Around the Garden: To the Victors Go the Flowers

As much as we adore wildlife, we detest the sight of a deer herd casually grazing in our garden, or squirrels frolicking about the lawn, cheeks bulging crocus bulbs.

Published October 24, 2013 5:00 AM
3 min read

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As much as we adore wildlife, we detest the sight of a deer herd casually grazing in our garden, or squirrels frolicking about the lawn, cheeks bulging crocus bulbs.

 

By Chris Cohan

 

As much as we adore wildlife, we detest the sight of a deer herd casually grazing in our garden, or squirrels frolicking about the lawn, cheeks bulging crocus bulbs. Our gardens are not intended to be an all-you-can-eat buffet, except for busy bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

 

So, what is a gardener to do? In the modified words of Admiral Farragut: Damn the denizen of the woods, and full-speed ahead with planting bulbs! 

 

Whether you are staring down overwhelming military odds, or watery-eyed four-legged denizens of the forest, the tactics remain the same. “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting,” Sun Tzu wrote in “The Art of War.” Advice that’s as true on the battlefield as it is in the garden.

 

To win the war against suburban scalawags, plant bulbs they will ignore. You needn’t despair; there is a vast assortment of flower bulbs to which deer normally turn up their noses. Your garden will flourish, blooms abound, and the battle shall be yours.

 

The Latin word for garlic is Allium. They are unique, exotic, and eye catching. Deer-resistant, they are seldom affected by disease and make a stunning cut or dried flower. There is nothing more magical than the sight of colossal Allium as they hover over lower-growing perennials in the garden. Their unique presence creates a special atmosphere that is fun and dramatic, yet serene, all at the same time.

 

Allium transforms normal gardens into mystical sanctuaries. Their high impact color, form, and size offer an amazing natural architecture. Allium provides interest after tulips and narcissus have faded and before summer’s abundant perennial and lily displays begin.

 

They are beloved by bees and have an incredibly long presence in the garden. As the flowers die back after weeks of being centerstage, the form of the globe remains, like a garden sentry.

 

The really large globe-shaped wonders — Ambassador, Gladiator, and Globemaster — have a range of 6 to 10-inch spheres. My favorite medium- size, globe-shaped variety is Allium Christophii, or Star of Persia.

 

Hyacinthoides non-scripta (English bluebell), which date to the 13th century, is a quintessential sign of British springtime. The delicate scented flowers multiply rapidly and thrive in semi-shade. Deer ignore them, while bees court them. The bulbs are small, inexpensive, and easy to plant. Create your own blue carpet by planting many.

 

Spanish Bluebell/Hyacinthoides Hispanica, circa 1601, is rugged and foolproof. It’s taller and blooms a bit later than its English cousin. The bulbs, which are also small, inexpensive, and easy to plant, come in blue, pink, and white and multiply with abandon. Again, plant many.

 

Narcissus is a big family of bulbs with color, height, bloom time, and fragrance for everyone. Varieties range from well-known King Alfred daffodil that naturalizes well to dainty Cyclamineus Jenny known for her reflexing flower petals resembling those of Cyclamen. These smaller narcissi are early to flower, durable, and great for rock gardens.

 

Daffodils are much loved because they signal the arrival of spring and for the fact that deer and rodents are not partial to them. They tolerate a wide range of sunlight from full sun to semi-shade. Of all bulbs, they are the best for naturalizing. Allow both the flower and the foliage to bloom and die back naturally.

 

This battle-tested troop of blooming beauties will fill your garden with wonder while leaving the enemies wandering elsewhere. To the victor go the flowers.

 

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