October 21, 2008

Signs of Autumn: Frost and Deer

Last week's temperatures were in the upper 80s and it seemed like autumn was a long way off. Suddenly, the weather changed. Monday morning we had our first frost. The flower garden did fine and I gauge that by the fact that the coleus, colocasia and brugmansia are still okay.

The Knock Out® Roses and the potted miniature roses are still blooming. The Encore® Azaleas have been blooming for over a month and the smaller ones under my cherry tree are really nice right now. The white butterfly ginger is still blooming. The salvia greggii are still putting on a great display. That said, all these blooms are spread out over the gardens so there's no big peak display in any one location. Some of these plants are inside the fence, some are in the fragrance garden and some are in the outer garden.

As much as I'd like to have more fall blooms, the deer have already taken an interest in the outer garden (outside the protection of a fence) after having mostly ignored it over summer. The deer, especially the fawns, are hanging out in the garden during the day. So much in fact that my neighbors must think they're our pets! I had to move my "deer resistant" geranium 'Rozanne' inside the cottage garden. I planted nine of those beside the Knock Out® Roses where I had to remove three Spanish lavender that were ruined by the summer rains.

The helianthus angustifolius 'First Light' finally got picked on again by the deer to the point that there are very few blooms left on that "deer resistant" perennial. For quite awhile, the damage wasn't too severe and I was thinking of using more of the swamp sunflower. Now, I'm not so sure that I want to dedicate space to it since the deer are more likely to browse the garden from September through April.

I gave up on the heptacodium. The deer damage was too severe to keep it in the front garden. It looked pitiful.

In addition to eating plants, the deer also rub their antlers on the Southern Magnolia this time of year. In the last two years, they had started breaking the lower branches. We thought that we'd pruned up the lower limbs to prevent further damage. However, the deer have been rubbing on the trunk. Once again, we brought out our flexible 32" high edging fence to circle around the tree trunk. That seems to be the only tree that gets damaged and the little fence is enough to keep them off of the tree.

As bad as all this sounds, I was actually very pleased with the results of the deer resistant outer garden. While I can't plant anything too exotic (or expensive) for the risk of losing the deer battle, I felt like I finally had a nice colorful, summer garden...in harmony with the deer.

Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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