56 February 4, 2009

There have been a few e mailed and written questions for the column. This week, I’ll try to answer those questions.

Jim had a question about azaleas that he has in pots that are near the road in front of his home. He puts them out in the spring and brings them back inside in the fall. Each year about this time, they begin to flower in the house. Naturally, by spring the flowers are gone. He wants to know what to do to prevent them from flowering in the winter.

Azaleas are a plant that flower in the spring. After they are done flowering, they put out new growth and then set flower buds for next year. The azaleas normally go through a cold period and then the warming weather in the spring causes the buds to open. Because they flowered during the winter, there are no buds to open in the spring. The plants going outside in the spring, causes them to put out new growth and set flower buds. When the temperatures in the fall get cold, the plants are brought back into the house. By being exposes to the cold in the fall and then getting them into the warmth of the house, the azaleas “think’ its spring and then bloom in the house. The way to stop the blooming is to bring in the azaleas once they are dormant and place the plants in a cold and dark place.. The cold temperatures and lack of light will keep the plant dormant. Once the weather warms in the spring, the azaleas can be put outside and then they will bloom at the normal time. I’m assuming that the azaleas are being brought into the house because that variety of azalea is not hardy this far north. If, on the other hand, the plants are being brought in because they are in containers that are near the street and may be damaged by snow load, the question becomes are the azaleas a hardy variety. If they are a hardy variety, move the containers into an unheated shed or unheated garage for the winter. The cold temperatures will keep the plant dormant. In the spring, move the containers back out near the road and let them bloom.

Many people have had a problem with deer eating their shrubs. When you get a winter with a lot of cold and snow, it is hard for the deer to find food in the woods. Your shrubs become a salad bar for the deer. To protect your shrubs, you can cover the shrubs with deer netting or place a barrier type fence around the shrubs with the deer netting. Deer netting is black in color. If you put it up as a fence, the deer do not easily see the netting. When they walk into the netting, it scares the deer and in many cases, it is enough to keep the deer away from the plants. The problem with putting up the netting as a fence at this time of the year is that you need to put posts into the ground. The odds of that happening are slim. You can cover the shrubs with the netting. The deer will try to eat the shrub, but the netting will have a funny sensory feel in the deer’s mouth. This can also be a deterrent. You can also spray your shrubs with deer repellent. This product makes the shrubs smell and taste bad to the deer. If it doesn’t taste good or smell good, the deer are unlikely to eat the plants.

Deer are becoming more of a problem for homeowners as we encroach on the deer’s territory. The ultimate answer may be to only plant shrubs that deer do not like to eat.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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