’t select one of the weather damaged leaves that I’d be cutting off anyway. Nope, he went for a good one. Agave bracteosa ‘Calamar’ looks fabulous!

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      Now, I am imagining a rabbit at the local farmers market, picking through the produce, carefully avoiding all the blemished vegetables, selecting the perfect one…and then carelessly dropping the perfect cabbage on the ground as it sees the next booth filled with delectable, fresh baked pastries.

      Loving my A. bracteosa. It’s sitting out in the snow this morning.

  3. Anna K

    Damn rabbits! And so sorry about your arborvitae. The summers have been so dry, I have taken to water my 70′ Magnolia grandiflora – which has actually helped it retain more of its leaves. (It still drops a ton, though.) Would Cupressus sempervirens work where you are? They seem to be a lot more drought tolerant.

  4. Garden Curmudgeon

    I’ve tried Cupressus sempervirens, but they aren’t reliably hardy in our yard. I’m wondering if I should think outside the box and just put evergreen broadleaf shrubs that I like. Maybe a row of Baccharis. But then we get ice storms and heavy snows, which are anathema to that type of plant.

  5. hb

    You have tough weather to deal with–it does develop gardening skill, though–it has to!

    Any evergreen shrubs native to your immediate area that would work as screening? Do you have Deer issues, too?

    Blankety-blank rabbits!

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      I’ve been thinking about what might work . Maybe a mixed shrub border instead of the conifer conga line I am so focused on, especially since arborvitaes aren’t going to be very suitable given how dry and hot summers are becoming. I’ve got an incense cedar that needs rehoming, thinking about adding a juniper, and maybe a few oddball broadleaf evergreens, like a Grevillea or Garrya.

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