Welcome to the first day of March 2013 – Gardening Oops (GOOPs) day here in Joene’s Garden. On the first of each month I share a gardening faux pas hoping you can learn from my experience, and give you the chance to share a faux pas – or GOOPs – of your own. My March 1, 2013 tale is the result of three, seemingly unrelated, objects. When combined the three became a gardening oops.
Study this photo to see if you can predict what happened.
This GOOPs tale begins with two rhododendron planted, about fifteen years ago, as small shrubs on either end of our front porch. With time they grew to over six feet tall and about 5 feet in diameter because each autumn I install chicken wire fencing around each shrub to prevent winter browsing by resident white-tale deer. Each spring I remove the fencing at about the time deer move deeper into the woods to fawn. Using this method, I’ve had no deer browsing on either shrub … until now.
A couple of years ago we had roof-top solar panels installed over the garage and along the roof-peak of the central section of the house. The panels were installed well after I planted the foundation shrubs.
During the first winter, when we had small snowfalls, we learned that snow slid – with considerable force – off the garage roof panels and landed on the boxwood shrubs planted below. Fortunately the shrubs incurred no damage from the sliding snow that first year. To prevent shrub damage from heavier snowfalls my husband built a-frame forms that I now place over the boxwood shrubs before the first predicted snow. Our observations also told us that most snowfalls would slide off the solar panels with enough force to miss the rhododendron and its protective winter fencing.
All was fine until the blizzard of 2013 hit our south-central Connecticut region. In less than 24-hours we received a period of powdery snow followed by a period of sleet and rain followed by another extended period of snow. Snowfall amounts totaled three feet, snowdrifts reached 5-6 feet.
We had one day to clean up as much snow as possible before leaving for a pre-planned vacation. We left home suspecting that snow falling off the solar panels might flatten the fencing meant to protect the rhododendron. We returned to find this,
and the previously fully-leaved rhododendron looking like this.
Here’s the deer-browsed rhododendron (left) compared to it’s sister shrub (right) still protected at the other end of the front porch – under the section of the house without solar panels.
During my younger, less seasoned, gardening life I would have been devastated at the sight of this rhododendron. My more seasoned self has learned to go with the punches. Rather than mourning this turn of events I see this as an opportunity to plant something more deer resistant and less likely to grow out into the solar panel avalanche zone.
What can we all learn from this GOOPs?
- Roof-mounted solar panels present unique hazards to plants directly in the line of avalanching snow.
- Deer will take advantage of any opportunity to munch on greenery during the winter. This is a lesson northern gardeners in deer territory learn again every year.
- Instead of crying over munched leaves look at the bright side … the chance to try new plants that better suit the conditions.
I have a few rhododendron replacement ideas but would love to hear any you may have for my zone 6 garden. I’d also love to learn of any snow-related or deer-related GOOPs you’ve experienced in your gardens. Share your suggestions and/or your GOOPs in a comment below or share your GOOPs on your blog, leaving a teaser comment below.