Mar 27, 2011

Hair-owing Garden Tales

I don't consider my yard a battlefield. I'm not one of these Chevy-Chase-in-Caddyshack types locked in an ever-escalating war with moles--or with gophers, or rabbits or snails or slugs, or even deer. (I was at war with ivy once, but peace has reigned now for several seasons.) Many local gardeners I know do seem to consider deer a mortal enemy, but I've always had a pretty peaceable--even affectionate--attitude toward our hooved brothers and sisters. And I confess I like to only half-jokingly say that it's my good deer karma that protects my plants from being devoured, despite the fact that the yard--nestled, as it is, in a valley surrounded by open hills--is basically a kind of on-ramp to a major Cervine Superhighway.

This spring, however, I'm afraid the deer have indeed been snipping off the flowering stalks of my Heucheras and Potentillas.  (Heuchera maxima and Potentilla glandulosa.)  Granted, it's not a huge deal--the deer so far seem to be just clipping off the flower stalks, and leaving the bulk of the plants pretty well untouched. But's springtime, and I was looking forward to the annual spring flower display. Now I'm imagining some cheery deer kitchen with a vase full of flowers on the table and the man deer reading the paper while the lady deer makes a cup of tea...

Here's the picked-over Heuchera. Leaves good, flower stalks clipped.

And the Potentilla, below.  This is a highly local plant, grown from seed found in a park just a mile from the house, and it flourishes in the yard--but I'd still like it to get to have more than one teeny tiny flower!

The good news with the Heuchs is that they produce flower stalks for quite a long time, so if the deer decide they are tired of the tasty buds, then I could get a good show of flowers yet. I was thinking of maybe trying a little gentle dissuasion on the deer. I've heard that placing human hair on a plant can be a good, if slightly icky-looking, deer deterrent. I can collect a pretty good supply of said material every time I shower, plus, the hair might serve a dual purpose in the garden.

Philanthropic feline.
My mum, who has always been a good friend to birds, places the hair from her brush out on tree branches in the spring, because she read that birds like to use hair to make their nests. Many people, myself included, are surprised to learn that birds have next to no sense of smell, so they don't notice if potential nesting material originated on a creature they consider dangerous. To this end, I have enlisted my cat, Celeste, to make daily coat donations to the bird community. After brushing her, I take out the wad of fur and stick it on a branch.  It seems to disappear quickly enough, and I hope at least some of it finds its way into cozy bird nests and not into the neighbors' swimming pool filters. (I would solicit donations from both cats, but Neo won't allow brushing--apparently he has some sort of embargo on bird-related aid, though he is gentlemanly enough to help Celeste with her coat.)

Perfect starter home for young couple with clutch.
My best-case scenario is if a sweet little feathered couple accepts the hair and fur offerings and takes up residence in the little house pictured here, which is right outside my home office. I can think of no better distraction from taxes and bill-paying than watching a couple of wrens or chickadees build a deluxe, fur-lined home for their family.


  1. Your cats are cute! I brush my cats outside and let the fur fly. Sometimes if I run across a bird's nest in the yard, I see some of their hair interwoven among the leaf bits and twigs. One of my cats loves to be brushed, the other tries to run when I brush him. He is very sensitive.

  2. I'm a crazy cat hair tosser, too. I'm sure that when I lived in an apartment, my downstairs neighbors thought I was insane.

    Very silly photo: