Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Deer Country: 3 Deer Candies

Hostas: deer candy

The hostas my dad gave us when we moved to Meadow Glenn grew well along our front sidewalk, but one June morning I discovered that the beautiful variegated plants no longer had leaves—just stems. Deer had enjoyed a nighttime salad, and I hadn’t even left out a bottle of ranch dressing. Now, whenever I’m talking deer and plants and mention hostas, someone invariably says, “Hostas—deer candy!”

Pansies: deer candy
About as many gardeners know that deer love to eat pansies. Ellen loves pansies, and in the spring of 1997, our first spring here, I surprised her by planting a dozen pansies in the narrow garden between the sidewalk and front porch. They were beautiful. The next spring I planted more pansies. Within a week deer surprised me by eating every pansy to the ground. “Pansies—deer candy!”

Violets: deer candy
A third deer candy is now blooming: common blue violets (Viola sororia), also known as common meadow violet, purple violet, woolly blue violet, hooded violet, and wood violet. Sunday afternoon I took a photo of the first bloom I’ve seen this spring. The violets were growing on the western slope of our lawn. Deer love to eat violets and will wade through our daffodils to dine on violet salad that has escaped my hoe.

When I mention this common flower, however, I’ve never had anyone say, “Violets—deer candy.”  I think the reason is that most gardeners don’t buy and plant violets, as they do hostas or the cousins of violets, the pansies. Also, this stemless native perennial hunkers down in lawns, usually, and seldom grows to be more than an inch or two tall, so it doesn’t draw attention, and if it does, some consider it a weed to be killed with 2,4-D.

If you garden in Deer County and are working in your flower beds and find a clump of violets, do what I do. Think, “Violets—deer candy!” Then either move them to a remote spot where they can serve a grand purpose as host the larvae of several of the fritillary butterflies—or add them to your compost pile.

Just don’t leave them in your garden to attract browsing deer that may be tempted to chow down on other plants nearby.

1 comment:

  1. I live in a wooded sub division and back up to the woods. In our rock garden I was able to finally grown some plants....hostas and violets. Today we walked outside to find only stems where all our lush plants had been. Thanks for the article. I hope to save some of the violets...they are my favorite flowers.