Monday, January 30, 2012

Our Nandina Nightmare

I've always had a great fondness for members of the Nandina family because they're evergreen and colorful, with delicate, feathery foliage. However, after a discovery I made this weekend, I'm worried about my plan to grow more of them as low-maintenance foundation plants.

Some of the Casualties
Saturday we were in the garden enjoying a beautiful, sunny afternoon, Roger running the chipper while I snipped and tidied. I came to a favorite pair of Harbor Dwarf which had been in the ground about three years, and had grown to nearly four feet. One looked normal, but the other one was leaning, and when I tried to straighten it, it came out of the ground, rootless. Voles had been dining, and both plants had only a few very tiny roots left. None of the other plants in the immediate vicinity had been eaten, just the poor Nandinas. That realization prompted me to check the other Nandinas on that side of the house, and I discovered that they'd been eaten too. The casualties included three 'Firepower' and four 'Harbor Dwarf', all of which were established plants that had no rodentia problems before. Happily, the Nandinas planted elsewhere are intact, at least so far...

Roger to the Rescue
All the nibbled Nandinas still look beautiful, and when I examined what was left of the roots, I felt there was enough remaining to at least try to save them. Roger put them in containers with planting mix, and watered them well. At the moment they're in the emergency hospital (the driveway, close to the garage), where we can keep a close eye on them and hope for the best. If any survive, I won't put them in harm's way again. They're going to become container plants and live a cushy life on the deck and porch.

Now I know that if I'm going to have Nandinas in the garden, it can't be in that danger zone. And I'm seriously considering digging up the survivors in other parts of the garden and putting hardware cloth around the root ball of every one. (I haven't mentioned this little project to Roger yet, so please don't tell him...)

Nandina Emergency Hospital
This is our first experience gardening in vole country, and we've had a few problems before, but not on this scale. I usually have a live and let live wildlife policy, but when it comes to these destructive little creatures and the many chipmunks who also live on our property, I don't interfere when one of the cats goes hunting and catches one, as long as he or she doesn't eat it under the dining room table. So far they haven't made enough of a dent in the rodentia population to suit me, especially after this experience. I'm just glad the rabbits haven't done anything worse than chew the mondo grass down to stumps this winter. I would have had to shear it in a couple of months anyway, and they've saved me the trouble....


Baci is a very smart cat. She must have been reading this over my shoulder, because when I went outside just now, I discovered that she'd left a present for me by the steps to the kitchen door...

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