Critter-free Eden now faces threat from deer

    We have lived in a relative gardening Eden for the last 25 years, at peace with all but some insect invaders. But that’s ended in the last month as deer have invaded our front garden.
     Our back yard is fenced and barricaded with tall shrubs behind it, so most of the lot is permanently off-limits to the critters. Any rabbits stupid enough to break in quickly change their minds when the dogs appear.
    The front, however, is open, and local wildlife comes and goes at will. But despite a wealth of hostas, lilies and roses, until the last month we’ve never been bothered by nibbling deer. We’ve seen them often enough, but they have always stopped by to get a drink at the ornamental pool and then moved along to browse the buffet in the neighbors’ gardens.
    Last month, though, something changed. First a lily bud disappeared, then the blossoms on the roses seemed slow to open. It turned out they had been eaten. I unearthed some Liquid Fence left over from my early battles with the rabbits, held my nose and sprayed. I’ve been waiting to see how the deer react.    
    Reports from the neighbors indicate the deer have simply moved on and dined on the roses next door. Of course, our roses are out of flowers at present and just putting out new growth, so the herd may return once their favorite food is back in stock.
    I’ve been surprised by how little has been damaged — roses, one lily, asters and the poppy mallows. The bunnies probably ate the last two, but I’m willing to blame the deer. By accident, we have created a pretty deer-resistant garden. It’s full of ferns, foxgloves, pungent plants like lavender and salvia and a lot of natives. I guess there’s no point in coming all the way to our garden to eat the plants you can’t stand.
    The deer used to come to our neighborhood from of the nature preserve to the east of us. They’d walk up the driveway of a duplex on Spring Street and continue along our north fence line. Now the duplex is gone and there’s a fence across that route — a win for the neighbors to our northwest. Our hoofed nemeses now trot down the driveway east of us and head for our garden at the first break in the shrub line.
    Over the years as more houses spring up on what used to be open land, deer are moving into the wooded areas along the back alleys to our south, too. We now have resident deer competing with the ones from the nature preserve. After all, they have to go somewhere when bulldozers start to clear fields to build new subdivisions.
    I’d like to think the rose rustling is an indiscretion on the part of some newbie Bambi. Maybe it will fall in line and learn to leave the plants around the local watering hole alone. We’re working on making the front yard less appealing. Replacing parts of the shrub border is our first job.
    If our problems continue we can get lots of advice from our many gardening friends who regularly battle deer. But if this is the new normal, I’m asking Santa for fence and gates for Christmas. I have sympathy for animals under pressure from development, but I’m not maintaining a dinner club for deer without a fight.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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