Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Gardening with Deer - A Metaphor for Life

Life is a long string of challenges. Sometimes it's more like a braid than a string. 

Three months ago I spent thousands of dollars to have the yard at our new house planted with a wide variety of drought tolerant, deer resistant plants. Drought is a way of life in Monterey County, and our water bills are frightening, so choosing drought tolerant plants was a no-brainer. Deer resistant has been much more challenging. 

I love deer and was excited the first time I saw a family strolling through our yard. That was during construction, and there wasn't much here for them to eat. They looked around then moseyed on over to the next-door-neighbor's yard for dinner. That same neighbor had told me he gave up years ago worrying about what the deer ate. He simply went about his business and let them go about theirs. His yard is thickly planted native trees and shrubs, making it hard to notice the occasional nibble. He warned I would end up hating both gardening and deer if I went to battle against them. 

George is a wise man, so I decided to take his advice. I decided to forgo erecting a tall fence and chose deer-resistant plants instead. I have since learned there's no such thing. If the plants are unfamiliar or have tender, young leaves, the deer will at least try them if they're hungry, or merely curious. Our omnivorous deer have astounded both the landscaper and the owner of the local garden center with what they're willing to eat. Lately I've been told, "I've never heard of deer eating that" more times than I like to say. 

These flowers are an example.

And these.


Fortunately, I was able to enjoy both for a few weeks before the deer discovered them, and all the plants have new buds. If they're willing to try again, so am I. I've learned to enjoy the beauty around me while I have it, without expecting (or trying to force) it to last forever. There's always something new and beautiful around the corner. Like these spectacular Kangaroo Paws. They're from Australia, and the tiny florets look like fuzzy kangaroo paws. So far, the deer have shown no interest in them.

Kangaroo Paws

See the fuzzy, red feet?

And then are are the moments of unexpected delight, like this little volunteer succulent. It sprang from a piece broken off one of the larger plants and dropped, possibly even by a four-footed marauder. 

So far, I'm staying pretty Zen about sharing my garden with the wildlife. I don't know how long that attitude will last, but I'm trying. Hopefully, by the time I'm George's age, I'll just smile and take it all in stride. Gardening, like life, is most satisfying if you can learn to go with the flow. Yesterday around dusk, a doe and two tiny fauns ambled through the back yard without so much as a nibble. Maybe they've called a truce and I just don't know it yet.


  1. It got much better for me once I became more willing to share. :-) As in, I plant what I want and they take what they want. I may not have as many flowers and trees as I'd like, but the deer are beautiful to watch. I think it's nice they left your greenery when they took every one of your flowers!

  2. Liz, I'm trying to adopt that attitude, too. I really do love seeing them up close. A couple of days ago there was a young buck with fuzzy antlers out front. He didn't eat anything, so I think we're friends.

  3. OH, boy, do I sympathize with this. After years of happily watching deer come around in my woods, looking very Christmas card-y in the snow, 2 years ago they moved in for the kill. They have eaten all my hydrangeas down to the earth & I can no longer put out pots of geraniums on my front porch and down the steps because they ate all of those. Last year I had to switch to some prickly cacti-like plants in pots. I have no way of putting up 6 ft. fences because of the woods and it seems the only thing they don't eat are marigolds. Soooo, fill your garden with marigolds & sit back and watch the deer!

    1. Andi, I knew marigolds were good for keeping rabbits and some bugs away, but I didn't know about the deer.

  4. I don't have deer problems, most likely because I live on the outskirts of the city, but I do have squirrel problems. I tried growing tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and the like in containers on my porch for a couple of years in a row. Every time the squirrels would come take a bite out of anything that looked close to being harvested. They wouldn't take the whole tomato or pepper, or strawberry, just a bite out each one. Needless to say I've given up and now buy them from the store. I do have a nice flower garden though which they love to run through and play in. I guess it's all about compromise. :o)

  5. Katherine, we don't have marauding squirrels here, but every place else I lived the squirrels acted just like yours - one bite out of every tomato. I don't know why they can't remember they don't like tomatoes!