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Old leaves offer plants winter protection, feeding

Do I have to I clean up my hosta's leaves after they die?

If the leaves are diseased, by all means remove them, since this is a basic principle of gardening sanitation and helps stop disease cycles.

However, old collapsed leaves provide some winter protection around a plant's base as they decompose, and decayed leaves feed the plant — two good reasons to save yourself the trouble of removing them.

Hosta leaves will virtually disappear by the time new leaves come up in the spring.

A raccoon pried open our bird suet feeder — bending the metal — and ate the suet, even after my husband added two more spring latches to secure it. What can be done against with such a strong animal?

People report good results with hot pepper suet.

The University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at

Plant of the weekVenus Fly Trap

Dionaea muscipula

What child would not like their own "Little Shop of Horrors" plant to amuse them during the winter months? Venus fly trap is truly carnivorous, with short stiff hairs inside its leaves that detect the presence of insects. When the trigger hairs are touched, the paired leaves close, trapping the insect. Then the leaves secrete enzymes to digest the insect. A native of the Carolinas, Venus fly trap requires wet roots, high humidity, full sunlight and poor, acidic soil. A glass container, such as a terrarium, will maintain high humidity for this "pet." Use distilled or rain water to water the particular Venus fly trap. —Virginia Williams, Ellen Nibali

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