This morning I slept late – didn’t get up until 6:00. I went outside to get the paper, and admired my hibiscus – 3 blossoms with more buds coming. Beautiful peachy flowers, oh, rapture! My Gloriosa Lilies, which I grow in my big pot on the porch, are also getting ready to do their thing.
At 8:00, my husband strolled into my office and asked, “Do you want me to keep an eye out for the deer? They ate your African Violets.” After explaining that I do not grow African Violets, I went out to the porch. Gone. All of my blossoms, just gone. Between 6 and 8, THEY ATE MY FLOWERS. They only got about half of the Gloriosa buds, just the ones facing away from the house. Understand please that my porch is only about an 8-foot square, butting against the HOUSE. Ordinarily they do not come within 10 feet of the house, the porch has always been sacrosanct – until now.
I hate deer. I really do. Any attempt I make to beautify my yard has only half a chance of success unless I plant thorny or stinky things. They have ruled out:
Lilies – all varieties except miniatures like Stella D’Oro. If you like the foliage grow daylilies but don’t count on flowers – I think of it as Funky Grass.
Anything Hibiscus related including zone-hardy platter types
Tulips (I sink the bulbs in pots to keep them safe from moles and voles, but the deer will pull them up and eat the greens)
Hollies – though you can fence them for the winter and get away with it
Walnut trees – once they hit about 6-8 feet you can un-fence them (about 5-8 years in)
Others too numerous to remember after 15 years of working this piece of land.
Now, if you were living in New England and were not a particularly assiduous gardener, those are the very things you would look to for low-maintenance beauty. I have a *very* short list of “safe” and hardy plants: Cacti are good, Rosa Rugosa better. Salvia is safe and so is Stella D’Oro (why they don’t eat miniature day lilies when they clearly think the large ones are a treat is beyond me). When I look through the seed/plant catalogs and see the “deer-resistant” icon, it’s almost always near a photo of a plant I’ve already lost to their huge teeth and clumsy hooves. And though I’ve not had a venison steak in many years, I recall the taste and yearn for it every time I ponder how well (and how much!) I feed these creatures.
They are pretty in a bovine way; they have lovely tawny hair and their tails flip insouciantly and their eyes are big and watery and cutesy-pathetic. The fawns have polka-dots so they’re adorable by definition. But if you think they are graceful you haven’t heard them crashing through the brush. If you think they are charming you haven’t had to replace a radiator after one of the beasts has darted in front of your car. If you think they are cute you’ve never lost $50 worth of plants within a week of putting them in the ground. If you think they should receive proper homage as the local Native Americans reportedly once paid them, you have never been treated for Lyme disease.
I confront them when I see them (as if they understand me). “Hey, you stupid forest cows, get offa my turf! Boo! Yes, I’m talking to YOU! Go away! Shoo!” I flail my arms wildly and gyrate like a madwoman. (I have asked for a slingshot with which to shoot rock salt pellets at them for my last three birthdays.) Their usual response is to stare vapidly at me with their cutesy-pathetic cow eyes and languidly make their way toward the vegetable garden to see if the noshing is quieter up there.
You see a cute, innocent creature bounding freely through the wood; I see a Brush Hog with legs.