Orach: An Ancient Vegetable That’s New Again

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Red orach with it’s startling red foliage. Photo: Die Grashüpferinnen

Do you know orach or orache (Atriplex hortensis), also known as mountain spinach? It’s a vegetable that was once very popular and, in fact, was one of the first vegetables cultivated by humans, known well before the time of the ancient Greeks.

During the Middle Ages, orach was one of the mostly commonly grown vegetables in Eurasia and by the 17th and 18th centuries it had “conquered” the Americas and Australia as well. But then spinach, previously an obscure, rarely grown spring vegetable with a similar taste, suddenly became very popular and orach went into decline. Why? Nobody knows. It’s especially odd considering that orach is easier to grow than spinach, can be harvested over a much longer season … and is far prettier as well!

Both plants belonged to the Chenopodiaceae, a family now placed in the Amarantaceae family, and both share the same sweet-sour taste, as does Swiss chard, another relative.

Interestingly, orach has naturalized in many areas where it was formerly grown, a sure sign there was once a vegetable garden there. You never see spinach naturalizing!

A Vegetable to Put on Display

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You could use red orach as a summer hedge. Photo: Wearefound Home Design

The most commonly grown orach is red-leaved variety, called red orach (A. hortensis rubra). It comes with leaves in a range of reds, pinks and purples, depending on the variety. The flowers and seed capsules are also red or purple. With its unique coloring, it can easily be used as an ornamental plant.

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The ‘Aurora’ strain contains a mix of red, green and white oraches. Photo: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

There are also green orachs (they have green leaves and flowers) and so-called white orachs (with chartreuse-yellow leaves and flowers), but they are less popular than red varieties.

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Red orach flowers and seed capsules.

Depending on how you grow it, the stem can reach about 2 feet/60 cm tall (that’s if you pinch the plant regularly) or 6 feet/180 cm or more. The leaves wary widely in shape, heart- or arrowhead-shaped at the base and narrower to almost linear at the top. The flowers are small and form dense clumps at the top of the plant, somewhat like blood amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus) which is, incidentally, another close relative.

Orachs are monoecious (there are separate male and female flowers on the same plant) and pollinated by the wind. So, no, they don’t attract bees and butterflies.

What Part Do You Eat?

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Red orach leaves brighten up a summer salad. Photo: bodecology.cm

The leaves and young stems are the main edible parts. Younger leaves can be eaten raw, older ones — a bit tougher — are best cooked. You can substitute orach in any recipe calling for spinach or Swiss chard: soups, salads, quiches, lasagnas, etc. The red color of the foliage disappears during cooking, leaving you with a green vegetable … but stains the water in which you cook it red. In Italy, orach often cooked with pasta and rice (in a risotto, for example), giving them an attractive pink coloration.

The seeds too are edible and can be ground into flour or added to soups, stews, breads, cereals, etc.

The plant is very rich in vitamins C and K and minerals of all sorts, notably potassium, and is being called a “super food” (quite the buzzword these days). Canadian Living magazine calls orach “the new kale,” for example. Also, it has a long history of use as a medicinal plant.

So Easy to Grow

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Red orach. Photo: deedavee easy flower, Flickr

Orach is what is known as a “hardy annual,” which means an annual that tolerates cold temperatures and will support a few degrees of frost. Thus, unlike tender annuals that you have to start indoors since they need warm temperatures to germinate and are slow to mature, orach is almost never started indoors (although you can do so if you wish). Instead, traditionally it’s sown outdoors very early in the spring “as soon as the soil can be worked” or even the late fall for the following summer’s harvest. Since it’s a fast grower, you can also sow it repeatedly throughout the summer as a succession crop to replace other vegetables you have harvested.

Sow it about ¼ to ½ inches/1 to 1.5 cm deep, thinning to about 8 to 10 inches/20 to 25 cm apart. (And do note that you can harvest and eat the seedlings you thin out.)

You may want to sow both spinach and orach at the same time: spinach for an extra-early crop and orach to take over as the spinach goes to seed and becomes unusable. If well maintained, orach can be harvested from June until the first heavy frost.

Sow orach in full sun or partial shade in well-drained moderately rich soil. It tolerates saline and alkaline soils and will even grow where it receives salt spray, such as near the ocean. It’s also highly drought resistant… but drought makes the leaves coarser and more bitter. As with most vegetables, therefore, it’s best to keep the soil at least slightly moist at all times. Mulching, for example, is a good idea.

Orach is an excellent choice for the very trendy idea of food-scaping and it grows well in pots too, making it a good choice for a terrace or balcony garden.

A Pinch in Time

Orach will, like so many leaf vegetables, go to seed and become less edible if you don’t pinch it (cut off its uppermost stalk) occasionally. It responds wonderfully to pinching, producing a profusion of new stems covered in succulent young leaves. So do pinch it or cut it back as soon as you see flowers appear or even before.

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Orach self sows… but the colourful plants are easy to spot and pull out if they get out of line.

However, orach is normally a self-sustaining vegetable. Even though it’s an annual, it will come back year after year through self-sowing. And for that, you have to let at least one plant go to seed each year. Its seeds will then drop to the ground, thus allowing new plants to sprout the following summer, reducing your effort considerably.

However, the downside to self-sowing is that it will not always sprout exactly where you wanted it to grow. Orach can even be a bit weedy… although nothing like that other vicious self-sower of the vegetable garden, the blue-flowered herb borage (Borago officialis). I find it quite modest in its self-sowing habits. In fact, since I mulch my vegetable bed, I have to leave a few spots bare of mulch for it to sprout at all! Also, where green-leaved weeds can often hide sight unseen for a while, the red leaves of orach are a dead giveaway. If it isn’t where you planned it, either move the plant… or harvest and eat it!

Where to Find Orach

Few garden centers carry orach, either as plants or seeds, but there are many mail-order seed sources, especially companies specializing in organic or heirloom seeds, that do. Here are just a few:

  1. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
  2. Chiltern Seeds
  3. Johnny’s Selected Seeds
  4. West Coast Seeds
  5. William Dam Seeds

Try this beautiful, delicious and easy-to-grow vegetable this summer!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Nearly Instant Flowerbed for Laidback Gardeners

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The easy peasy method of starting a new flower bed: just cover the ground with moist newspaper, add a thick layer of good soil… and start planting!

When you want to start a new flower bed, why bother cutting out and removing the sod, then double-digging the soil (which only seems to serve to bring up low quality subsoil full of weed seeds and move it to the surface)? Just use the “laidback gardener” technique: it gives you much better results (a garden with rich soil and no weeds) and it’s sooo much easier to put in than the traditional method.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Trace the outline of the new bed by placing a garden hose on the ground and moving it around until you get the shape you want (usually a somewhat wavy edge is more attractive than a straight one).

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    Once installed, lawn edging will help keep the lawn from invading your new garden.

  2. Install lawn edging along the outline to prevent creeping weeds, especially lawn grasses, from moving back into the new flower bed. This is, in fact, the most tedious step, but you need to do it right if you don’t want the old lawn invading your brand-new flower bed!
  3. Soak sections of newspaper in a bucket of water. No, newspaper is not toxic! These days, even the color sections are produced with vegetable-based inks and are considered fully acceptable in organic gardening circles.

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    Cover the new bed with newspaper.

  4. Cover the entire surface of the new bed with a layer of 7 to 10 sheets of damp newspaper. It isn’t necessary, or even useful, to remove the sod beforehand, because the paper will form a barrier that will cut off all its light, therefore killing the sod and turning it into compost.

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    Cover the newspaper with a thick layer of top quality soil.

  5. Cover the newspaper barrier with 8 inches (20 cm) of top quality, weed-free garden soil. If you use quality soil, you won’t need to add fertilizer or compost.
  6. Plant perennials, annuals, shrubs, etc. at the appropriate spacing (about their mature diameter minus 15%). You want the plants to touch each other at maturity, otherwise you’ll leave bare spots… and weeds just love open ground!

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    Cover the soil with mulch to keep weed seeds from germinating.

  7. Cover the soil between the plants with 7 to 10 cm of fine mulch (shredded leaves, ramial chipped wood or forest mulch, for example). Avoid cedar mulch as it’s toxic to beneficial soil organisms and even slightly toxic to young plants!

You’re already done: break out the champagne!

Why Mulch?

Weed seeds are carried by the wind and birds and thus will soon start to arrive in the new garden, but if you mulch the soil, they won’t be able to germinate, as they can’t do so in thick mulch. As a result, you’ll be starting in a bed not only free of undesirable plants, but that will remain so as long as you keep topping up the mulch as it decomposes. Also, mulch helps keep soil slightly moist, prevents it from becoming compacted and enriches it as it decomposes.

Altogether this means that not only did your flower bed only take a few hours to install, but will require much less work in the long term than the traditional back-breaking, blister-causing double-dig flower garden. In fact, the only maintenance you’ll really need to do the first year is to water during periods of drought!


What are you waiting for? Start installing the garden of your dreams today!20170522A

The Laidback Way to Layer Plants

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Layering can be soooo simple!

In the wild, plants mostly reproduce by seed. But the second most common method is layering. Oddly enough, few gardeners seem to know about this ever-so-natural method of multiplying plants… of if they do, they don’t often put it into practice!

What Is Layering?

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This grass produced a creeping stem (stolon) that rooted in contact with the soil. That’s layering.

In nature, layering or ground layering takes place when a branch touches the ground, takes root, and becomes a new plant … and this happens very frequently. Some plants have even become layering specialists, with stems called stolons that run along the ground and take root. This is the case for many groundcovers, such as bugleweeds (Ajuga reptans), periwinkles (Vinca minor) and strawberries (Fragaria spp.). And of course, how does the Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) that makes up most temperate-climate lawns spread if not by layering? There are even a few houseplants, such as spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum), Boston ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’) and strawberry begonia (Saxifraga stolonifera) that produce stolons that will root in neighboring pots if you don’t watch them!

The Complicated Technique… and the Easy One

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Most specialists want you to do all this to layer a plant… but it can be much, much simpler!

If layering is so simple, why does it look so complicated in most gardening books and on most gardening Web sites? It’s because they tend to show you the method that involves the most steps, including making an incision on the branch, applying a rooting hormone, using pegs to hold the branch in place, adding a stake to direct the branch’s tip upwards, etc. There’s nothing like making something very simple so complicated that it discourages gardeners from trying it!

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Just push a branch to the ground and drop a rock on top: it will form new roots where it touches the soil.

Yet, layering can be so easy! Simply bend a flexible branch to the ground and place a rock or brick in the middle so it won’t be able to move while letting the far end protrude from beyond the weight. Yes, that’s all there is to it! In constant contact with the soil, the branch will begin to produce roots … and soon enough a new plant is born!

Air Layering

There is also a very different layering technique you can use to multiply plants that hold their branches far above the ground. It’s called air layering. You can read more about it in the article Air Layering: a View from the Top.

Patience Necessary

Normally, a branch layered in the spring plant will be rooted by late summer or fall (some slower-to-root plants, such as rhododendrons and lilacs, may need two summers to start to root).

To check and see if your branch has rooted, remove the rock or brick towards the end of the summer and gently try to lift the branch. If it yields, it hasn’t yet rooted. Put the rock or brick back in place and try again a few months later.

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When the branch has rooted, cut it free!

If it holds tight, that’s because it now has roots. If so, cut the branch free, slicing through it between the mother plant and the rooted section. Then dig it up and replant it in its final location. It’s no longer a branch, but a plant in its own right, fully capable of surviving on its own.

What Plants Can You Layer?

You can layer almost any plant with long, relatively flexible branches that are close to the ground, including many shrubs such as forsythias, dogwoods and hazelnuts, conifers like junipers and also almost all climbing plants (they are particularly easy to layer, since they always have long, flexible stems!). Almost any perennial that produces either a stolon or a stem that can be bent over can also be layered. Even plants that are difficult to root from cuttings, such as lilacs, rhododendrons and spruce, can multiplied by layering.

Layering: it’s so simple. Try it and see!20170520G.jpg

Three Years Already

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It was three years ago today, on March 20, 2014, that I started producing a daily gardening blog under the name Laidback Gardener. Previous to that, starting in January of the same year, I had tried a few experiments: texts and photos on plants in in bloom my home and garden, travelogs about trips to San Francisco and Costa Rica, etc. But the blog only became a daily one as of March 20 that year. Since then, I haven’t missed a single day … if you don’t count the few occasions when I accidentally posted two blogs the same day and none the next, which doesn’t change anything when it comes to the total number of blogs.

At the very beginning, the blog received no more than 4 or 5 views a day. These days, about 1,400. And that’s a huge increase over only a year ago, when it was up to about 500 views a year ago. There were 147,000 views all last year and there are already 125,000 so far in 2017.

A Few Statistics

Who visits the Laidback Gardener website?

20170520BENG.jpgThe vast majority — about 2/3 of the readership — are Americans, which is interesting, considering I live in Canada. English-speaking Canadians do make up most of the rest, but there are readers throughout the world, mostly from England and Australia, but also from 185 countries so far this year… and that’s a lot, considering there are 196 official countries in the world according to Wikipedia.

The blog doesn’t seem to have any readers in Greenland … I wonder why not?

Interestingly, most of the readers of this blog are not regular followers. I can tell, because WordPress shows me which blog subjects were consulted on any given day. Most days, the “blog du jour” only gets about 50 readers, but, for whatever reason, some blog from the past that people have found through other means is usually the most visited. Yesterday, for example, the two most popular blogs were ones I wrote a a year or so ago: Can You Kill Ants with Boiling Water? and What is “Black Earth”? That goes to show that the Laidback Gardener site is being used as a reference, which is fine with me.

My Other Gardening Blog

20170520EENg.gifI also produce a second daily gardening blog, in French: Jardinier paresseux. You might wonder why… but the answer is simple: although English is my mother tongue, I live in French-speaking Quebec and most of my daily activities are in French. And, as a “gardening personality”, I’m far better known in Quebec. So essentially, the French blog is the main one and, by the way, far more visited than the Laidback Gardener blog. On an average day, it receives about 14,000 visits. Yes, that’s 10 times more than the English one. And more French speakers actually “follow” the blog on a daily basis. As a result, the French blog’s subject of the day is almost always that day’s most popular one.

Most of the blogs you read are translations: I usually write the blog in French, then translate into English, although sometimes I write in English and translate into French. Occasionally there is a blog that will be of no interest to the other group, in which case I write an entirely different blog that day in the other language. Today’s blogs, for example, although they both cover the two blogs’ shared 3rd anniversary, required a total rewrite since the statistics behind the two are so very different.

Still, most gardening subjects are pretty universal and go over well with both groups, so I use translations. If you read both the English one and the French one, there wouldn’t be much of a difference.

And the Future?

20170520C.pngI make no income from this blog (maybe I will one day: keep your fingers crossed!) and it takes up a lot of my time: hours every day. Whenever I travel, and I travel a lot, I have to start writing blogs weeks in advance so I can maintain the flow.

Still, I intend to keep at it. I have this need to share my passion about gardening and writing a blog has become the primary outlet for that passion. True enough, I lecture widely, write for magazines, newspapers, and other blogs and have dozens of books on the market, mostly in French, but the pleasure of getting up each morning and writing about gardening, my favorite subject, is incredibly satisfying. And I have so many subjects I want to write about. You’d think that, after over 1,000 blog articles, I’d have run out of ideas, but it’s almost the opposite: the more blogs I write, the more subjects come into my head.

There will be one difference from now on, though: I’m going to try and give myself 2 to 3 days off each week and republish previous blogs to fill the gaps. I’ve done so occasionally in the past, mostly very punctual blogs like what to sow over the coming weeks, always something people need to be reminded about, but they’ll be more repeats in the future. I hope that doesn’t upset people who’ve been following my blog since the beginning… and I will mix them among fresh blogs. So there’ll still be plenty of new material, I promise!

My goal is to continue to provide healthy, practical, honest horticultural information, especially information that will reduce the workload in the garden, to readers around the world for as long as I can.

Tomorrow, then, I’ll return to formula of a “blog rich in horticultural information.” But I’ve given myself a day off with this less horticultural blog to celebrate this 3rd anniversary. I’m going to go out for an ice cream later: I figure I deserve it!20170520AENG

Commercial Herb Plants: Doomed to Die?

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The raison d’être of today’s article: I saw these overcrowded and doomed-to-die basil seedlings in a local farmer’s market the other day. A perfect example of how not to grow herbs!

Poor horticulture has begun to dominate in the field of herb plants. More and more herb sellers (supermarkets, public markets and even garden centers and nurseries that should know better) now offer pots jam-packed with seedlings, with ten plants or more growing in a dense clump. This results in a pot that looks nice and full, even mature, but the plants are so densely packed they’ll most likely die fairly soon after their purchase. Essentially, this is planned obsolescence.

A single pot may be suitable for 10 very small seedlings, but as they grow, they start to compete for resources: space for their roots, minerals for healthy growth and, most of all, enough water to stay healthy. Overcrowded pots will need extra watering, probably 2 or 3 times per day, quickly exhausting even the most enthusiastic gardener.

Why produce such horrors? Because the container looks fuller and more mature (though, inevitably, it contains only very young seedlings), so it’s more attractive and therefore it’s more likely that consumers will choose it over a well-grown and truly healthy plant all on its own in a pot.

Also, once the first pot is dead, the merchant hopes that you will come back for a second one. Then another and another. I heard one supermarket clerk tell a woman that herbs are naturally short-lived: you simply had to buy new plants every two to three weeks! In the herb business, planned obsolescence pays off!

The Rule: One Plant Per Pot

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This is how herbs (here basil seedlings) should be sold: one plant per pot.

Healthy herbs, ones that will live long and produce an excellent harvest, are sold one plant per pot. Okay, maybe there’s a small straggler sharing its pot, a seedling that germinated late and that the grower didn’t get around to removing. You can do so when you get the pot home. The important thing is that the plant has to have space to grow well.

Usually these young healthy herbs are sold small pots (six-packs or 2½ inch/6,5 cm containers), ready to be planted in the ground or into a larger pot when you bring them home.

When looking for herbs, therefore, and want quality plants, just follow the rule: one plant per pot. It will give you the best results!

Can You Save Crowded Plants?

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These overcrowded basil seedlings are starting to collapse from stress. Thin out the pot, leaving just one specimen, without delay. It may still be possible to save it.

It’s too late and you’ve already bought a pot of overcrowded seedlings? Yes, you could save them… or more correctly, it, as you’ll want to leave just one. Don’t wait until the plants start to die, thin out the pot as soon as possible. Be heartless and cut the surplus plants to the ground, simply leaving just one seedling in the pot. If you catch it in time, it can still have a full and productive life.

Can you separate seedlings from crowded pots, then grow each plant in its own pot? You’ll notice that the grower often specifically sows the seedlings very densely to discourage this kind of thing, but if the seedlings are very young, with few roots, it is sometimes possible to disentangle them. To do this, place the root ball in a bowl of water and let the soil “melt away” (it will slowly drop free from the rootball), then gently pull on the seedlings, holding them by a leaf, not a stem, to separate them. If you succeed, you should, of course, pot them up, each in its own pot, without delay.

Sow Your Own Herbs

Obviously, you can save even more by sowing the herbs yourself… and doing it right.

Some herbs are mainly grown from seed. These fast-growing, easy-to-sow varieties, such as basil, parsley, chervil and dill, are the ones that are usually grown crowded in their pot. (Growers don’t crowd cutting-grown plants or divisions; they’re more expensive to produce.) Why not sow them yourself … and sow them properly?

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Sow seeds 3 to a pot, then thin to just one plant. Easy peasy!

You can produce the number of pots you would like for only a few cents each and seed packs for herbs are widely available on the Internet as well as in any good garden center. And it’s so fast! In three weeks, basil and chervil seedlings, for example, will be as big as the plants sold in the store… and will probably have cost you 20 times less!

Sow 3 seeds per pot (always sow more than necessary in case germination is uneven) and, when the plants come up, cut back any surplus seedlings, thus leaving only one plant per pot. It’s so easy!


But back to our rule of the day: when you buy herb plants, always choose one plant per pot!

Can You Save A Deer-Damaged Cedar Hedge?

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Winter deer damage heavy? Seek deer-resistant plants

Deer damage on a cedar hedge. Photo: Michigan State University

What a shock when you realize that the deer got to your hedge over the winter. They are particularly fond of cedar (arborvitae) hedges (Thuja occidentalis) and often the whole bottom of the plant is completely empty of green growth up to height of 5 feet or more. Thus, your beautiful hedge, once your pride and joy, dense from head to foot, now resembles a row of straggly green mushrooms, destroying any effect of intimacy it may once have provided. Can you save it?

Possibly, but it certainly won’t recuperate all on its own. It all depends on the extent of the damage… and how much effort you’re willing to put into saving it.

The Downside to Conifers

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When you prune a cedar, stick to the outer, still green growth. Don’t prune into the inner brown branches.

You see, like most conifers, cedars won’t regrow from old wood. When you prune them, you always have to stay within the shrub’s green growth, that of last two years. As soon as you reach the inner branches that are completely brown, you have to stop. There are no dormant buds there to fill in with new growth.

But deer don’t know that. In a mild winter, they might only nibble moderately, mostly within the green section, but during a bad winter, when they’re nearly starving, they’ll graze right down to the very last green bud, leaving nothing for the hedge to grow back from.

If they have left at least some green buds here and there, yes, the hedge be saved, but it will take several years. If they haven’t… well, read on!

The First Decision

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If you cover the bottom part of your hedge with snow fencing or burlap, that will keep the deer at bay… but at the price of a lot work and a truly ugly winter appearance.

Before proceeding with any recovery efforts, though, what are you planning to do to keep the deer away in years to come? Because if you don’t intend to do anything, there’s no point trying to save your hedge. To keep deer away in the winter, you’d have to, at the very least, surround the bottom of the hedge with a deer-proof barrier of some sort, like burlap or snow fencing. But do you really want to wrap your hedge up each winter – then take have to the barrier down again each spring – for the rest of your life? I know I wouldn’t: too much work.

There are other ways of keeping deer away, though. Read Deer-Proofing Your Garden for suggestions.

Affirm Your Laidback Nature

Or be realistic. The easiest thing to do, especially when the damage is extensive, is to yank the hedge out. Once deer have found your garden, they are most likely going to be coming back year after year. The easiest thing to do is therefore learn to live with them and their foibles. Any plan you have to “save” the hedge will involve years of effort on your part and will need to be put into practice as long as you and the deer share your current address. That’s a lot of effort!

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A flower bed can easily hide a recovering deer-damaged cedar hedge. Photo: Rebecca G, pinterest.com

But there is another “laidback” possibility: you can hide the lower part of the hedge with other plantings. And for that, I’d suggest you use deer-resistant plants. You’ll find a good selection in the article 250 Deer Resistant Plants. Many of plants listed are tall enough to hide the damage or at least to attract attention elsewhere. A beautiful mixed flowerbed planted at the foot of the damaged hedge, for example, and composed of plants of different heights, will completely hide the damage in summer and, if you are not one of those persnickety gardeners who believes in doing a thorough fall clean up every year, but instead leave your plants alone, reasonably well winter as well.

But I Want to Save My Hedge!

I understand that: you’ve invested time and money installing and shaping the hedge and you’re not going let any #*&?$#% deer prevent you from enjoying it.

Here is what to do in both cases you might to have to deal with: when the lower part is capable of filling in… and when it is not.

A. When The Bottom Can Fill In

When the bottom of your hedge is still a bit green, you can encourage it to recover. Every year, trim the top part of hedge (normally around mid-June) rather severely, while remaining within green growth, of course. This will have two effects: since the top is now narrower, more sun will reach the lower branches and that will help them grow in better. And also the lower branches won’t have to grow as long to “catch up” with the top growth.

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This deer-damaged hedge had some bottom growth and is therefore able to recover. You could prune the top back more so the two share the same shape more rapidly.

Don’t prune the lower branches at first: let them grow back a bit. However, when they do start to fill in, probably after 2 or 3 years, lightly prune back the denser sections to give the weak sections more time to catch up. After 5 to 7 years, if all goes well, your hedge will have resumed its original full shape.

But do keep protecting the hedge against deer in the winter!

B. When the Bottom is Dead

Winter deer damage heavy? Seek deer-resistant plants

When the bottom is truly dead, it won’t grow back. Photo: Michigan State University

If in June there is still no sign of growth at the bottom of the hedge, but only dead branches, you’ll need to try something else.

First remove all those dead branches. Now plant young cedars (they should be of the same variety, otherwise your hedge will look odd) at the foot of the hedge, on both sides, and as close to the bare trunks of the original hedge as possible. You’ll need to chop into the roots of the hedge, so expect a lot of effort. Note that you can plant them at a bit of an angle, leaning them into the bare spot. Keep the young cedars well-watered (there’ll be a lot of competition for moisture, what with more plants now sharing the same space).

Each year, prune them as needed on the outside to stimulate denser growth while allowing the tops of the new plants to grow upward until they begin to merge with the original top growth. Eventually the new cedars will blend in so well with the older ones that you will no longer be able to see the difference and your hedge will then be “saved” … again, as long as you have kept the deer at bay every year.


All this is far too much effort for me. I would have yanked the #*&?$#% hedge after the first signs of damage! (You wouldn’t get me to plant a cedar hedge at any rate: it’s just too much maintenance!)

An Echinacea for Montreal’s Anniversary

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Echinacea ‘De Montréal’. Photo: Plant Select

Montreal, the New World’s largest French-speaking city, is celebrating a milestone anniversary this year: its 375th. And for the occasion, the City of Montreal has chosen a floral emblem: the ‘De Montréal’ purple coneflower (Echinacea ‘De Montréal’).

The new cultivar was developed by Quebec plant hybridizer Serge Fafard of Jardins Osiris. It’s an upright, robust and long-lived echinacea, about 2 ½ to 3 feet (75–90 cm) tall and 2 feet (60 cm) wide. The large blooms have a triple row of ray flowers and change in color through the season, starting orange, then turning more and more pink over time, although often retaining an orange halo around the central orange disc.

Flowering begins in July and continues until September. The flowers attract bees and butterflies throughout the summer and, if you leave the flowers left standing after the bloom, seed-eating birds in winter.

Echinacea ‘De Montreal’ will grow best full sun in any well-drained soil. It is solidly hardy in zone 4 and worth trying in zone 3.

Where to Find It

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Great Gardening Weekend at the Montreal Botanical Garden. Photo: Espace pour la vie

Well, if you want to see it in person, go to Montreal this summer: it will be everywhere. Some 8,000 plants of this new echinacea were produced for the 2017 season and the City of Montreal has planted them in parks and public places throughout its territory as well as in the Montreal Botanical Garden.

The official unveiling of the new emblem, in the presence of ‘De Montréal’ echinaceas specially forced for early bloom, will take place on the first day of the Great Gardening Weekend at the Montreal Botanical Garden, that is on Friday, May 26, 2017. Please note that to mark the 20th anniversary of the Great Gardening Weekend and Montreal’s 375th anniversary, access to the event will be free for all visitors that day. The activity will continue on May 27 and 28 at the usual rate.

Plants will be on sale at the Botanical Garden boutique for the occasion. Some garden centers already offer them, especially those in the Montreal area.

When will it reach nurseries where you live? That may take a few years. But do be on the lookout for this new hardy perennial!

Happy birthday, Montreal!20170517A Plant Select