a journal of...

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Garden Blues

once upon a time
This morning I set out to walk while the day was still cool enough--we've been having near 90-degree temperatures these past few days--and, remembering that rain is not expected any time soon, began to water the garden beforehand.  I've been putting in small plants to fill in the places where last year's triumphs have disappeared, so I am trying to keep the new ones hydrated while they take root.  Last week's rain was a gift to my efforts, but now the dry heat has them drooping a bit.   Mostly they are, besides, transplants from generous fellow gardeners, roadsides, and other places in my yard --Solomon's seal, violets, hostas, hellebores, ginger among them--so I'm keeping a good eye on them.
entrance to the deer dining hall
As I showered each root, passing the hose from the narrow end of the front slope slowly toward the newer plants, I suddenly saw that overnight the garden had been attacked.  What were once beautifully draped, bright green leaves of the hostas were reduced now to their lowest common denominator--stiff, bare stems with half a stripped leaf dangling from one of them.

 I knew at once who the culprits were, for only a few nights ago, coming out the kitchen door just as dark descended, I had surprised them stepping out of the trees and into the driveway toward trouble.  I halted them in their tracks, gave them a good talking to, and sent them back into the hollow where they came from.  Now the three large does and their teenage sidekicks, as well as their antlered friend from the next block over, had clearly returned when my guard was down.  Though they must pass through much more high-toned feeding grounds than mine, somehow they felt that my table, rudimentary as it is, was the most enticing.  They didn't, by the way, feed on the young new transplants; they chose the biggest, showiest plants I had just put in, front and center under the trees.  Pride goeth before the invasion.

and then there was one...

Depending on whether you are an optimist, pessimist, determinist, or fatalist, you could point out respectively that 1) at least they didn't eat all the plants; 2) I should have known better than to plant such delicious deer food...didn't I have enough experience earlier with the hydrangeas I adore and the jack-in-the-pulpits I was so proud of? 3) deer have to eat, too; 4) alas, there is no point in trying to defend a garden...nature just happens.
Cathy and Steve came over from across the street to commiserate (the hostas were culled from their yard, where they had been hitherto untouched), but Cathy pragmatically reminded me that there are strategies for dealing with such critters, which include a giant rabbit seen hither and yon in the neighborhood (including under my azalea).  Putting bamboo spikes among such susceptible plantings will quickly discourage curious noses from feeding, she told me.  There's always blood meal, too, applied freshly each time it rains (that's what saved what was left of the hydrangeas last year); or mothballs could be sprinkled liberally, my next door neighbor Anna suggested.

I don't think so...

Well, practically speaking, I could also cage the vulnerable plants in wire netting...not aesthetically what I want for my woodsy landscape (though if I were growing food for my own sustenance, it might be a different tale)...or construct high deer fences, as some fiercely dedicated gardeners have in another near neighborhood plagued with hungry wildlife.  Or, more philosophically, I could give up entirely and just let them forage at will.

Which is what I will probably do.  There is no way I can stand sentry at the kitchen door every evening to shoo away night feeders.  I have enough trouble picking off caterpillars from the basil and parsley leaves.  And fences, bamboo spikes, bloody ground, and poison seem too much like the imperialist weapons of war I'd like the world to learn to do without.

After garden duty, I walked up to the Coker Arboretum (where there is no sign of visiting deer), wandering among the healthy, prolific specimens that keep the campus a place of restful beauty.  I sat for a while thinking about...no, not gardens, but art, and in the quiet managed, like Newton, to wake up to a solution for my current project, which has had me stumped for a few weeks.  Inspiration, after all, is what gardens are for.


  1. one big happy smile!! Life's a journey, enjoy the ride (does this apply to gardens, too?) :)

  2. Lovely story about your gardens and the gardens of each of our lives! So true! Love to you. :-)