July 20, 2022
Wow! What an amazing turn your life has taken. It’s almost like you won the lottery or maybe sold your soul or something. Benefitting from the poor fortune of, turns out, loyal readers who had to cancel their dream trip, you were able to stow off to the Great Dixter Spring Symposium and chum it up with that one British gardener everybody’s always talking about suddenly. Can never remember the dude’s name. Garth something maybe? Then jetting off to Seattle to speak at some high class symposium. Again, I can’t remember the name but I’m sure everybody there was blown away by your wit, wisdom, and good looks. Then a jaunt off to Maine. I don’t know why. A vacation? A lobster dinner? Finally, that fun podcast you did with what’s her name. Leslie Harris? Damn. I remember when your life was nowhere near so charmed!
But I loved your illustrative description of Heathrow’s newest concourse. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been there. It sounds like the fancy duty free shops you described are different now than the ones I remember. Just as snooty, but different. I don’t recall daydreaming about slamming a fancy bottle of perfume on the counter and demanding it be shipped to America immediately. I do remember visiting one or two of them and asking how much this or that cost. After gasping at the price, I asked if they could point me in the direction of the People Express gate. That was fun, as reveling in one’s own humiliation can sometimes be.
It’s good that amongst all the joy and fun you had to share in your last two letters that you never asked how I was doing because, to tell you the truth Marianne, I’ve been suffering. Things have been hard this summer. Yet another soul sapping project, ala last year. It’s actually a continuation of that one and week after week after week it has made me question every decision I’ve ever made in my life. Anything in my past that might have led me to this project this summer, anything, whether it was choosing a college to picking a career to naming a kid to choosing grape bubblegum when I was five instead of cherry, if any one thing somehow led me to a single minute of this hellhole of a project, then let it be damned. Besides the project, the usual. Too much rain. Then too little. Lately, unbearable, oppressive heat. Finally, the coup de grace, for the first time in my adult backyard gardening life, significant deer and rabbit damage.
I can hear the collective phony sympathy of the entire gardening universe over that last complaint, but, dammit, I have a fence. Sure, it’s just a 4’ chain link fence, but I have planted both my side and my neighbor’s sides with all kinds of trees, shrubs, and vines and for twenty plus years, having no clear place from which to take off and no clear place to land, has been enough to deter deer from taking the leap into my backyard. But this year, they found a way in.
It took me two weeks to figure out how they were getting in. During this time, those bastards made nightly runs to eat the tops off a dozen or two garden phlox and a bunch of other favorite plants. And I mean that. Always favorite stuff. Never a weed or some aggressive thing I was going to hack back anyway. And I swear I wouldn’t even mind if they ate one phlox down to the ground but, nope, just the tops off every one of them. But those filthy animals couldn’t out smart me forever. I finally figured out how they were getting in. It was through my project! It created a long, narrow alleyway along the side of my garage which had been closed off but no longer was. The fact that my death march of a project practically gave deer red carpet entry into my backyard buffet just added insult to injury.
So I closed off their little ingress by booby trapping it. I crisscrossed a pair of 2 x 4s, against which I tenuously balanced other boards and rakes and some metal pipes and other stuff that would fall easily and make a lot of noise if it did. Finally, and this was pure genius, I gingerly balanced a shovel between the top of this barricade and a weak branch in my neighbor’s honeysuckle so that the least sort of disturbance would cause it to fall on the deer’s head. Every morning, I went out hoping to see evidence this, but, alas, no. But, no more browse damage either, so I guess I should find consolation in that.
And for any reader who wants to get all judgmental and express outrage that I set a trap with the hopes that a shovel would fall on a deer’s head, don’t even bother. I’ve had dozens of shovels fall on my head and I’m still alive. I got over it. I guess there’s the offhand chance that one of those incidents could have been the thing in my life that set my set my fate on a course leading to my current hellhole project, but, even if that’s the case, it would not have diminished my joy one iota if I’d gone out one morning to find my shovel on the ground and a deer staggering around the yard like Mohammed Ali had just clocked it.
Of course, the pressure of finishing this project quickly and then turning my attention on an increasingly unruly garden is high, as I have some very important visitors coming in late August. One of these folks happens to be you, when you’ll be in town to speak at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Plant Trials Day. In fact, we’ll be seeing a lot of each other over the next month. We’re both speaking at the Speaking of Gardening symposium in Ashville, NC. Prior to that, we’ll be hanging out at the Perennial Plant Association’s conference in Pennsylvania. At all these events, I will try very hard not to kill your joy by talking about myself too much.
Must report one very fun thing. One of our readers was inspired to send me a gift! Because of my Grexit article forever ago, your response, and now this Dear Gardener series of letters, a woman in Lexington, KY sent me a copy of James Bartholomew’s charming little book, Yew & Non-Yew. Very British, it laughs at the contrast between the uppity gardener and the lowly one, “Yew” being snooty. “Non-Yew” being base. Was absolutely sure I would land firmly on the “Non-Yew” side of the ledger, but nope. I’m about as “Yew” as one can get. Really? It’s enough to start me reassessing all my values if I weren’t already doing it already.
Scott, I laughed out loud-not at you, but with you. Although I could probably also cry, since you reminded me that dear Marianne got to go to Dixter and I will not get to go until next June when England will be hotter than Texas. I would like to compliment you and tell you that your garden looks better than okay compared to the state of mine and I think that Hypericum is a keeper. Lastly, with what you’ve done to the deer, I look forward to hearing how you treat big fat horrible rabbits.
Thanks Jenny! Whether laughing with me or at me, it’s all good. As long as you’re laughing!
Ah yes, the If you Give a Mouse a Cookie (or the equally delightful If you Give a Moose a Muffin) syndrome that affects almost all projects. And if you did not read those books to your children go read them now.
Must ask my wife about this one. She would know. Right now, for me, this has almost got me in mental gridlock.
I think we all have a project like that. Mine is a lamp post, a pond and a patio of a thousand pavers. 95% completed, but my ADHD kicked in and I lost interest. I will get it done over the next few weeks (really, I will). I have two adolescent rabbits in my yard this year. They must have attended some kind of school on etiquette. They only eat grass and clover! Now if only the multitude of Japanese beetles would attend the same school.
Adolescent rabbits? Oh God.
…and you have just been very, very lucky with the big rodent (deer) and little rodent issue (bunnies & chipmunks) over the years.
Just wanted to say that I really enjoy your letters – you write just as you speak.
Probably drunk and semi-coherent?
I feel you!
And because you feel me, I feel like I feel you. The beginning of a bond. I hope we become friends someday!
unfortunately deer are an ecological nightmare, not just a garden nuisance. I am so glad we don’t have them in the city limits of Lexington KY…they would probably fall and break their legs on the pervasive rabbit holes.Then carcass disposal would be an issue. The good part about rabbits is they lack the mobility of chipmunks which hop right into flower pots and dig and dig and dig…..but the good part about chipmunks is they cant raid bird feeders or gnaw through soffits…like their gymnast cousins the squirrels, but the good part about squirrels is they plant oak trees without even asking permission and give exercise to our dogs who try, but fail, to catch them. Now as to garter snakes..now there is a wonderful garden denizen: quiet, doesn’t destroy flower pots or beds, doesn’t take one bite out of each tomato….and is usually very very discreet in going about its business of eating slugs and other insect pests.
I think I need this book too so I can figure out if I’m Yew or Not-Yew.
Your project may have been giving you hell but it looks good to me! I just finished a 60′ long trellis fence and materials are EXPENSIVE. I know, I know–if you’re going to do something, do it right. But ouch. And building anything in this heat and humidity is just…ugh. I’m sure when you’re finally able to get some weeding done it will seem straightforward and relaxing.
I’ve been lucky enough to not have problems with wild rabbits, but my neighbor down the street have a pet rabbit (they didn’t bother to name her, so I have dubbed her Dora, after the famous explorer) that loves to come visit my and my other neighbor’s yard to dine on our garden delights. My cat wanted so much to go out an “play” with her the other day, but alas, I wasn’t sure who would win that one, as Dora has gotten very fat, (I wonder how that has happened?) so my cat was forced to just watch rabbit tv through the back door window.
Jenny Price Nelson, I would love for Texas to be cooler than England! (In more ways than one!)
After a morning of feeling a bit sorry for myself because I cannot have the type of garden I often crave, because of deer issues, I read your column and not only did it make me laugh out loud, it made me feel better. We have a herd of deer living in the nearby woods that cross through my wooded back yard each morning, and God only knows what they’re doing out there at night, plus the rabbit family that we seem unable to successfully trap (and relocate far into the countryside). It’s just a lot of drama, but I love to garden so I imagine I will just get out the deer spray and keep going. Thank you for the comic relief Scott!
Your posts are always so amusing! I LOVE the deer trap and would feel no pity for any that got whacked. As for hares, well, here in rural Maine we have a way of disposing of the carcasses…either the freezer or in the woods for the resident bobcat’s supper. We did finally have to fence in the veggie garden this year after the deer stuck his tongue out at me one night while pulling up carrots. So far, no deer damage (she wrote with fingers crossed).