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The Mast-Head: Fencing the Marigolds

Thu, 07/21/2022 - 11:35

Deer do not read The Star. As best as I can tell, neither do the rabbits that ate my parsley last summer. Believing this to be true, I think that it is safe to make the following confession: I have not yet secured the fence around my modest garden plot.

The phrase “something always comes up” could be my mantra. Though I had intentions of getting my African marigolds, Phacelia, Rudbeckia, and orange-flowered cosmos into the ground by now, other priorities got in the way. Not every sort of plant does well down where I live near the bay, but more than 20 years of on-and-off experimentation has demonstrated that these will at least survive. Marigolds in particular could grow, as the Monty Python troupe once said, “in a box in the middle of the motorway.”

Cosmos, too, are tough buggers. Last year, a friend gave me a plastic topsoil bag of them leftover from a landscaping job. After getting them home to Amagansett and leaving them as they were in a shaded spot, they looked like hell. Yet, once planted, they took off and soon were wagging their death-defying purple or white heads at me. Mistreated by my leaving them in their starter trays for far too long, this year’s cosmos might be way stumpier than the four-feet height described on the seed package, but they seem happy enough now.

It is obvious that it is only a matter of time before the deer catch on. Last year, all was well until the black-eyed Susans began to flower in earnest. Then, in a night, they were laid waste.

Some years ago, the fussiest of my children objected loudly to a lattice of bamboo I had lashed up into a tall fence. I took her point; even to me, it looked like a Vietnam War prison camp. Since then, I have thought about a less visually jarring alternative but come up with nothing. To be effective, deer-proof fence must be ugly; there’s just no way around it.

All that said, my not-so-little-anymore landscape architecture critic is studying in London this summer, and I’ll have a barrier up long before she arrives back to complain about it. Well, that is if I get around to it and nothing else comes up to distract me.

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