How To

Protect native plants with a garden cloche

May 28, 2024 0 comments
Wire garden cloche protecting black chokeberry bush

Gardening with native plants can be a roller coaster ride: there’s so much joy and anticipation in choosing a plant and carefully setting it into the ground, only to find later that a wild creature has made it a meal.

Just yesterday I walked out my front door to see a lovely heart leaved aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium) had been chewed to the ground — something I was NOT expecting! I’d been watching a clump of three grow and looking forward to the pale purple-blue flowers this fall. Their display will be diminished this year but hopefully rebound the next.

I’ve become used to this unfortunate outcome, particularly for bushes like black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus) and spicebush (Lindera benzoin).

We plant to feed bees, butterflies, birds and we end up also feeding bunnies, groundhogs and squirrels. It’s so discouraging seeing the young growth relentlessly nibbled right down. And it’s all part of the experience.

I thought that eventually the bushes would get big enough that a few nibbles wouldn’t be a major thing, but I realized they were never going to get to the desired size without protection. So I looked around for options:

Make your own chickenwire cloche

Many folks recommend making your own chickenwire cloche or other protective structure — wrapping chicken wire around a tomato cage, for example, then securing it with ties and pegging it to the ground using garden staples. This one was not for me as it’s a busy life and I was unsure I would end up with a visually appealing result.

Old wire planter baskets

Another quick DIY option is to the take wire hanging baskets and flip them over your plants. I’ve done this with some success. It does keep the animals somewhat at bay but the spaces between the wire are a little wide to deter those that are very determined.

Wire garden cloches

Tired of the battle, this year I invested in a set of 6 black chicken wire garden cloches. I chose them for their large size (19 inches high and 14 inches wide at the base). I secured each to the ground with three garden staples, purchased separately (Canadian Tire). The black colour is attractive and melds right into the garden setting — so much so that I’ve had neighbours comment and ask me where I got them.

They are working beautifully and it’s so rewarding to see the bushes finally attaining some height. Once the plants outgrow the cloches, they should be ready to withstand the bunnies. Here’s hoping anyways.

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