|Redhot poker with winter-killed leaves|
Leaves of redhot poker (Kniphofia spp.) are tough. They are deer-resistant tough, except for an occasional leaf of tender new growth that gets browsed. My pruners and electric trimmer don’t cut them easily or cleanly.
Last spring I discovered an easier, faster way to remove the old redhot poker leaves that had been smashed to the ground by snow long since melted. I used my hands, not a new and exciting cutting tool. I discovered that if I give the weather-damaged leaves a tug with my hands, they slipped off the crown of the plant quite easily. This week I “perfected” the art of hand-pulling redhot poker leaves.
Here’s how I do it.
At first, grasp four or five of the outer leaves about midway and pull away from the plant, not straight up. Trial and error taught me that pulling straight up, especially on leaves of younger plants, sometimes results in the whole plant being pulled, which is not the goal here.
|Redhot poker after last year's leaves pulled off|
As the old leaves come off, you’ll find this year’s leaves beginning to growing at the plant’s crown. Since they’ve been protected by the old leaves, they’ll be a lighter green—sort of like asparagus that has been hilled or otherwise hidden from the sunlight so it remains “white.” The new leaves will begin growing soon and will turn dark green as the days warm and sunlight intensifies.
I have one concern, though. Now that I’ve exposed the young, tender leaves that will grow this year, have I in effect put up a sign saying, “Deer! Come Browse Here!” With grass greening, clover starting to grow, and buds enlarging on all kinds of shrubs and trees, I hope deer remember that redhot poker is near the bottom of their “eat” list.
When I pulled last year’s leaves this week I discovered that voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus), also known as meadow or field mice, had been living under protective “tents” created by the weather-bent leaves. I found two nests made out of plant fiber in the circular runways under the old tents.
|Redhot poker in summer bloom|