Usually, by this time of summer, I would have become bored with the hostas that always grew around the foundation of the house and around the barn. Seemingly eternal, they were full and old — many decades old — and mostly variegated, deep green streaked with white. By July, too, I would find myself complaining that the irrepressible orange tiger lilies were taking over the circular bed in the middle of my back yard. A few years ago, I even dug up a clump of tiger lilies and had them transplanted at my daughter’s place, thinking I really needed to thin them out. They were almost like weeds to me.
Now, the tiger lilies are all gone.
Yes, they were eaten by deer.
The hostas are gone, too, except for a few stalwart clusters of five-inch-long leaves trying to fight their way back to viability. As we used to say a lot back in college when we wanted to sound sophisticated: Pauvre petit!
I suppose I’ll never know for certain which of us, the deer or me, was responsible for the decline of a couple of shrub roses that used to grow so wantonly. Did the deer’s chomping decimate the shipwreck rose, too — which only last summer flopped blithely every which way — leaving only a few sad branches? Or did it die back because I neglected to fertilizer or prune it? I blame them.
For certain, I know our family deer ate the leaves off the bottom four feet of the camellias, which stand 7 or 8 feet tall, and did similar nastiness to another old rose that is as lovely as ever . . . provided you don’t look at its lower half. These plants look like belles who have arrived at the ball without their skirts.
As for the lone Annabelle hydrangea out front, it is coming into full flower this week, although the girdle of wire we put around it too tightly last year gives it the absurd shape of a round chimney wearing an Easter bonnet.
What am I wondering, however — to get to my point — is whether there is a lesson to be learned sfrom my old-fashioned backyard. The basic landscape was mapped out in the 1920s or 1930s; it is mainly a green lawn, with irregular borders and central beds of traditional shrubs. Even though it isn’t what it used to be — or what it should be — it is still okay.
Consider some of the things the deer didn’t devour: the irises near the patio, which have gone wild this year, and the perennial nepeta nearby, which I bought last fall on the advice of Fort Pond Native Plants in Montauk.
In other words, I am sorry about the hostas and tiger lilies, but I feel good about getting along, more or less, with the deer. It’s a deer detente.
Without fences, Margo and Bob Alexander are getting along with the deer to much more exemplary effect. Take a look this week at the story and photos of their lovely park-like environment in the Habitat section of The Star. You'll be surprised.