University of Maryland Extension: Garden Q&A
Q: After a windy day, one of our healthy shrubs was lying sideways. When I went to straighten it, it came out of the ground in my hands! Not a single root is left—just a stump, with little gouges. What caused that?
A: Voles. With their sharp rodent teeth, these “meadow mice” can gnaw off sturdy roots and strip bark from the base of trees, girdling and killing them. They also consume bulbs and roots of herbaceous plants.
Look closely nearby. You should find some of their burrow entrances, the size of a quarter, without dirt kicked up around them. Position snap mouse traps baited with peanut butter at the entrances. At the end of winter, they’ll be extra hungry for the bait.
Meanwhile, pull back any mulch or ground cover close to plant bases. These provide hiding places for voles where they safely gnaw on your plants. Vole population can multiply to form large destructive colonies.
Q: The lower leaves of my new Encore azalea are turning brownish. Is this variety partly deciduous or do I have a disease problem? The plant was healthy all spring and summer and bloomed well. [Photos attached.]
A: In fall and winter the leaves of many azalea varieties change color. Colors range from purple-reds to yellow-greens. This can be quite attractive in some cases. The leaves do not actually drop from the shrubs (although all azaleas lose a few leaves each year in the fall.) Most of the leaves will stay attached and green up again in the spring.