Good Life

Over the Garden Fence: Cultivation, rodent issues may stunt blooms

I hear it all the time: Someone tells me they bought a plant from a reputable nursery and treated it with the best of cultural care, yet it is not blooming. Why? Here are a few plants and some possible reasons for their lack of blooms:


Climbing rose:



• Peony: not enough sun; planting too deeply; botrytis blight killed flower buds, spring cold snap killed flowers; dry soil caused flowers to abort.

• Tulips: insufficient winter chilling; bulbs are too small to bloom; poor drainage; not enough sun; bulbs are too old and should be replaced; various diseases.

• Wisteria: vine is a seedling and not grafted; fertilizing with nitrogen; not enough sun; excessive pruning in summer.

With the snow lingering, gardeners might face another problem besides the plants being injured by the cold temperatures. Rabbits and mice will eat the bark off trees and shrubs during the winter. When the feeding encircles the stem, the stem dies. Girdled stems may try to leaf out in the spring but will die shortly after. Girdled evergreen stems will turn brown.

Solutions may include using repellents or cylinders of hardware cloth or sheet metal to protect the trunks and stems of plants. The repellent or rodent guard needs to extend above the usual snow line so the animal cannot stand on the snow and feed above the protected area.

Squirrels not only will raid bird feeders, but they also will clip off branches for use in nest building and gnaw the bark off trees. The gnawing can leave small pieces of bark and branches on the ground. Girdled branches will die.

My hope for local gardeners would be that they don’t experience these problems this growing season, but for those who do, at least they will have an idea on how to rectify these issues.