Can these laurels be saved after deer rub damage?

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Nate Day, Apr 17, 2020.

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  1. Nate Day

    Nate Day Member

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    I planted about 80 Portuguese Laurels in the fall. While I was out of town due to an emergency in late fall/early winter, the male deer were in rut and severely damaged several of the trees. You can see some pictures of their current condition below. I'm skeptical there's any point in trying to save them because it would take many years before the holes would be filled in where the branches have been removed, and the whole point of the hedge is to create a living wall.

    Can the trees be saved? If so, is there any point given how severely damaged many of them are?

    Thanks,
    Nate

    Deer rub damage to Laurels

    EDIT: Hired an arborist. They are fine. See post further down.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2020
  2. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    I am unclear how many of your 80 original are damaged

    ————

    I think keep them and treat them well

    You may want to plant Identical next to major damage

    Then if the bad boy deer show up again, your new ones might have some protection ... plus you’ll be a step closer To your desired living wall / Fence.
     
  3. Nate Day

    Nate Day Member

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    GeorgiaStraight: thanks for the reply. I'm concerned about planting them too close together - they'll eventually become competitors and possibly choke eachother out (so I've read).
     
  4. Margot

    Margot Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    To Nate Day: After reading your post, I expected to see far more damage than your photos reveal. Unless the deer return this fall, I would think they will recover. However, you cannot count on deer not attacking again this fall so you need to prepare as best you can. Bobbex is a great deterrent against deer eating flowers and foliage but I don't know how effective it is against rutting behaviour. Just the same, if I were you, I would spray Bobbex or Plantskydd before rutting season and, in addition, roll out a length of plastic netting temporarily along the whole length of your hedge. I can't comment on whether the shrubs are planted too close together or not but I suspect they'll figure it out and, after a few years of deer-free growth, they'll do just fine.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2020
  5. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    Nate: do you have the Latin name label from your plants?

    That would be helpful because in my experience — some people kind of interchange the laurel names

    English laurel // Portuguese Laurel

    The only problem I have had with what I would call Portuguese laurel was in an inherited garden and the shrub hedge wall had been randomly trimmed back from time to time so inside was a twisted maze of branches (with no leaves) so it got big gaps etc ... gradually it filled in but I know of a laurel today that is trimmed professionally (sheared with proper tools by a person who knows what they are doing) and it looks great as far as the solid wall look goes

    EACH YEAR professional trim — same time each yr (late spring when it is shooting out )

    They can get sparse at the bottom near the ground - hence the old traditional gardener sloping it back upwards.

    One only has to go thru any old neighbourhood in the PAC NW west wet side zone and view all the old overgrown hedges taking over the sidewalk while I suppose blocking busy traffic noise etc that didn’t exist 50 yrs ago.

    The other detail with various laurels i have known is the berries ... and how they self seed. Again I did not plant those laurels so I have no idea thé Latin name.

    PS - if the local party deer are causing hedge trouble — what do they do to the rest of your garden?

    ÉDIT - just googling around and the description on this site says « deer resistant- yes » which I suppose means they don’t eat it —- tho in your case - ironically - they groom themselves on it! Portuguese Cherry Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) Hedges For Sale
     
  6. Nate Day

    Nate Day Member

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    GS: Hello again.

    The trees didn't come with tags but I'm confident what I have are Portuguese.

    Good to know about the pro trim each year but do I really want to trim such young trees when they have so much growing to do? Perhaps, it's just counter-intuitive to a black thumb like me.

    I'm not following you with your sentence: "They can get sparse at the bottom near the ground - hence the old traditional gardener sloping it back upwards." What do you mean by sloping backwards?

    Where I am, the mature hedges are maintained and well cared for and IMO they look great.

    I have a fail-safe solution that stops deer from eating my garden year after year: I don't have one.

    Finally, yes, it's ironic that I spent months of research reading all kinds of material before deciding which species to choose, and a key consideration for me was deer-proofing. Nowhere did I ever read or be told that males in rut would damage young trees by rubbing their itchy antlers against them.
     
  7. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Photos show Portugal laurel. Grass and weeds should be removed from around them, so that they have a clean, mulched area at least 2 ft. wide to grow in. This will improve establishment.

    Answer to deer problem is deer fencing.

    Sloping back = shearing so tops are narrower than bottoms, thereby preventing bottoms becoming thin due to shading from above.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2020
  8. Nate Day

    Nate Day Member

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    Thanks Ron, much appreciated. Mulch is on my to-do list by end of month. Any thoughts on bark vs leaf mulch? The latter is more expensive fwiw.
     
  9. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Look for bulk delivery of cedar play chips. Aromatic, clean and slow to decompose. And not full of slivers that blow around during handling and get in the lungs.
     
  10. Nate Day

    Nate Day Member

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    Thanks to the pandemic, cedar chips won't be available for another month at the earliest. Since they last so much longer than the available alternatives, I'd prefer to wait if possible. Is it fair to say that the role the chips play is most crucial during the hot summer months not in mid-April? Or is there something else I should be taking into account?
    Thank you.
     
  11. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    Yes I agree - my visual mind image and my typing thumbs don’t match —- and Ron B is saying what I meant - thank you.

    Here is an interesting article fr the well respected Fine Gardening by Taunton publication Trimming a Hedge - FineGardening

    One question I would have is the ratio the FG article cites is for what height —- and it appears to be Buxus (boxwood also common out here on coastal PAC NW) versus the laurel you’ve chosen so likely that is a factor, too.

    So if we assume you want a 6 foot (2 m) top height .... then I suppose you’ll end up with a good 3-to-4 feet across at the base given how fast laurel expands on all directions, and what I experienced with a previous garden that had a Portuguese laurel privacy hedge

    I think go and walk around your neighbourhood and see who else is succeeding with same concept and plant. And note measurements and the company trimming them!

    For sure — as article linked above intimates, the first few years of your investment in the long term living fence wall will be crucial and I am referring not just to watering etc — but also shaping and getting some good « bones » in place.

    As I said before - in my experience - in a close residential setting (city lots), it is expensive and discouraging (in terms of time and appearance) to try remediate an evergreen hedge that’s overgrown

    Final question - make sure your living fence is within your local government height width bylaws (if there are bylaws about living fences hedges in your jurisdiction)

    Look fwd to updates.
     
  12. Nate Day

    Nate Day Member

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    Thanks GS, much appreciated.
     
  13. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    Further to knowledgeable points by Ron B - above - regarding cedar chips (mulch material) —- here is an old thread in which Ron B also commented on similar topic

    Toxic? Wood Chips in and around garden Q

    Look at the reference to WSU — yes, I get get a broken link on that old thread today but here is what I think might be the updated link
    Linda Chalker-Scott | Washington State University


    Couple of points about soft wood evergreen bark mulch — fire hazard (cig butts, etc — I have experience w it happening at a building I worked at) —- and any asthma or allergies in your household ? And pets ... and kids - if they dig around and play in your yard they can get little sliver splinters. Ouch.

    On thé mainland side there are mulches avail in bags and bulk sales even today.

    tho of course a lot of “industrial waste wood” is going in to the essential pulp mill process right now (either as hog fuel or fibre ) helping us all out.
     
  14. wcutler

    wcutler Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    Thanks. I have fixed the links on that thread.
     
  15. Nate Day

    Nate Day Member

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    I hired an arborist for a site inspection and our first meeting was a valuable learning experience for me. Here’s my take-away (perhaps all the details will help another beginner some day):

    1. The first question she asked me was, “Did you plant these yourself?” Not an auspicious start. I planted the trees an inch or two too high. The base of the trunk shouldn’t be any higher than the ground around it. Not a big deal. This can be remedied by adding mulch (see below).

    2. The trees damaged by deer rub will be fine. She’s not worried at all about gaps in the hedge as they fill in. The trees are hardy, they grow 2.5 feet a year, it’s going to start filling in pretty quickly. For some of the heavily damaged trees, snip down as low as the highest intact branch – far below the new shoots.

    3. It’s time to prune. Every year starting in year 1. Clip off the new shoots at the top so the tree’s growth is directed outward not upward. I’ll hire them to do the pruning this year, to see how it’s done. Already in this first year you have to start pruning along straight lines: key off the shortest tree then trim all other trees to that same height.

    4. It’s time to get the irrigation finalized. Need to lay down the drip lines and get the watering system up and running well before the summer heat. Sequentially, drip lines go in first before the mulch goes over top. I ran drip lines in a continuous loop pattern rather than a single line that terminates in a blocked end. They criss-cross one another at the mid point between the trees, and then pass over either side of the root ball roughly 8 inches or so out from the trunk. No point in placing drip lines near the trunk, the water is needed instead where the growing roots are further out. Adequate watering in the first few years is essential.

    5. It’s time to put down the mulch. Arborist strongly recommends arbor chips, i.e., the chipped branches and leaves fresh from the tree crews. Chips should not be piled more than 2 inches high. Unequivocally counsels against cedar chips as they are acidic and can damage roots. Luckily, the company generates wood chips all the time so they’re happy to unload them on me for a small delivery fee (no charge on the material itself). Once the hedges get larger, simply place the clippings down under the hedge, and the clippings can replace the role of the mulch. The use of arborist chips is endorsed by the research of Dr. Chalker-Scott at Washington State University. You can read her many information sheets on a wide-ranging number of topics here: Linda Chalker-Scott | Washington State University Her info sheet on arborist wood chips is entitled, “Using arborist wood chips as a landscape mulch. WSU Extension Fact Sheet FS160E.” and can be found here: https://research.wsulibs.wsu.edu:8443/xmlui/handle/2376/5262

    6. It’s time to erect a deer fence now, not when the males go back into rut in the fall and attack like last year. Fence definitely does not need to be built to the same standard as a regular fence – the fence is to a large degree symbolic and is meant to convey, “Not worth the effort, easier eating elsewhere.” Cheap black plastic netting from big box stores is fine, and bamboo poles should be adequate as posts. Laurel leaves are better thought of as deer-resistant but not deer-proof – deer don’t care for the taste of adult Laurels but the leaves of young trees are much more appetizing so deer will eat them if they’re easy to access. After a few seasons the deer won’t go near them as the leaves grow hard and bitter. Deer rub won’t be a risk for many seasons, the trees will soon be tough enough to no longer be vulnerable.

    7. The wild dandelions that have sprung up all around the Laurels aren’t a problem. Mow them down, and the mulch will put an end to them. They pose no threat to the young trees.

    I'll post an update once things are up and running. Thanks again to everyone who weighed in.
     
    Georgia Strait and wcutler like this.
  16. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    Great news ... take before and after pix — that will be interesting to see

    I highly agree with starting the proper professional “hair cut” from the start.

    My one caution about netting is that birds can get tangled ... and some birds do like hedges for nesting or overnight camp esp in cold times

    Some of the vineyards (esp those saving crop for icewine) in Okanagan use similar black net with similar risks of bird death.
     

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