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Show #19/6006. Deer In The Garden

Summary of Show

Big Canoe
In this episode GardenSMART visits an amazing community tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains and tackles the challenging issue of dealing with deer pressure. BIG CANOE is located in the north Georgia mountains, approximately 60 miles from Atlanta.
For More Information Click here

Cynthia Hendry
In this episode we meet CYNTHIA HENDRY, who's a passionate gardener and a talented garden designer who has personally designed and installed hundreds of gardens in Big Canoe. She has over 30 years of experience working to solve the ongoing challenge of gardening with deer pressure. Cynthia shares her vast knowledge with us.
For More Information Click here

Problem That Deer Have Become
As gardeners we spend a lot of money and a lot of effort trying to recreate our dream of what heaven looks like in our yard, only to come out many mornings and find that overnight the deer basically have eaten all of our hard work. It's gone. And it's a big problem especially for folks who are not in urban centers. But even there, we see deer in the middle of crowded areas. They’re basically everywhere. Eric asks Cynthia to give our viewers a sense of the scope of the PROBLEM THAT DEER HAVE BECOME. Well, in the great depression, the 1930’s, there were 300,000 deer in the U.S. because we were still eating deer, hunting deer a lot. Now the number is somewhere around 33 million, they're everywhere. It's, a huge problem not only for landscapes and auto accidents but importantly for our forests. Deer will eat three pounds of vegetation every day of their lives, if they're healthy. And, that's an incredible number.
For More Information Click here

Biological Capacity For Deer
Overpopulation is not a good thing for deer either. They become unhealthy if they don’t have enough vegetation to eat, the herd gets far too big for the forest. There is a BIOLOGICAL CAPACITY for any forest and in north Georgia where Cynthia is they've exceed that number. The deer are surviving because of the landscape plants but even with those plants they become unable to survive. At one point Cynthia lost five rhododendron bigjaning, when the deer were done it was just twigs. One of the impacts that the deer have on the forest is that when there's an overpopulation situation, they're overgrazing the forests, they're eating all the limbs off the trees as high as they can reach. All the new seedlings popping up that would become the next generation of forest or the next succession of the forest are destroyed because the deer are eating all the little seedlings.
For More Information Click here

Deer Are A Keystone Predator
When they did their deer study almost 20 years ago, they studied the problem for over a year. Because they’re a wildlife sanctuary it was not an easy problem to explore because they felt like this is a sanctuary for deer as well. But the study indicated they had to protect the environment for all wildlife and the deer were destroying it. DEER ARE A KEYSTONE PREDATOR, they can destroy the forest for birds, for small animals, for everything because they eliminate herbaceous, plants, shrubs, and trees up to five feet. It becomes almost a sterile forest for everybody but the deer and then they destroy themselves. They peak out at a certain population and then become really unhealthy. The Big Canoe study was an extensive study.
For More Information Click here

Manage The Deer Population
When doing this study they also looked at the many different OPTIONS AS TO HOW TO MANAGE this population? What were some of the other options considered before settling on culling? Biological control through birth control was considered but that's not a good option. It's too unpredictable and very expensive. It would be probably cost a couple hundred thousand dollars to do this in a large community.
For More Information Click here

Elevation Change
As mentioned sunlight is the limiting factor. So they prune the trees up a little bit so that they get a little east sun and a little west sun on their landscape. One of the things Eric likes about Cynthia's garden is that natural feeling. It feels like walking through a beautiful woodland and that's what makes it fit with this site really, really well. One thing that's worth mentioning is that there's quite an ELEVATION CHANGE from the bottom of the driveway to the top of the property.
For More Information Click here

Design Considerations-Where To Plant
Cynthia has designed 100's of gardens many of them right here in Big Canoe. There is, of course, significant deer pressure here. When planning a garden knowing deer are going to be present is an issue. What are the DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS needed to give that garden the best shot at surviving the onslaught of deer? First, Cynthia needs to know the neighborhood. Is it one of the neighborhoods that has more deer pressure? Generally, the older neighborhoods have more deer pressure. Then one needs to identify the safest places in the garden and the most vulnerable places in the garden.
For More Information Click here

Fence A Part Of Your Garden
Also, have a small PART OF YOUR GARDEN FENCED, make a safe place, put plants attractive to deer inside the wire fence.
For More Information Click here

Specific Plants For Deer Proofing
We've spent some time talking about garden design principles that improve our probability of success if we have deer pressure as an issue, Eric would next like to discuss some SPECIFIC PLANTS within some of the categories we discussed. For example, as far as plants with fuzzy leaves. We could use something like Lamb’s ear-Stachys byzantine-that deer don't really like to eat. What are some of the plants in the category of toxic plants that our viewers could find at garden centers? At the ground level Cynthia uses Geranium Biokovo.
For More Information Click here

Larger Shrubs And Trees
Eric would next like to talk about some of the LARGER SHRUBS AND TREES. Of course, any of the big woodland trees are going to be a great idea because they're out of the range of where deer can eat them. Let’s talk about some of the mid to large size shrubs that work well in a deer populated area. For large evergreens, Cynthia uses the American holly, ilex opaca, agarista populifolia, and the various anise species, illicium parviflorum, and illicium floridanum.
For More Information Click here

LINKS:

Cynthia Hendry
Mountain Gardening: Making gardening news | Gardening | smokesignalsnews.com

Big Canoe
The South's Premier Mountain Community | Big Canoe

Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA)
Quality Deer Management | QDMA

Plant List

Show #19/6006. Deer In The Garden

Transcript of Show

In this episode GardenSMART visits an amazing community tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains and tackles the challenging issue of dealing with deer pressure. BIG CANOE is located in the north Georgia mountains, approximately 60 miles from Atlanta. The community covers over 8,000 acres and features three lakes and two waterfalls. Nearly one third of the property has been set aside as wildlife areas and parks. The property has more than 20 miles of trails with diverse wildlife and fresh mountain air.

The first known people to inhabit Big Canoe were the paleo-indians, as many as 15,000 years ago. Big Canoe as we know it today was once referred to by native Americans as the enchanted land. Something magical about this part of the north Georgia mountains has attracted people to it for centuries.

Big Canoe was at one time the estate Sam Tate, who found rich marble deposits in this area and bought as much of the surrounding land as he could. The land sat unused for some time until development started in the late 70s. Today, there are more than 3,000 residents who enjoy this beautiful slice of nature. There are many amazing gardens on the property and one of the ongoing challenges these gardeners have is with a large population of deer that love to browse their plants.

Top

In this episode we meet CYNTHIA HENDRY, who's a passionate gardener and a talented garden designer who has personally designed and installed hundreds of gardens in Big Canoe. She has over 30 years of experience working to solve the ongoing challenge of gardening with deer pressure. Cynthia shares her vast knowledge with us.
Top

Eric meets Cynthia and thanks her for joining us. Welcome to the show. Cynthia returns the greeting and thanks Eric and GardenSMART for visiting. We're going to talk about a topic that affects many of our gardening friends and that is deer. As gardeners we spend a lot of money and a lot of effort trying to recreate our dream of what heaven looks like in our yard, only to come out many mornings and find that overnight the deer basically have eaten all of our hard work. It's gone. And it's a big problem especially for folks who are not in urban centers. But even there, we see deer in the middle of crowded areas. They’re basically everywhere. Eric asks Cynthia to give our viewers a sense of the scope of the PROBLEM THAT DEER HAVE BECOME. Well, in the great depression, the 1930’s, there were 300,000 deer in the U.S. because we were still eating deer, hunting deer a lot. Now the number is somewhere around 33 million, they're everywhere. It's, a huge problem not only for landscapes and auto accidents but importantly for our forests. Deer will eat three pounds of vegetation every day of their lives, if they're healthy. And, that's an incredible number. Think about the impact that must have on commercial agriculture as well. The deer are eating hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of profits. They're also destroying very valuable plants that we put in our garden. Of course that is disheartening but equally important are the many problems that overpopulation has for deer themselves.
Top

Overpopulation is not a good thing for deer either. They become unhealthy if they don’t have enough vegetation to eat, the herd gets far too big for the forest. There is a BIOLOGICAL CAPACITY for any forest and in north Georgia where Cynthia is they've exceed that number. The deer are surviving because of the landscape plants but even with those plants they become unable to survive. At one point Cynthia lost five rhododendron bigjaning, when the deer were done it was just twigs. One of the impacts that the deer have on the forest is that when there's an overpopulation situation, they're overgrazing the forests, they're eating all the limbs off the trees as high as they can reach. All the new seedlings popping up that would become the next generation of forest or the next succession of the forest are destroyed because the deer are eating all the little seedlings. And that was happening at Big Canoe. They had the annual walks through their wildflower trail. Especially in early spring when all the spring Ephemerals were coming up they found they were disappearing between their survey week and the actually tour week. People were coming from outside Big Canoe to see the variety of species they have, yet the trillium and orchids were just slowly disappearing. As far as the forest itself they don't have seedlings anymore. When the deer browse all the seedlings before summer's over, the forest can’t regenerate. This is all a result of the decline in natural predators, whether it was the red wolf from a long time ago or humans eating deer. Those checks and balances really are not in place.
Top

What we, as communities and gardeners, need to think about today is ways to manage these populations, or controlling where deer can travel. Eric asks what are some ways that would be effective from the standpoint of controlling deer populations? Cynthia and Big Canoe have given this a lot of thought and spent a long time getting educated on the topic. Fencing in Big Canoe is allowed but it has to be very inconspicuous. Additionally they spray, have scarecrows or have rubber coyotes that one can put coyote urine on. When they did their deer study almost 20 years ago, they studied the problem for over a year. Because they’re a wildlife sanctuary it was not an easy problem to explore because they felt like this is a sanctuary for deer as well. But the study indicated they had to protect the environment for all wildlife and the deer were destroying it. DEER ARE A KEYSTONE PREDATOR, they can destroy the forest for birds, for small animals, for everything because they eliminate herbaceous, plants, shrubs, and trees up to five feet. It becomes almost a sterile forest for everybody but the deer and then they destroy themselves. They peak out at a certain population and then become really unhealthy. The Big Canoe study was an extensive study. They looked at tracking the population, then understanding how many deer they estimated were here, then compared that with the number of deer for a healthy population. It was determined that harvesting or culling a chunk of the herd was essential to maintain the deer population in a healthy way. Big Canoe is 8,000 acres, it has different neighborhoods, those neighborhoods had different problems, different levels of deer. The older neighborhoods with the homes that have been there for a long time, had a greater problem than the others. They had to look at each neighborhood. The wildlife biologist would come and survey the forest around the particular neighborhoods and determine that they needed to take so many out in this neighborhood, so many out in this neighborhood, etc.
Top

When doing this study they also looked at the many different OPTIONS AS TO HOW TO MANAGE this population? What were some of the other options considered before settling on culling? Biological control through birth control was considered but that's not a good option. It's too unpredictable and very expensive. It would be probably cost a couple hundred thousand dollars to do this in a large community. Many thought they could move the deer to south Georgia. But nobody wants the deer, everybody has a problem, especially the farmers. There was no way to eliminate the deer other than through a deer management program. They needed to know what the population was in each community, each neighborhood in Big Canoe. They needed to get the deer down to a level that would allow the forest to regenerate. They then needed to track those numbers annually. It has been a very ambitious program and has taken a lot of effort over many, many years, but they're seeing some really impressive results. They do an autopsy study every year on the deer they take out. The wildlife biologists come and actually assess the health of the herd and how many fawns they may have in their future. That provides predictions on how many they should take out the following year. The deer are happier and healthier. And, there are fewer garden plants that are being eaten, disease is down, malnutrition is down. It looks like nothing but upside. They have trophy deer. It's a great program and something that other communities ought to look at. It's not a problem that’s going to fix itself. If not addressed you will end up having a forest with fewer animals and very few species of plant material. And that's not a healthy forest.

Eric enjoyed walking through Cynthia’s garden earlier in the day. It’s thoughtfully well-planned, a beautiful place. He would like for Cynthia to give our viewers a walking tour. She gardens on approximately 5 acres, 3 acres are fenced to keep the deer out. It's an old forest, probably a 60, 70 year old forest, mature oak trees with high over story cover. Sunlight is the limiting factor. She tries to use as many native plants as possible. Many native shrubs are deer resistant, some are not. It’s trial and error over the years. Cynthia has gardened here for over 30 years so trial and error has been a major piece of putting this garden together. She uses a lot of very natural plants. Big Canoe does not like formality. They put boxwood on their approved list recently because boxwood is deer resistant, but they did indicate that nobody could prune it into a Georgia bulldog.
Top

As mentioned sunlight is the limiting factor. So they prune the trees up a little bit so that they get a little east sun and a little west sun on their landscape. One of the things Eric likes about Cynthia's garden is that natural feeling. It feels like walking through a beautiful woodland and that's what makes it fit with this site really, really well. One thing that's worth mentioning is that there's quite an ELEVATION CHANGE from the bottom of the driveway to the top of the property. How does that effect gardening? It is tough. Cynthia thinks of it as - prune your way to the top. It's tough. And a limiting factor for a mature gardener. But it does give a lot of interest to the plant display. One can elevate plants and layer plants up the side of the mountain and really create some drama. It's a very nice canvas. They have these beautiful little trails that allow for little garden rooms and more hidden private areas. She has two miles of trails and tries to plant the edge of the trails with native wildflowers. It's very, very beautiful. Top

Cynthia has designed 100's of gardens many of them right here in Big Canoe. There is, of course, significant deer pressure here. When planning a garden knowing deer are going to be present is an issue. What are the DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS needed to give that garden the best shot at surviving the onslaught of deer? First, Cynthia needs to know the neighborhood. Is it one of the neighborhoods that has more deer pressure? Generally, the older neighborhoods have more deer pressure. Then one needs to identify the safest places in the garden and the most vulnerable places in the garden. You want to put your more deer resistant plants out on the fringes where the deer will feel safe because they can jump back into the woodland. Deer don’t like fuzzy leaves, they don't like any plant with a scent. Herbs are more deer resistant. A lot of plants have a fragrance. If you crush the leaf of a plant and it has a fragrance, they generally don't like that, it may be it has some chemical in it that's a little toxic to them. Eric has noticed with many of the plants that deer like to eat, plants like hydrangea paniculata, that Cynthia’s strategy is allowing these plants to get really tall so they're out of the range where the deer can browse. Deer could could jump up on this plant but she has other plants around it that are more deer resistant. It apparently confuses their nose a little bit to have the deer resistant plants around plants that are more vulnerable.

Cynthia has many boulders spread throughout the garden. Cynthia believes that a strategically placed stone is also a good form of deer control. Boulders can be a cheap addition to a garden in terms of maintenance, you don't have to fertilize, you don't have to spray it, it looks beautiful, it grows lichens.

Eric believes that simply put, we’re looking at the right plant, in the right place. Position plants that deer don't like to eat close to plants that deer do like, such as hostas, which we know they love.
Top

Also, have a small PART OF YOUR GARDEN FENCED, make a safe place, put plants attractive to deer inside the wire fence. A lot of homes in Big Canoe have one corner of their garden slightly fenced and that provides a place where they can have their favorite-grandmother's rose, as an example.
Top

We've spent some time talking about garden design principles that improve our probability of success if we have deer pressure as an issue, Eric would next like to discuss some SPECIFIC PLANTS within some of the categories we discussed. For example, as far as plants with fuzzy leaves. We could use something like Lamb’s ear-Stachys byzantine-that deer don't really like to eat. What are some of the plants in the category of toxic plants that our viewers could find at garden centers? At the ground level Cynthia uses Geranium Biokovo. It seems to have a toxic leaf. She has trialed it at the edge of her garden and it's never been browsed at all. Ferns are not vulnerable, except early spring when deer may eat the fiddlehead. If they do you will likely see a grouping of ferns that look they've been clipped off, like someone took a weed eater to them. And that can be a deterrent for people. Cynthia loves cephalotaxus because they come in every form, one that looks like a Christmas tree or the prostrata that will be like a ground cover. Combine that with the bold leaves of hellebores and you've got a great combination. A deer resistant garden at Big Canoe, begins in spring with daffodils and hellebores but Cynthia would like to encourage gardeners to consider later blooming deer resistant bulbs. Check your bulb catalogs. There are tons of bulbs that bloom all the way through spring and summer that are very deer resistant. If you consider lilies and dahlias, you can go into fall.
Top

Eric would next like to talk about some of the LARGER SHRUBS AND TREES. Of course, any of the big woodland trees are going to be a great idea because they're out of the range of where deer can eat them. Let’s talk about some of the mid to large size shrubs that work well in a deer populated area. For large evergreens, Cynthia uses the American holly, ilex opaca, agarista populifolia, and the various anise species, illicium parviflorum, and illicium floridanum. For midsize evergreens she likes the smaller forms of the osmanthus, pieris japonica, mountain fire with new red growth, or the variegata with its orange color - stunning, growth in spring, gorgeous. If one has time for them to grow large, the native mountain laurel selections can be a bonus when they bloom. For Cynthia they are slow growers, usually not browsed unless there's a really bad winter and no acorns. If deer pressure is great, steer clear of rhododendron and azaleas. Viburnum as they get taller and out of the range of browsing are good plants around deer. When they’re young they will be browsed from time to time. The bottlebrush buckeye is another plant that deer typically don’t like to eat.

Eric loves having large hardwood trees for shade and even in a moderate sized garden, there's no substitute for some of these wonderful, noble trees. When they're young, however deer will eat them and it doesn't matter what it is. We've got to protect them in those early years. They are vulnerable, the bucks can totally destroy them. So if planting a smaller tree put a tomato cage around it for a period of time, until it gets tougher. That will protect it. When planting Japanese maples in the forest fence around them, a tomato cage works well. Cynthia tells people that if you want a low maintenance, deer resistant garden, plant trees that will ultimately be big trees and ferns. That's a low maintenance combination.

Eric thanks Cynthia. We’ve had so much fun walking through your garden and we've learned so much. Managing deer in the garden is an ongoing and important task. If we’re going to have success growing our favorite plants we need to pay attention to deer and where they like to browse. Most likely deer will be with us forever thus an ongoing concern, it’s something that we have to think about as gardeners. Cynthia your yard is beautiful and you’ve provided some great tips and ideas we can use in our own gardens as we attempt to try to deer proof them to the best of our abilities. Thank you so much. Cynthia appreciates the opportunity to share gardening ideas.
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LINKS:

Cynthia Hendry
Mountain Gardening: Making gardening news | Gardening | smokesignalsnews.com

Big Canoe
The South's Premier Mountain Community | Big Canoe

Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA)
Quality Deer Management | QDMA

Plant List


   
 
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Photographs courtesy of Monrovia

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