Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Confessions of a Plant Whisperer

I may have mis-led you in my last post ‘Perfection in its Imperfection’. I have far more sad looking trees than just that Hinoki. Some I have excuses for. Some I don’t.

So in the interest of full disclosure, and by way of thanks to all those of you who have emailed me to offer stories of encouragement I bring you Frank.

Orphaned at a tender young age.
Rejected by hundreds.
Left to die in a corner.
A foreigner in a strange county (he is Austrian by birth).
Should do well in a loving home.
‘Frank’ Austrian black pine (Pinus nigra ‘Frank’).

(and yes this was another of my …”I think it needs me” purchases).

And then there are the assorted misfits thanks to non-selective deer pruning.

Meet ‘Stubby’ the Sekkan-sugi (Cryptomeria japonica 'Sekkan-sugi'). In his earlier life he shone like a golden beacon in this mixed border. Alas he shone a little too bright and the deer got him.

I have a dogwood with a Mohawk – the most two dimensional dogwood I have ever seen. Guess which way the deer pass by?

Now I should have known better when I planted the ninebark ‘Coppertina’ (Physocarpus opulifolius), but I was caught up in the moment as I saw its gorgeous foliage catch the light. The deer saw it too. It now looks like a funky brown poodle. A big pom-pom with two very tall ears. (Until very recently it was a nice tall shrub).

I think the Heuchera are just an experiment. After all the deer could have eaten them to stubs but seemed to have stopped after eating about a third of the plant. Or about one third of each of three plants to be exact. If more damage is done I’ll move them but I’m curious to find out what the deer’s decision is. The name of this variety is ‘Peach flambé’; guess they must have been dessert after the dogwood.

So there are the 'Charlie Browns' we have to take responsibility for because we bought them that way, and there are those which were in our care at the time of their mutilation. Either way they are conversation pieces.

But just how much conversation does one garden need….


  1. re the Heuchera, This summer I had a problem with slugs. They devoured most of my burgundy ones, but not the others! I dug them up, put them in my "hospital" bed and they came back beautifully, so replanted them again where I wanted them. I like the foliage next to an errant lime green potato vine that in desperation i used as ground cover_a serendipitous decision. The lime green varieties I love as border plants and they still look great in November.

  2. Great post Karen - thanks for sharing the deer pruning and your adoptions - I think I would have purchased Frank as well!

  3. Elaine - whoever knew slugs had preferences! Love the idea of your lime green varieties in the border.

  4. Kate thanks for stopping by. maybe Frank has a brother?

  5. Made me cry laughing - had to share with Ingrida and Melina!

  6. Darn deer. All five of the gingko seedlings I started last winter and transplanted in the front yard were nipped at mid-height this Spring, leaving stumps with no terminal bud. So, I clothed them in row-cover fabric, pinched fashionably at the trunk with a twist-tie, in hopes of foiling the deer this coming winter. We shall see.

  7. Groundskeeper - sounds like a plan. I fear my garden is beginning to resemble a hospital ward in places, with white plastic 'bandages' wrapped around susceptible young trunks and cages around others until they are big enough to fight back.

  8. Katie - glad your Mum can still make you giggle. X

  9. Hi Karen, Very funny post! It never occurred to me that garden plants might make interesting conversation pieces. They certainly make amusing subjects in your post. Poor Frank! At least he found a good home with someone to nurture and fuss over him. The deer have certainly been taking a toll on your plants, trees and shrubs. I hope they appreciate all the attractive looking eats!

  10. I'm wondering if these are errant, teenage, delinquent deer - they haven't read the memo yet telling them what they are 'supposed' to like....

  11. You seem to have modern art-loving deer with formal tastes out there, keen on creating a world full of abstract topiaries. I wonder what they'd make of a boxwood ball... Frank looks like quite a sweetheart--I'm sure he'll thrive now that you've given him a chance!

  12. LOVE it Stacy!!! Yes perhaps I have resident artists and their work will be appreciated one day ...........

  13. Considering Frank is Austrian have you considered giving him beer instead of water? Maybe some cute lederhosen would cheer him up. I agree with Stacy. I think the deer have a different artistic vision for your garden than you do. :o)

  14. A drunken Frank - love it! A whole new take on beer gardens.

  15. I agree. Maintenance is one of the most important aspects to consider when doing gardening and landscaping. This will ensure the vibrancy of the colors of the leaves of the plants and grasses.

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