I am on the horns (or should I say antlers?!) of a dilemma – I am lucky enough to live in a rural location where the sight of deer (often two or three at a time) in my garden is a daily occurrence. They are beautiful and graceful animals, and I love to see them bouncing across the hillside and meadows around us.
However, as we all know, they are pretty destructive – and I have been known to curse them once in a while! So what to do?
My daughter very virtuously tells me that the countryside is their home as well as ours – and she is of course right – as teenagers always are!
What doesn’t work for me
I have no intention of erecting a 2 metre high fence all around my property,
and I certainly wouldn’t dream of hurting them in any way. I have heard of people who will even go to the crazy lengths of smearing peanut butter on electric fencing to keep them away, but that’s not for me! And getting my bolt-action rifle out is therefore obviously a big ‘no no’ too.
It won’t surprise you to know that my dogs are equally hopeless at scaring them off when they see them – you can see why!
But then, who could fail to be won over by those wonderful big brown eyes looking back at you?
I have also tried to defeat them by using deterrent products such as ‘Grazers‘ which works really well at the time, but then there is the problem of making the necessary regular applications. And the deer always seem to attack my plants just when I am thinking that it’s time for their next treatment, so that isn’t wholly effective either.
What does work for me
In truth I have only one course of action as I see it - TO GO WITH THE FLOW and let the natural world around me do the same. As garden designers we are, after all, always trying to make use of the context of a property rather than fight against it, whether that be in the midst of an urban landscape or set in acres of rolling countryside. And if that means adopting a relaxed attitude to the resident wildlife, then so be it.
I have now learnt from bitter experience to grow only those plants that the deer avoid (unless they are really REALLY hungry!) and accept that there are some plants that I just can’t grow. So yes, Viburnum tinus and burkwoodii, Prunus lusitanica, various Escallonia species and Euonymus japonicus, so many of the garden designer’s favourite structural evergreen plants and which, typically, grow extremely well in our area, are sadly out of bounds for me, as they tend to end up like this …..
… and I won’t even begin to mention the huge list of herbaceous plants that they attack. That’s for another day.
But the good news is that you can still have a wonderful garden: there are some great shrubs which absolutely thrive in my garden and seem oblivious to the dangers from our cervine friends – Hydrangea seemannii, Callicarpa, Choisya, Berberis x stenophylla, Viburnum sargentii, Skimmia japonica, Pittosporum tobira and Elaeagnus argutifolia, to name but a few.
Lavender and many of the aromatic and spiky leaved plants also tend to be less attractive to the deer’s palate, and, even if they don’t always get off totally scott free, most have now grown big enough to weather a bit of nibbling from time to time. So, if you choose your plants carefully you can still have a dazzling display of flowering shrubs all the year round without having to worry unduly about their welfare.
And my Mediterranean-themed border seems to co-exist very happily with its regular visitors.
One simple measure which I took recently and which has made a significant difference was when I began to shut my 5-barred gate at nights. Seriously, you might have thought that I would have had the sense to do this earlier, but better late than never, and it really has cut down on our deer traffic. I was obviously making it too easy for them before!
And finally I must confess to one exception to my ‘go with the flow’ attitude - I do use a little protection for some of my very young trees, so that they can get off to a good start …
Well, I can’t let those deer have it their own way all the time, can I?
Now check out the links below to see what our fellow bloggers in the United States have to say about the matter: