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How does my garden grow revisited 
10th-May-2008 03:24 pm
OMG - Deer

In comment to the previous post, I replied to questions about deer-as-pests issues. I then thought of more, so here's another post.

Yes, I have had 15 years of struggling with our deer in the current house. I expect the guys at the new house to be even bolder, since we were brash enough to build our home on their feeding ground. Whatever will we do with the deer?

Talk about dilemmas. Husband and I really, really like watching the deer. The deer really, really like eating my lilies. (Not to mention all the other vegetable matter they favor, like tomatoes!) What to do?

For the perimeter of the house:

  • Plant anything that will grow in our conditions that the deer simply don't like. For instance:
  1. Yarrow
  2. Ornamental chive
  3. Ferns
  4. Butterfly weed, Butterfly bush
  5. Fritillary
  6. Lavender
  7. Spice Bush
  8. Lemon Balm
  • Plant (heirloom) tomatoes on the balcony above the courtyard.
  • Plant deer-delectable flowers in the courtyard only, block courtyard with decorative tall fence and gate.
  • Hope they don't eat so many of what they like that I can't have color throughout the season.

I'll consider those last sacrificed to feed our deer-watching habit.  You know; bird seed to attract the birds, plants to attract the deer.

Turns out, there's a nursery that specializes in deer-resistant plants and strategies right here in Michigan.  It's not close enough for me to go shopping regularly -- it's roughly located on the palm just above the love line, under the driving finger -- but they deliver, which is good enough for me.  It also has a forum, so all my gardener friends might want to take a look.

As long as I'm hyping sites, I should add Old House Gardens, which I am happy to support.  This site has an interesting frittilary I may add.

Both companies have interesting stories.  The Deer-Resistant nursery was started by a gardener in Michigan country land frustrated enough by the constant fight with deer that he decided to learn which plants they would NOT eat, and only plant those.  From that came a business.  He does not guarantee a deer-free garden; he points out that if deer are hungry enough they will eat anything.  But he's had decent success with what he's planted.  One of the secrets is to go for heavily aromatic plants.  Which does not explain why they like lilies for desert.  I guess it depends on the aroma.

Old House Gardens was started in Michigan by a fellow who bought a Queen Ann era house in a district with historical preservation rules.  He wanted to put in a garden that would have existed when the house was built -- and found that most of the plants were extinct, or as good as extinct.  He started to hunt them down, which led to a degree in Landscape preservation, which led to his business.  His purpose is to create a market for the original stock of as many of the old bulbs as he can -- rather than their modern hybrid counterparts.  He not only sells the bulbs, but entices small growers to take on some of the stock and become suppliers, thus increasing the life expectancy of these bulbs.  They are simply beautiful, and OHG believes in nothing but the highest quality possible.

As always, I'll be blogging here about how things proceed.  Meantime, let's talk about moles, mice and cut worms ...
10th-May-2008 09:33 pm (UTC) - plants
I see that the deer-resistant plant nursery you linked carries a lot of hellebores....my new favorite plant. Each one is more gorgeous than the next. A friend in CA reports that hers are 2 feet tall. Mine will never reach that size, but I love love love them anyway.

Which heirloom tomato plants do well in containers, Carol? I was at a great nursery yesterday and the nurseryman recommended Patio Tomato for containers (that is the name of the variety). He said they get so thick they often do not need staking.

Lilies...I had a gorgeous lily plant, given to me after my mother died. I planted it outside and it bloomed even more. I noticed one bloom was partially eaten. This was one tall plant! I assumed it was deer. WRONG. The next morning, I saw a cute little bunny put his foot at the base of the plant until he bent the stem over, parallel to the ground. He then WALKED along the stem until he got to the flower, which he proceeded to eat!!!! What a guy! I was amazed at his ingenuity.
10th-May-2008 10:21 pm (UTC) - Re: plants

When it comes to ingenuity and scarfing food, I don't think anything in nature compares to the squirrel. It's almost worth having them get the bird seed, just to watch them do it.

Deer may hesitate to come close to the house; I've never seen bunnies to have that caution. Sorry about your lily.

10th-May-2008 10:34 pm (UTC) - Re: plants
Heirloom tomatoes:

These were successes for us last year:

Orange banana - this was my favorite. It's tart and sweet at the same time, more like a citrus fruit, except there's also the tangy tomato flavor. A bit smaller than the others, so this made a good container plant. It is now my favorite tomato; we'll see if we find something this year to surpass it. Works really interestingly in sandwiches.

Gold Brooks - this had a deep red color, almost like plum or roma tomatoes. Other than that, I don't remember it, but we did safe the ID stake, so we know we liked it.

Not tomato, but the Rosa Bianca eggplant was interesting. Looked more like an oriental eggplant. The literature says it is creamy and mellow in flavor, but I don't know. Expecting it to turn purple, we left the rosy fruit "ripen" until it rotted. We'll try again this year.
10th-May-2008 10:52 pm (UTC) - Re: plants
I forgot to mention:

I suppose you don't have to stake the tomatoes, but I would. We didn't do it at first. Tomatoes are vines, and they will bow down, find the ground and grab. We had some trouble getting them staked once we decided to do so.

Mind you, the "stake" was a thin bamboo stick. These are not the plants you see in truck farm garden rows, standing almost as tall as the corn.
10th-May-2008 09:56 pm (UTC)
A gardener friend of mine from Connecticut is coming into town in a couple of weeks and was asking me if Old House Gardens has a storefront or if they only do mail order. I had never heard of them, but told her I would try to find out. D'you happen to know?
10th-May-2008 10:47 pm (UTC)
No store front. BUT, they do have local customers come in and pick up their orders, so I suppose your friend could do that.

Not this trip, however. Their spring shipping season is over. The next season will be in fall, which is their biggest season each year. They have a particularly large selection of fall-planted bulbs, including the last of the pure stock tulips from the Tulipmania.

Your friend can order on the web or through their catalog. They don't overcharge for shipping, although these days, shipping is just expensive.

She (He?) can also stop by and talk to the owner, Scott Kunst, unless Scott's out of town on a lecture swing. The phone number and contact email is on the homepage for the website. "Charlie" of charlie@oldhousegardens.com fame is the owner's cat. Scott's trial garden (he grows samples of everything he sells, to make sure they are what they are supposed to be, and some he's considering selling in future years) and his own garden are also on show there.

Currently, the company is housed in ... well, Scott's house. The Queen Ann era house that started the whole thing. That personal touch reverberates through the company.

If you do decide to call/email and drop in, mention your connection to me. He knows me.

By the way, if this friend visits more than just this once, you might try to schedule the next visit around Scott's garden tour. It'll be advertised on the website -- it's usually in late spring. He takes a small group (space is limited, reserve early) on a tour of the gardens throughout the historic district, giving his insights and expertise as if it were a hands-on gardening course.

He is looking for a place to house the business that is not his own house, because he is experiencing growing pains and needs the space. But he hasn't found the right property, yet. Even so, I don't think he's thinking of a store front. But in any case, he doesn't have one now.

Aren't you glad you asked?

Edited at 2008-05-10 10:49 pm (UTC)
11th-May-2008 03:34 am (UTC)
"Aren't you glad you asked?"

Yes! She'll be thrilled with all the info. Her in-laws live in Birmingham, so she comes out here a few times a year. I'm sure she'd love to do the garden tour. Thanks mucho!
10th-May-2008 10:53 pm (UTC)
Day lillies are also edible, with the caveat that some varieties are less so than others, and eating too many of some can make you sick. I forget where I read that caution; however, the advice was that the older strains are less likely to be a problem than a lot of the newer, flashier varieties they've bred in recent years. I wonder if that means that the older varieties of day lillies are more likely to attract deer?
10th-May-2008 11:21 pm (UTC)
It might depend on how fragrant they are ...

Yet another unknown (as yet) area for me to explore -- edible flowers.

Did I mention how much I've loved this whole process of my dream house?
10th-May-2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
In one of Spider Robinson's books a character was extolling the virtues of human pee as a deer-repellant. The theory was that of "predators marking their turf" and that humans being a top-level predator, human pee (dispensed around the perimeter of his garden via a chamber pot) would be cautionary to all sorts of herbivores, not just deer.
10th-May-2008 11:59 pm (UTC)
Ahhh -- but this solution dulls but one of the dilemma horns. We don't want to keep the deer away altogether. We just want them to eat weeds, not my flowers.

Still, interesting theory. If we decide to try it, I'll have to enlist Husband, since he has the better -uh- tools.

(Reminds me of the first time I met my then to-be sister-in-law. She kept making not so veiled mentions of power tools in front of her daughter and her mother, knowing that neither I nor her brother could respond. Well, she thought we couldn't. As I remember, Husband had her snorting her drink.)

Edited at 2008-05-11 10:44 pm (UTC)
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