Let’s welcome author/gardener Caroline Warfield to A Writer’s Garden today. She’ll be talking about the garden enemy that makes all gardeners cringe—deer—especially when they see their neighbors putting salt licks in their back yards for the foraging creatures. Welcome, Caroline.
Let me say it clearly: I love gardens. As my various biographies have stated, I am enamored of gardens, but not so much the act of gardening. Gardening can be glorious or backbreaking in turns. It can also be heartbreaking. Five years ago we moved to Cheltenham, an older suburb that borders Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I left behind three lovely, manageable flowerbeds and my thyme garden, a mature herb garden designed around a sundial, a sort of literary conceit with several varieties of thyme used in Edward Eagers The Time Garden. I miss it still. That’s the glorious part.
The heartbreaking part wasn’t so much leaving it behind, as facing the new environment and finding an army of enemies. As if weather, rainfall variations, clay soil, dying fruit trees, and insects weren’t enough, I discovered some of my new neighbors to be a scourge upon plant life. That is to say, we are surrounded by white-tailed deer.
When I asked if I needed to worry about my raspberry plants, my grandson sagely replied, “These are city deer, Grandma. They will eat anything.” He didn’t exaggerate. They leave my daffodils and irises alone, but tulips, hostas, and annuals are at their mercy. The lovely hydrangeas I saw when we looked at the house have been reduced to nothing. They almost destroyed the buckeye tree we brought from Ohio until we fenced it in. The beasts target small trees.
You may wonder how a deer or two can do so much damage. One can do quite a lot, and we have many more. I’ve counted eight in our yard at one time. Other family members once counted a herd of fifteen nearby. A scourge, indeed.
Research quickly turned up a wide variety of home remedies from human hair (which appears to have been a preferred tactic of the previous owner), to soaps to hot sauce, all of which need to be repeated often. Some more repulsive home remedies and commercial deer repellent products involve foul smells. None worked well for us.
We declared a moratorium on planting flowers until we know more about deer resistant plants and methods. Abandoning a vegetable garden, however, will not happen. It is my red line in the sand. After a disasterous first season, we declared all out war. We had only one option. We constructed an anti-deer fortress.
It has served us well for two seasons and we expect success this year as well. It is too narrow to tempt them to jump in and, while lower than experts recommend, is high enough to keep them from leaning in to the vegetables. They get a wee nibble of tomato plant late in the season, but leave the fruit alone. I don’t begrudge them.
For now we’re enjoying Philadelphia’s abundance of public flower gardens and wondering how they do it! So far, only Bowman’s Wildflower Refuge has revealed their strategy. They have a ten-foot electronic fence around the refuge. Sigh.
About the Author:
Caroline Warfield finds walking through a garden deeply soul satisfying, and she doesn’t need to own the garden to enjoy it. She has been thrilled with public gardens all over the world, from Singapore to London to New York.
Caroline has been many things: traveler, librarian, poet, raiser of children, bird watcher, Internet and Web services manager, genealogist—even a nun. She reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows overlooking bird feeders, trees, and her deer fortress where she writes family-centered romance with interconnected characters.
Her current series involves three cousins who have been driven apart by lies and deceit, drawn back to England by family ties, and sustained by loves of their own. Her books have a moderate level of sensuality. She believes that in romance sex will happen, but it can be handled with sensitivity and care. In such scenes she focuses on relationship, commitment, and emotion not eroticism per se.
Genre: Historical Romance, Pre-Victorian (set in India and England in 1835)
Heat Level: Moderate. or warm