Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Deer Country: Bib Jeans, New Trimmer, 26 Flat Tops

Fountain grass needs cutting back
What a beautiful February day—bright sunshine, temperature hovering just below 50°F, slight breeze.  I put on my new pair of bib jeans, unboxed my new 17” electric hedge trimmer, grabbed a 100’ extension cord and a pitchfork, and went to work cutting back our perennial fountain grass.

Fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) is a great landscape plant for Deer Country.  It has character—bright green in spring and early summer, grows nearly 3’ tall, is light golden brown in fall, and attracts birds that seem to savor its seeds well into winter.

Best of all, deer don’t eat fountain grass—and most other ornamental grasses.  I suppose the reason is that the grass is too tough for them to easily bite off and then chew.

We have 26 clumps of fountain grass.  Four in a front yard island bed help another deer unfavorite, boxwood (Buxus x ‘Green Mountain’), hide the vent of our septic system.  The remainder are in our backyard, most on the outside of our fence where they help dissuade local nimble bambits from jumping the 4’ split rail and wire fence by widening the jumping obstacle.

Without the fountain grass, the fence is about six inches wide.  With the fountain grass, the hurdle, at least from a deer perspective, is about five feet wide, a width our bambits so far have refused to jump.

Fountain grass with flat-top cuts
Every February or early March, though, before the fountain grass begins its spring growth, I cut back the previous year’s grass.  I call it giving the clumps their annual flat-top haircuts.

That’s what I did this morning.  The job took less than two hours, including stacking the cuttings with my pitchfork for easy moving to our compost heap when my Kubota tractor returns from its annual winter service appointment.

Oh, my Aching Back, I thought, as I finished bending and cutting and stacking.  Yes, my back ached—and also my left ankle and knee and right shoulder.   Why don’t young gardeners ache, I often ask?  Do pains of age only begin at three score and ten?

And then, as I looked at the stack of hay I’d piled on the side of the hill and felt the warming winter sun soothing my aching muscles and joints, I thought of the ancient nursery rhyme, at least as best as I could recollect:

Ancient Gardener Blue,
Come raise an alarm,
The squirrel’s on the birdfeeder,
The deer are eating the corn.
Where is that gardener
Who keeps away the deer?
On the haystack
Fast asleep!
Will you wake him?
Oh no, not I!

And guess what I did right then and there—as warming winter sun soothed my aches and pains?
Yes, I really did

1 comment:

  1. What is a garden for, if not to take the occasional nap?