It’s all I can do to keep from starting this blog post with a hackneyed pun like “Oh dear.” What to do when your garden visitor attraction is also visited by does and bucks?
Such is a growing problem at Blithewold Mansion, Gardens + Arboretum. The multi-acred historic estate in Bristol, Rhode Island overlooks the Narragansett Bay, 18 miles southeast of Providence. It has been named one of Yankee Magazine’s top five public gardens in New England. (This time of year the large house is a particular draw for its thematic holiday decorated tour—gorgeous.)
Much volunteerism at this site is devoted to the gardens. One day I’ll tell you about this team of volunteers, but for now I wanted to steer you toward Blithewold’s Kris Green as she keeps the organization’s garden blog-journal. It was yesterday’s post that told of a predicament.
One of our most frequently asked questions is if we have a problem with deer. I can very clearly remember being able to say cheerfully, “No – we don’t!” Even though when I said it I always crossed my fingers and knocked wood, and always had compassion for other gardeners’ woes and tried not to gloat, over the last probably 5 or so years, I’m now sorry to say that the deer have finally clued in that this is prime real estate. They have nosed around our tulips eating a few buds here and there, tromped through garden beds as if they were pathways, munched hosta like salad greens and sampled a few shrubs and vines, but nothing (yet – knock wood) has been completely demolished. I know we’re very lucky.
That said, this fall a buck moved in. He has marked his territory like a cat does, though much more destructively, by rubbing his antlered scent glands on a few young trees. And of course this doesn’t do the trees any good at all. He has scraped clear through the bark to the tender cambium, wrecking the tree’s ability to transport water from the roots to its leaves. If he had rubbed around the circumference, the trees would surely die. As it is they may not be able to fully recover and thrive and some are young enough that even a little damage is too much, sadly.
Now, Nancy’s handy-dandy online exploration of deer deterrents shows there are many suggestions—fencing, Irish Spring soap shavings, rotten eggs, dogs, cats, coyote urine (who captures those specimens I wonder) or all of the above. Some prove disappointing in their effectiveness and/or need to be switched around as the deer catch on. Deer-departed.com offers many homemade recipes for the desperate.
I can tell you that the tours at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles will let you know that they deal with deer in their gardens in this way: many mounds of Society Garlic and tending to garden chores—at night! Now, that’s garden dedication and determination.
How have you dealt with deer? Let me rephrase that. How have you kindly dealt with deer?
Blithewold Mansion, Gardens + Arboretum http://www.blithewold.org/
Kris’s blog http://blog.blithewold.org/
Photo was taken by Steve Hillebrand for the U.S. Fish + Wildlife Service
Nancy R. Peck