JARS v64n1 - Regional Musings: Notes from Virginia

Regional Musings: Notes from Virginia
Reprinted from the Middle Atlantic ARS Newsletter, September 2009

From the Western Shore of Chesapeake Bay
David Lay
Kilmarnock, Virginia
David Lay

Here on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay it has been a very wet summer. In late August everything is green and growing rapidly, especially the weeds! After two very dry years and a winter with almost no snow, May, June, and July rainfall was nearly double normal. August we have recorded close to eight inches.

Many of the rhodos and azaleas we cut back drastically in the past two years have bushed out beautifully. A pruned 3.7 m (12 foot) 'Anna Rose Whitney' is no longer a sprouting stump but a respectable and branched one metre (three feet). All of which proves that even the most crowded and overgrown garden can be brought back in shape if you are ruthless and have the good luck to have lots of rain.

Another bonus this year is lots of long new cutting wood though you probably will take cuttings a little later than normal because the wood is so soft. Also, I have found that less vigorous side shoots root better than the lush straight up new growth.

This year despite the rain we have had no leaf gall on the 'Glacier' azaleas by the house. We have always had a lot because of drip from the roof but last summer when we cut the azaleas drastically, we raked out all the leaf-gall and old mulch and laid down all new mulch. Leaf gall spores obviously succumbed to the new hygiene.

We have also had a lot of pruning done gratis because of the heavy rains. Our many limbed-up oaks have dead branches in their canopy. This dead, rotting wood absorbs water, gets heavy, and then comes crashing down with very little wind or warning. We have piles of it around and one three metre (ten foot) limb as thick as my leg shattered on the walkway to the front door scarcely ten minutes after I walked in with the groceries.

From the Middle of MAC
Jane McKay
Palmyra, Virginia
Jane McKay

In the Spring of 2008 I declared 2008 as a Rhododendron year in my garden. This year I named 2009 as an Azalea year. Unfortunately I have to split this year and also classify this year as a "Critter year." Over the years we have had and mostly still have lizards, skinks, frogs, toads, snakes, turtles, moles, voles, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, opossum, raccoons, skunks, fox, deer and once even a bear passed by. I live in a gated community and hunting is not permitted here. When we moved 16 years ago, houses were few and far apart. Since then more and more homes were built on fairly small lots. My property is somewhat over an acre and one of the larger properties around here. The animals have increased at will but the natural food supply has diminished. Therefore gardens are invaded. This is the story we hear more and more.

Squirrels have always tried to drive me crazy here and in New York by depotting plants as quick as I pot them. They devise ways to get into bird feeders and tear berries off plants before they even ripen. This year they have devised a new trick. I love coleus and plant big pots of them throughout the garden. This year they have been tearing the coleus plants off at ground level and just leaving the tops of the plants lying on the ground. Hostas are another favorite plant and these have been attacked on two levels, voles at the roots and rabbits eating the tops. I conquered the voles problem by moving the hostas to large pots being careful to place a piece of hardware cloth (metal, not plastic) over the drainage holes. To deter the rabbits I found a spray, non toxic, from "Imustgarden.com" that has worked so far.

This area has been inundated with voles this year, and everywhere I look I see vole holes. I don't think they have missed 0.9 sq m (one square foot). I haven't seen a black snake here in a few years; they used to help keep the voles under control. Never thought I'd be happy to see a snake!

The lawn is like a minefield due to the mole tunnels but the Japanese beetle population is way down. I don't know if the moles are eating the grubs but I'll put up with the lumpy lawn just in case.

Most of the garden is fenced with 2.1 m (seven foot) welded wire and so far this keeps the deer out. Just outside the fence is a flat area about 7.6 m (25 feet) wide with a stream at the far side. This area has long been frequented by the local deer. This year four bucks have decided to make this their home and I find them resting there most days. I can walk among them and they don't bother me. I will have to stop this practice once mating season starts as I understand bucks get cranky during that season. The does and the fawns have stopped walking through that area and stay more to the front of the house.