Looking out of the window in the mornings and seeing a family of roe deer or a solitary muntjac on the lawn sounds idyllic – and it certainly looks that way – an absolute picture but….. there is always a but!
Deer have voracious appetites. They are not destructive in general, like badgers can be, but they are very greedy – and will keep coming back for things they like. Deer are undeterred by thorns and prickles, and quite capable of jumping anything less than 5 feet tall – in the blink of an eye!
They have also become bolder and seem prepared to come closer to the house each year in order to munch on one of their favourites - roses. Of course the first time this happened the roses loved it! They came back thick and fast but once they had been repeatedly cropped they tend to turn up their toes….
I have spent 20 (expensive) years trying to outwit Bambi and friends, using various deterrents that can be bought from garden centres, and even some that can’t! Don’t worry – I am not talking about dealing in illicit substances here but used to go to the local zoo for my parents to collect lion poo! This deters most animals but dissolves in the rain too fast and is not always readily available. The other winner is “human hair” and this can be very useful for protecting individual trees – when hung from the trunk in an old stocking. The rain actually helps to keep a ring of aroma around the tree but it has a limited range!
Other deterrents include ultrasonics (expensive, not always effective and impacts other animals such as bats), chemicals (not very green, expensive, temporary) or fencing (too expensive and unsightly for most). Rotten eggs also work but you only have to drop one in the house by mistake! Human urine is reputedly effective – so next time your u-bend is acting up…….
I have decided that the best approach is to plant flowers and shrubs that the deer do not like. That way I can enjoy them being in the garden (they will still come for windfalls and a quiet browse on the lawn) without having to get my credit card out. In fact you could even attract them to the garden if you enjoy watching them by installing a salt-lick.
When looking at what to plant in order to escape the attentions of the herd, there are a number of sites on the Internet – try the phrase “plants deer don’t like”on Google and you will find plenty. Wild about Britain and English Country Garden both have useful lists.
Luckily there are a number of well-loved favourites that don’t seem to be on the menu. These include (but by
no means limited to) Agapanthus, Allium, Aquilegia, Bamboo, Berberis, Buddleia, Ceanothus, Cistus, Clematis, Cotoneaster, Crocosmia, Daffodils, Euphorbia, Ferns (most), Geraniums (hardy), Heather, Hellebores, Honeysuckles, Hydrangea, Lavender, Magnolia, Mahonia, Pampas Grass, Potentilla, Rhododendron, Salvias,
Snowdrops and most herbs!
I wouldn’t guarantee any of these but they seem to appear repeatedly on a number of lists, so there is a good chance. I would definitely suggest using human hair (you could try asking your hairdresser – take a carrier bag along) as a protector for young trees. Put it in an old stocking and hang it loosely round the tree trunk. Once deer decide they like something they tend to keep coming back, and no plant will survive their attentions for long.
As a side note - you may remember I mentioned the dreaded bee-killing chemicals“nicotonoids” in January. There has recently been an EU vote on banning them for good, which sadly failed. They will therefore continue to appear in the shops – please avoid them. Defra are sitting on the fence as usual – it is no surprise they walk