Deer don't have to ruin your evergreen trees

Deer have stripped all the leaves off my evergreen and my Nellie Stevens holly. Will they grow back, or should I cut them down?

Some evergreen species tolerate deer "pruning" well and put out new growth in spring, although lower branches won't bounce back as fast as upper branches would. Yew, arborvitae, hemlock and many junipers fall in this category. You'll need to prevent future winter stripping, however, because the evergreen can't recover when this happens repeatedly. In that case, consider reshaping your tree into one with foliage only above 4 feet or so. A bare-trunk chamaecyparis or arborvitae, for instance, has beautiful, flaky bark that will be an asset to your garden. Holly is not a deer's first choice (American holly is virtually deer-proof), and can also tolerate severe pruning. Your Nellie Stevens should recover in time, as long as this doesn't happen often.

I am trying to order plants or seeds. Much has been in the news about genetically modified organism products we buy unknowingly in stores, so I want to make sure my garden is GMO-free. Is it even possible for regular consumers to buy GMO seeds or plants, or are they exclusively available to farmers?

It is unlikely that any seed or plant source to which you have access would be selling GMO products. Seed catalogs often have a safe-seed pledge somewhere near the front of the catalog, assuring customers that company does not genetically engineered seeds.

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 its website at

Plant of the Week

Giant pussy willow, Japanese pussy willow

Salix chaenomeloides

There's no way you won't feel fond of a plant you can pet. The furry catkins on this variety of pussy willow grow so large they resemble little bunnies. This fun, small tree reaches 15-25 feet tall at a fast rate. Its narrow, dark green leaves have a lighter tone underneath. Its buds swell shiny red in late winter, so it's perfect for cold-weather gardens. To enjoy it indoors, cut branches as soon as the silky, rose-gray catkins emerge. They will eventually bristle with fuzzy, yellow anthers. Plant it in full sun and moist soil for best growth. Catkins will grow heaviest on young wood.

— Ellen Nibali

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