True blue, rare in flowers, is easily obtainable in bog sage

Jimmy Williams

Just inside a new year and we’ve already used our space budget on the horrors of tree topping, so let sleeping dogs lie for the moment. For now, we will take up another horror — horned rats, otherwise known as whitetail deer. Yes, many of my friends and family are ardent deer hunters, and, yes, we have enjoyed many a meal this winter on venison loin, venison chili, venison chops, venison burgers, and on and on. For that we are grateful. On the other hand, one deer inside the city limits is one too many, as bunged up cars and deer carcasses strewn here and yonder indicate. Carrion eaters (i.e., buzzards, skunks, opossums, coons, etc.) follow their noses to the road kills and lick them up apace. Would that there were more of them — the eaters, not the deer. As I said, one is too many. It is legal to kill a deer that is depredating on crops, and, presumably that includes ornamentals, but the problem inside the city is that a city ordinance bans shooting firearms, which happen to be the handiest tools for deer execution. My friend Carolyn Griffey has tried everything within reason to reduce — or, preferably, eliminate — deer at their lovely home that has about the finest view of the bridge at Paris Landing anywhere on Kentucky Lake. Her latest effort is a seven-foot barbed wire fence, and it is still in the erection stage, but it looks promising for her extensive ornamental plantings. About five years and several thousand dollars into her garden creation, the deer decimation is beyond belief. What the horned rats haven’t eaten, they have scraped with their antlers during their rutting ecstasy. While the bucks rub away on trees, the does and their sweet little fawns are chewing on just about every plant that has gone in there, including thorny roses, spiny hollies, and on ad nauseum. There is hardly a plant they have not damaged or destroyed among the hundreds of shrubs, trees and perennials that have been planted. My own deer problem, in my garden of lesser extent, is not quite as serious, but just as disgusting. Summer brings out the hunger pangs of the horned rats. Just about the most stinging example is destruction of hostas. Our woodland is heavy on them, and by midsummer they have been gnawed to the ground. It looks like they have been mowed with a commercial mower or bush hog. Just stubs left. Hostas will come back up the following year, of course, but that is little comfort when a particularly large planting of them is eaten. What hurts even more are such as hydrangeas, azaleas and numbers of other shrubs and small trees that, once eaten to the ground, are mostly down for the count. The latter result is common. What can we do? The best eliminator is a .22 slug between the eyes, but, as mentioned, it is illegal in some areas. A fence, at least seven feet tall and believed impenetrable, in which case deer often run right through it, is probably second best On a smaller scale, various products are sold that stink too much for deer to stand it. One of them I have had success with is marketed under the name Liquid Fence. It is mixed with water and sprayed on susceptible plants. Deer don’t like the rotten egg odor and usually leave the plants alone. The odor is offensive to deer for several days or more and they tend to leave the plants alone for at least that long. It is, also, offensive to you and me until after it dries on the plants. The trick is to spray heavily at the first indication of damage, and keep it up as needed. Thus, the deer are “trained” to leave several plants alone. Hostas, especially, are helped with this regimen, but it is not completely foolproof, and must be reapplied regularly, which, on a large scale is troublesome. Human hair, soap and other home remedies prove practically worthless in heavily populated areas, where the human scent is just about everywhere. In wilder areas they might work. Might. JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.

Load comments