Monday, August 26, 2013

It has been a Fabulous Summer by Sharon Faircloth

The fading, but ever-hardy, long blooming, bee-loving
catmint (Nepeta cataria)
Hasn’t it been the greatest summer?  The afternoon rains came back after several years of incredible drought.  After living in the same meadow for over 35 years, it is amazing how much the wild growth changes from year to year depending on how much moisture we receive.
Additional rainfall improved the growth of everything – the shrubs are bigger and more vibrant than they have been in years.  The flowers were everywhere and the native grasses even stayed green.  Plenty of rain, no damage from hail -- it was going so well, you know it could not last!
About the second week of August, I woke to my dogs barking.  It was the elk bark, not the coyote howl so I knew trouble was about…. I reassured myself thinking, there’s plenty of grass so they should be happy with that. 
Mutilated Moon Carrot (Sesili gummiferum)
I awoke the next morning, to find my beautiful rock garden looking like the locusts came through. Flowers were chopped; even hens and chicks were decimated!  As we have learned and painfully experienced, “wildlife resistant” plants do not equal “wildlife proof”!  To resist critters, choosing aromatics, plants with prickles and spines, tough leathery leaves and milky sap will give us the best hope of success.  Some good strategies and plant examples are found in CSU Fact Sheet 6.520.  Planttalk also covers the subject in 2302 and 2307. 
Victoria Blue Salvia (Salvia farinacea)
Additions I made this summer included the crazy Moon Carrot (Seseli gummiferum) and some beautiful Victoria Blue salvia (Salvia farinacea).   I planted mint around them to discourage critter interest but the mint hadn’t taken yet so didn’t really help much.  Clearly, the plants lived up to their expectation of being critter resistant but that didn’t save the beautiful blooms from being rudely discarded as unappealing to the elk!  The only plants left totally unscathed were the ever-hearty, bee–loving catmint (Nepta cataria)!

Whining about the elk will subside, especially as they migrate through this fall.  Don’t tell my dogs but elk are magnificent animals, so much a part of our mountain landscape.  At least that rock garden looked magnificent for a while!

Victoria Blue Salvia blooms, guess they didn’t really care for them!

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