Guest Rant by Wendy Kiang-Spray


I mean, I get it…but I don’t really get it. The lawn is meticulously manicured, the stonework beautiful, and within the lovely iron garden gate (topped by an additional 4 feet of deer netting), the lilies are tall and happy, the shrubs lush and green. However, I’m thinking that if there needs to be so much pest protection around it – it kind of takes away from the beauty of the plants.  I try not to be too judgmental. I’ve written several blog posts now about how gardening is a subjective art.  Still, I’m always taken aback when I see gardens in full bloom, confined by that layer of black netting.  Passersby simply cannot enjoy gardens while they’re behind the veils of deer netting!  Isn’t there another way?


I run past this sunken shade garden often.  It’s really, really pretty. Really.  This hidden gem is in a particularly wooded section of the neighborhood and we do have lots of deer. I’m sure there are issues and I’m sure the gardener was fed up with her garden being constantly nibbled down to nubs. But ugh…the netting…


This netted container belongs to my friend Grace, who has converted her entire front and side yards to perennial gardens.  As you can imagine, her place has become the all-night smorgasbord.  Last week, the deer topped her lilies, phlox, and quite a few lettuces and beets too.  She was devastated.  She covered half the garden in netting as an emergency measure.  She’s going to try to use her deer spray more often but if that doesn’t work, she’s already priced the cost to surround her garden with a deer fence.  She asked me – Thoughts? Suggestions? I told her I hoped it would be a very last resort.  I wouldn’t want to see a mesh fortress around her garden.  She replied that gardening is such an important part of who she is, that even if it’s not pleasant for passersby, she’d rather garden within a fortress than not garden at all.


One look at my hostas and you can see that I obviously have no solutions.  In fact, I have a few ‘Bela Lugosi’ daylilies that have been in the ground for 3 years now and I’ve yet to see a bloom because of the deer.  I hear those daylilies sure are stunning.  What I have noticed is that my hellebores are intact and everything behind them is fine. I’ve read that deer will avoid crossing over plants they dislike, such as hellebores. Perhaps instead of a stake and netting barrier, it might be useful to try edging a garden with plants that deer are averse to.  Then again, the deer have become so brazen.

Still, there’s got to be a solution somewhere between the Fort Knox method and the open smorgasbord.  (And my dad’s method of planting tall stakes with bars of blue-green Zest soap hanging from them is not what I’m talking about!)

Wendy Kiang-Spray is a freelance garden writer and is working on her first book about growing and cooking Chinese vegetables.  She gardens in Rockville, Maryland and volunteers with the DC Master Gardeners.