Oh, deer: a love/hate relationship

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I knew it was a bad idea to create a new flower bed next to our house last spring, but I did it anyway.

We downsized our front deck and something had to be done with the extra space. In hindsight some deer-resistant shrubs would have been the better option.

Iíd always wanted an expansive flower bed, though, a place where daffodils could bloom in early spring, followed by other perennials, and room for some annual blooms as well.

Flower-munching deer have been a persistent problem at our place among the pastoral hayfields just east of Whitefish, where itís not unusual to see up to 30 or 40 deer grazing nearby on warm summer evenings. Thereís nary a petunia at our house that hasnít been ravaged by deer at some point during the summer, yet what did I include in my new flower bed? Petunias of assorted colors. And we all know petunias are to deer what crack cocaine is to a drug addict.

Iím a glutton for punishment, apparently.

For most of the summer Iím able to keep the deer away by dousing the flowers with Liquid Fence in ample amounts. But come late August and early September, all bets are off.

When we were out of town for a few days recently I put bird netting over the new bed and another container of flowers. Nevertheless, the deer persisted, and somehow found a way to get underneath the netting and trim the flowers.

The other day I found my marigolds obliterated by the rascally ungulates. I plant marigolds because theyíre generally considered to be deer-resistant. But this particular deer decided to bite off all of the golden flower heads and then spit them out alongside the plucked plants, just for spite.

Yesterday I found a huge petunia plant pulled out by the roots, but not consumed by the deer, which leads me to believe these critters arenít that hungry. They just like to mess with me.

I realize this is a problem of my own making, but itís not only flowers they consume. The leaves on our grape vines have been nibbled to the nub this summer, and the fruit trees have been defoliated as far up as their scrawny necks can reach. When my husband (who got way too carried away with deck pots of vegetables this year) inadvertently set a potted eggplant too close to the edge of our back deck, a deer took the opportunity to bite off all of the blossoms.

We have an 8-foot fence around our garden, so I suppose the ultimate solution is planting flowers within the confines of the garden. Itís just nice to have some color next to the house ó is that too much to ask?

So hereís the problem: I do kind of like seeing the does and their spotted babes frolicking in the yard. And itís cool having three or four bucks that routinely lounge under the crab-apple trees in our front yard. Theyíre so conditioned to humans they donít even bother to get up when I bolt out the front door.

I suppose Iíll continue to persevere on the flower front. An important side note: peonies, my all-time favorite flower, seem to do quite well amid the deer. We have several peony plants along a rock wall that never get touched by deer. Apparently zinnias and bearded irises are deer-resistant, too. Maybe Iíll find enough varieties they hate to still have some color in the yard.

Two things I know: the deer will still keep coming and Iíll still keep planting flowers.

News Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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