Fall Planting to Foil the Deer

IMG_4194THERE’S A GROUP OF FOUR — two does and two yearlings — that lives here, too. And they seem to feel my garden is their pantry. When I was kneeling out there today, putting in some of the supposedly deer-resistant perennials I just bought, I looked up to see a lithe brown creature eyeing me as if to say, “Planting something tasty? I’ll check it out later.”

These Hamptons deer, pressed as they are for grazing space, have been having a picnic here these last few weeks, chowing down on begonia, astilbe, caladium, cranesbill geranium, Japanese anemone and other things generally considered deer-resistant, reducing them to sticks. I haven’t been quick enough on the trigger — the pump on my bottle of “Deer Out,” that is. Anyway, it’s not very effective.

Yes, yes, I’ll get a deer fence in due course. Meanwhile, it’s fall, the nursery sales are on, and I’m determined to outwit the deer by planting only things they find absolutely inedible. There are a few.

I’ve been to three area nurseries: chic Marder’s in Bridgehampton, pedestrian Agway, and old-school Hren in East Hampton. At discounts from 30% to 75%, I bought the following, which my experience over the past year tells me should be OK (along with careful reading of labels and asking questions, though I’ve learned not to wholly trust the labels or the answers). The reason there’s only one or two of some things in the list below is because that’s all they had left — I would gladly have bought more at these prices.

I’m working the variations on things I’ve already got that have survived, with emphasis on colored and variegated foliage.

  • 3 Salvia ‘May Night’ – deer-proof stalwarts, easier to grow than lavender
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  • 2 Buxus sempervirens ‘Auero-Variegata’ – boxwoods edged in yellow – tiny now, 8′ at maturity
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  • 1 Berberis thunbergii – ‘Rose Glow’ Japanese barberry
  • Barberry-Rosy-Glow

  • 2 Lonicera nitida ‘Lemon Beauty’ – never heard of these before – another variegated shrub that will eventually be 3-6′ tall
  • 3619-lemon-beauty-box-honeysuckle-medium-shot

  • 2 Pleioblastus viridistriat – dwarf bamboo – more yellow
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  • 1 feather reed grass
  • calamagrostis-avalanche

  • 1 Ligularia dentata ‘Othello’ – my 4th type of ligularia – the slugs go for them, but the deer don’t
  • LigulariaOthello2176

  • 1 Stachys ‘Silver Carpet’ – lamb’s ear – a narrow-leafed variety I don’t have
  • Stachys byzantina Silver Carpet

  • 1 Brunnera macrophylla – chartreuse heart-shaped leaves
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  • 1 Euphorbia ‘Glacier Blue’ spurge – blue-gray and Mediterranean-looking
  • 450EuphorbiaGlacierBlue

  • 1 Itea virginica ‘Sprich’ aka Sweetspire ‘Little Henry’
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  • 2 Bergenia cordifolia  – edging plant with glossy, red-rimmed leaves in fall
  • BERGENIA_cordifolia_Winterglow

I spent this first day of the Jewish new year in the garden instead of the synagogue. I worked from morning ’til night putting new plants in, moving others around, weeding as I went along, and finally spreading five bags of compost and mulch (no – finally taking Advil). More than once, I thought of something I read long ago in a gardening magazine. An elderly woman was asked the secret of her beautiful garden. She replied: “Work like mad in spring and fall, and you’ve got it made.”

Home Improvements

IMG_0816THIS MORNING I WAS GREETED BY A SURPRISE VISITOR: a 4-foot foxglove in sudden, outrageous bloom in the woods just beyond my property line. Reading up on it, I came upon the phrase “naturalistic woodland garden.” That’s what I want to create here; that’s what’s suited to this site, which, though south-facing, has very few spots for plants that require full sun.

Shade-tolerant and deer-resistant will be my watchwords as I figure out what to plant. Columbine is easy, self-sowing, as I learned upstate. Meadow rue I’ve never tried, but here in Zone 7 I might, along with chartreuse bursts of spurge, which I love (hope the deer don’t) but have never had any success with.

Yesterday, with the help of a pickax-wielding friend, I did further battle against wisteria roots, uprooted overabundant barberries, moved ferns out of the area where I want eventually to put a patio and into what I call the ‘fern glade.’

Over the past few days there have been quite a few vital home improvements. I now have HEAT, for one. Yes, it’s June, but on Tuesday, when Charles the plumber made my furnace operational for the first time since I got here in mid-May, it was chilly and raw, and I immediately put the thermostat up to 70 and basked in the warmth. (That was too warm; I soon put it down again to 65.)

Thanks to Tom the electrician, I now have a light at my front entry. I have a washer and dryer – oh, the convenience – and a stove. The refrigerator question is still open; Sears is coming to pick up the noisy Whirlpool beast on Sunday, and I will replace it with something quieter and more high-end, as soon as I can focus on it.

Read up on foxgloves here.