I miss having an evergreen to put lights on, since my blue spruce died. Can you suggest a nice pyramid-shaped tree for the front yard? I don’t want it to grow as fast as Leyland cypress, though.
Japanese cedar — Cryptomeria japonica — is a popular option. It’s a stately tree with a bit of a shaggy-dog look that is fun. With a moderate growth rate, it would take 30 to 40 years to reach a possible height of 50 to 60 feet. Search “blue spruce” on the University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center website for the page about cytospora canker, which lists blue spruce alternatives.
I want to give bat houses as gifts this year. (They had me at “Bats eat 1,200 mosquito-sized insects an hour.”) I hear bats don’t always use bat houses, so how can I ensure success? The potential gift recipients all live in Maryland.
Evaluate where the giftees can put the bat houses. Bats are a bit picky about where they roost. The bat house must be very warm to incubate their pups. This is critical, since they only have one or two pups a year. It explains why they are so fond of attics! A southeast or southwest exposure with seven hours of direct sunlight from spring through summer is best for a bat house. A dark brown or black exterior helps absorb more heat. Vents are good to prevent overheating. Place the bat house 10 to 15 feet above the ground, with the three feet below unobstructed so bats can enter and exit through the bottom of the bat house. Bigger bat houses are far more successful at attracting bats. (Seven inches deep by 24 inches wide and 12 to 24 inches tall is considered a big house.) They’ll need food (insects) and water sources nearby, of course, and they like open non-crop habitats. “A Homeowner’s Guide to Northeastern Bats and Bat Problems” is an excellent resource online.