Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thou churlish ill-natured fig-biter*

*Shakespearean-style insult rather than actual Shakespeare.  I can't always find a quote.

But first, because it is a more cheerful post icon, forsythia.  Sorry I missed this for GBBD.  I would be all "In December!" except it's not that unusual; forsythia seems to respond to a hint of spring-like weather, and it's been warmer again (no white Christmas this year).  No harm to the shrub, which will bloom with its usual messy exuberance in March or April.

And so, the fig.  Warning, this photo is not quite what it appears: all that pale shavings stuff on the ground did not come off of the trunk, but out of a box or bag of something I ordered through the mail; it cried out to be used as mulch.  I would have moved it out of the way for the photo, except I couldn't, explanation below.

Anyway.  This is my wee Celeste fig tree, planted a year ago September some little time after I bought it from the parking lot of Whole Foods.  It got through last winter just fine, with nothing but a low fence around to keep humans from stepping on it, and did brilliantly over the growing season.

Then the perversity of animals started working against me.  Deer are not supposed to like figs, but nonetheless this fall I found the top leaves bitten off (the whole tree is only just over two feet tall as yet, but the snacking was definitely from above, so only deer make sense).  I doubted they'd be back, especially once the leaves fell off, but built a fence around it anyway, tall enough to discourage neck-stretching from above, but not reaching to the ground.  Then, a week or so ago, I saw this new damage - bark removed all along several branches.  I think this is rabbits or someone else small, because it doesn't look like antler-rubbing, it looks like chewing, and the angle and access are wrong for deer this time, never mind they'd just snap the branches off.

So, I've added to the fence so it reaches the ground now (hence my inability to brush the shavings away for a better photo), and I don't expect more damage (fingers crossed).  But what's there is bad enough.  None of the branches is girdled, so I can hope they will survive.  I'm not sure whether to stuff leaves into the fence to insulate the tree from cold, as I did with my pomegranate and was meaning to do here (though the fig got through last winter without that help), or whether that would encourage disease, pests etc.  I'm kind of inclined to leave the damaged stems to "harden off" for now (it's not that cold out anyway) and then either put in the leaves or wrap something around the fence later.  Thoughts?

The rabbits and groundhogs (or woodchucks, if you are from a woodchuck-denoting region) are with us always, but the deer are visitors here.  We used to hardly ever see them (no woods to speak of nearby, and two multi-lane roads defining the borders of our vague neighborhood) but in the last decade we've caught them visiting more frequently (more development around probably makes our relatively-rural yards a haven or at least a comfortable passageway).  Some areas they never seem to wander through (you should see my lush hostas on the northeast side of the house), and others are obviously regular pathways, although even there I can grow hostas and daylilies and the like and not fear that they will always be chewed to nubbins; in fact we've gone whole seasons without much damage to deer-favored plants.  Tulips are out in those areas, though; spring is hungry time.  And you'll note I did plant daylilies on the Way Back slope; I may be wrong, but I just don't see the deer standing there on the slippery mulch right by the neighbors' blacktop chowing down, at least not on a regular basis.  It will probably happen once or twice, but then not again for months.

I was driving home last week and about to pull into the driveway when I braked at the sight of four or five deer just hanging out in the front yard (this was about 4 pm, still perfectly light out).  Not sure what they were eating; the shrubs all need pruning anyway.  But that is an unusual sighting; we usually spot them, if at all, in darkness, doing their deeds (the gustatory sort, not anything else).

So we do have to watch out and be somewhat protective, but other people in this region have it much worse where deer are concerned.  Now, groundhogs, on the other hand... villainous rump-fed varlets!


  1. Sounds like it's easier to live in the woods than in the suburbs when it comes to critters. (Of course, I may live to eat those words next spring when all the new growth comes up where the trees were cut and is delicious!)

  2. Suburbs on the border of woods are the worst (I have friends who just can't grow anything deer like) but anywhere the critters have to be out in "our" environment gets problematic.