Help!! The deer are somehow getting into our garden again. Can our international GardenDrum support network come to the rescue with some advice? I thought I had solved the problem 18 months ago when we got the front gates working again and put up deer fencing along a low section of the boundary wall of our garden in Argyll in the west of Scotland.
I haven’t been able to get over there for more than a few days since Christmas. But I managed to whizz across from Edinburgh briefly last weekend. I arrived in the twilight at about 9.30 pm but of course couldn’t resist a quick tour around the garden to see how the more than 100 shrubs, perennials and bulbs I planted last year were doing.
Well fellow gardeners: I sat down and wept. The drift of white tulips? Gone. The 30 or so Bergenias? Some completely disappeared; some eaten to a few centimetres of stalk. Ditto the hardy geraniums. The two Escallonia iveyii, three Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’, five Viburnum davidii and five Hebes? Every new shoot eaten, leaving just a woody skeleton with a few shredded leaves. And my beautiful baby Camellia ‘Donation’? I’m glad I photographed its very first, clear pink flower at Easter because those other promising buds probably never even saw the light of day before they were chomped.
The only bright spot was that the furry vandals hadn’t got to the Hostas, but only because spring has been so late this year that their first shoots are only just beginning to appear above the soil. (Check out the photo of the bare trees: taken on the 5th of May!) And one of the three Japanese anemones, also just emerging, has survived unscathed for no particular reason other than they appear just not to have found it – yet.
I did, I confess, have a suspicion that the deer had found a new way into Fortress Sherbrooke. I had noticed a bit of nibbling on some of the Viburnums at Easter so I had ordered, on the internet, some stuff called Liquid Fence: a spray that is supposed to be harmless to plants but makes them unpalatable to deer and rabbits. It came, to my surprise when I opened to package, all the way from America, with a price tag to match. I’m hoping that maybe some of our American bloggers have experience of it and can tell me whether I can possibly get my hopes up?
The spray comes as a concentrate that has to be diluted in water. Not something I usually have a problem with. But because it comes from the US, the quantities are specified in American ounces and gallons. Thank goodness for the web! I was able to work out that 4 (US) fluid ounces per (US) gallon translates, for those of us in the rest of the world, to 60mls in a litre of water. At least I hope it does, because that’s what I sprayed everything with.
I couldn’t risk the depredation that even one more unprotected night might subject my precious garden to, so there I was at 10 pm on Friday night, stalking round the garden with a torch in the gathering gloom, spraying everything that appeared to have been eaten and a few other things for good measure, just in case. The spray is not supposed to wash off with rain. I’m not sure I believe that but my hands stank for hours – even days – afterwards!
Jim D came round for an emergency summit meeting on Saturday morning. He has instructions to follow the Liquid Fence directions by spraying once a week for the first few weeks and then, hopefully, less often. The idea is to train the deer to avoid the plants that taste nasty. (You can imagine the conversation: “Darling, where shall we go for dinner tonight? Oh, I know, let’s go back to that nice restaurant where we had the caviar, followed by Lobster Thermidor with that lovely bottle of vintage Pol Roger”. And then the next morning: “Yuk, that place has gone to the dogs. They must have a new chef. Looks like it’s back to the chippie down the road.”)
So that’s one line of attack. But where are the wretched beasts getting in? We can only conclude that perhaps they are jumping the front wall, which must be close to 2 metres high. In which case, as the wall is at least 80 metres long and would be completely spoiled by the poles and mesh of deer fencing, we have to pin our hopes on Liquid Fence. It’s either that or completely re-think my planting schemes – but that’s a subject for another post.