No deer welcome here
Nestled on the escarpment of Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary, Linda Walker’s English country garden has been 30 years in the making. When Linda first moved to her home, she didn’t know a lot about gardening in Calgary, so she joined the local horticultural society. With monthly garden tours and many other gardening enthusiasts who were more than willing to share their knowledge, Linda’s garden got its start.
Right from the beginning, Linda knew that she had a big problem. With a large provincial park in her backyard, the deer found her garden full of yummy surprises. Linda would often come out to her garden in the morning to see what had bloomed, only to find that the deer had polished the flowers off during the night. Many of Linda’s neighbours had built high fences to keep the deer out but Linda decided to take a different approach. “I didn’t want my backyard feeling like Fort Knox,” she says, “so I decided to take a more passive approach. Anything that the deer ate, I dug up and gave away.” Initially Linda resented having to give up her beautiful lilies, tulips and other flowers that the deer enjoyed but eventually she grew to enjoy the challenge of growing, not necessarily what she wanted, but what the deer wouldn’t eat.
Finding plants that didn’t attract the deer required a lot of trial and error. Linda found that many plants that were labelled “deer resistant” didn’t seem to deter the deer that were frequenting her yard at all, so it took time to discover what worked in her own yard. Over the years Linda has
found many beautiful plants that are now flourishing in her garden. Once she finds a family of plants that are deer resistant she buys them in every variety she can find. Catmint is one of her favourites and she has six different kinds, as well as a host of different peonies. The most prominent plant in her garden though, is monkshood, which she has in different varieties and colours that will bloom at different times of the season.
There is a plant in her garden that
the deer still love though, and that is her clematis, of which she has more than 30 varieties. She grows them in obelisks protected by fishnet, which has worked well to protect them from the deer. Occasionally, a stray flower pokes through the fishnet and the deer gets a treat.
With a path that leads from the back to the front of her home, the deer have direct access to both her and her neighbour’s front yards. This means that the front yard has to be deer resistant too, so two pots of fibrous begonias are the only annuals that Linda keeps in her yard.
Linda, who taught school for 39 years and has been retired since 2009 has more time now to travel around Western Canada looking for deer resistant plants that she doesn’t have. She loves taking garden tours and has travelled extensively in Canada as well as around the world taking in beautiful gardens whereever she goes. She loves sharing her ideas with other gardeners and credits the Calgary Horticultural Society and its members with helping get her garden to where it is today.
The park like setting makes a perfect spot for a gazebo.
With over 30 different peonies in her garden, this Gay Paree is Linda's favourite.
Catmint, or nepeta, blooms most of the summer.
Foxglove in shades of pink.
Bee balm (Monarda) is another plant the deer leave alone.
Gas plant releases an odour that deer hate.