I’m not supposed to feed the deer.
I know that. I know that deer are the pests that have earned a note on most plants’ sales tags (this species is deer-resistant, they proclaim) and that the last thing any gardener in their right mind wants to do is encourage visits from these four-legged garbage disposals.
I nearly lost a photinia and two golden euonymus over the winter to these white-tailed natives. Overnight, the three shrubs were eaten to the stem and I had four long months to think about my poor plant selection. I had stuck these shrubs in my current gardening no-man’s-land, the far back corner of the yard, to eventually frame the arbor (more on that later, I hope) and provide the first bright splash of color when the rest of the yard is hibernating. The loss was a sharp reminder to pay attention to those plant tags and stick to “pointy leaves,” as my mom recently reminded me; tall grasses and leaves that taper to one or more sharp points provide far less of a temptation as a snack bar in the dead of winter.
While those leafless sticks were a good reminder of what deer can do, all it took come spring was one flash of a white tail and the sight of those gorgeous, long, hooved legs to have me on the verge of planting a salt lick next to my azaleas. I mean, they were here first after all. Who am I to begrudge a doe a meal?
I can nearly feel the murderous murmuring of plant-lovers everywhere at the thought that I might be luring these pests into suburbia. I’m not quite that foolish. I know deer cause major havoc in neighborhoods such as mine, not just to plants but to drivers as well. All I’m admitting is that I can live with a little heavy pruning when it means a chance to spy on the quiet grace of these animals at their breakfast.
I may not be ready to wage war on the deer, but the groundhog was another matter. You may recall I originally thought a groundhog was creating the massive hole in the middle of my yard. Turns out, this critter much prefers a roof over his head; well, a floor, actually. “Otis,” as I jokingly call him (having stubbornly refused eviction for years, Otis seems a part of the family now) has renewed his tenancy under my shed for yet another year.
I’ve only ever seen the one groundhog, and only on pleasantly sunny afternoons when he plods out to the center of the lawn to snack on the tallest grass. The first time I spotted him was seconds after my pup caught him in her sights – and very nearly after in her jaws. Akira was more akita in spirit than in size and strength at that point in time, and luckily listened when I called her off the cornered rodent, poised to fight. Since then Akira has developed a daily obsession with watching the groundhog’s front door and sniffs every entrance and exit from the creature’s underground home before contenting herself that the yard is safe and she is free to play.
The akita hasn’t posed a groundhog deterrent; neither did traps baited with all manner of goodies. But since Otis keeps his burrowing beneath the shed, and the floor is still in one piece, well, I’m chalking that visitor up as entertainment and exercise for the pup, and calling it a day.
The garden has been graced by visits from all manner of creatures over the past three years: rabbits living under the front fir, mother turtles nesting beneath the inkberry hollies, the occasional fox, birds of all feathers and – shudder! – a variety of harmless snakes. But there’s one other pest that we’re learning to live with: frogs.
It’s a side effect of the pond, of course. This is the second spring where one day the koi suddenly had new neighbors. I’ll walk to the pond’s edge with a bag of koi food and, plop, into the pond the frog dives. It was cute, at first. Until I learned we had at least two frogs…
It was a lot more fun watching the eggs develop into tadpoles, and tadpoles into tiny frogs … once we realized maybe three or four of the final frogs would find a lasting place in the pond.