Although winter isn’t officially over the temperate climate on Vancouver Island allows me to garden all year long. This garden is particularly large, set on a large property in Saltair BC. I have worked in these gardens for a couple years now and the beauty of it always takes my breath away. The house is set on the back of the property with the gardens and the ocean creating a perfect portrait of an ever changing landscape for the viewers eye.
Here it is not unusual to share the gardens with sea otters (the rascals love the fish pond), deer on a daily basis, bald eagles, kingfishers, and countless other birds, insects and bugs and even on occasion bears…they too come here. Even a cougar or two have been spotted in the area over the years. Such are the challenges of working in a rain forest climate. It definitely adds to the challenges of being a landscape gardener. For not only am I battling the constant growing cycle of plants and weeds which grow all year long, I am also trying to figure out ways to control or at the very least minimize the damage done by animals as they wander through the gardens in search of their next appetizer or feast.
There really are no absolute answers. Once, right after I started landscaping on Vancouver Island, I went to Art Knapps Garden Centre in Comox Valley BC and ask them if they had a list of plants that were deer resistant. Of course they did as this is a problem for every garden on Vancouver Island. I then proceeded to design a garden with only deer resistant plants. I felt such a sense of pride on completion. The very next day I stood and watched as a family of deer wandered through the garden tasting everything I had planted, on occasion spitting out bites of plants that weren’t to their liking. I stood and watched them with disdain thinking…can someone please tell them to stop eating these plants…after all they are deer resistant! Yet at the same time, it is such an honour to work with nature and to realize the challenges that nature faces because of humans. We live in their world and have continually taken more of their habitat. So the next time you are frustrated with critters…remember it is their ecosystem we operate in.
So if you are struggling with critters in your garden doing things you do not want them to do or things they are not supposed to do…remember you are not alone! There are no definitive answers… a net across the fish pond to control the otters…and they don’t come anymore because since then they have eaten all the fish. And as I watched the mother teaching her little ones how to fish, I realized how fortunate I was to experience this. There was once a time not so very long ago that they were endangered. Imagine, with this vast ocean coastline such a species disappearing!
I have taken out all of the tasty morsel plants that deer eat and still they come. I have learned even the plants they do not like they will eat when tender new shoots come in the spring! So the next time you are frustrated as I have been many times…know that without this ecosystem we would not be able to landscape or garden.
See you next time….in the garden or the garden centre!