Garden Q&A: Spring bulbs may be popping up early

Should I put dead leaves over the flower bulbs in my yard that are already coming up?

Our extremely mild winter has encouraged many plants to flower and leaf unseasonably early. The tips of bulb foliage may yellow a bit, but your spring flower display should be all right.

Early spring bulbs and other flowers, such as helleborus, often peek through snow. That said, it wouldn't hurt to cover the bulbs lightly with leaves to moderate temperature swings.

What wild animals live in Maryland? A big furry animal and its babies are living in a storm drain near my house, and my daughter keeps putting out pet food for them. Good idea? We're in the city.

Opossums, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, bears, skunks and rats are all carnivores seen around Maryland that would eat pet food.

We advise you stop feeding — it could be dangerous for the animal or your daughter. Secure your trash cans and realize that the burgeoning family may lead to problems.

Be sure your home doesn't have any openings where they might gain access. To see information and control tips on our website, go to Plant Diagnostic and click on Wildlife.

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

Plant of the week Terrariums

Terrariums, the glass- or plastic-enclosed miniature gardens that were all the rage in the '70s, have made a comeback. Designing and planting one is a fun project for plant lovers of all ages and make a wonderful gift. Get creative! Place a single plant under a glass cloche or decide on a theme like the desert, forest or even the beach, and let your imagination take off. Just remember when selecting plants to make sure they all have the same requirements. Begin by layering gravel, charcoal and about 2 inches of potting soil in the container. Use an odd number of plants of varied heights, then decorate with whatever you choose to finish off your own little ecosystem.

— Debbie Ricigliano

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