Category Archives: gardens with wildlife

living around wildlife

What’s Eating The Licorice Fern

When we first moved to the slopes of Mt. Tolmie, lush licorice fern decorated the mossy rock outcropping in our side yard.

Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza,Polypodium occidentale, Polypodium vulgare subsp. occidentale, many footed fern, sweet root, , garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Urban deer wandered the neighborhood. They spent long afternoons hanging out at the top of our rock, chewing their cud  & enjoying the safety this vantage point supplied.

The licorice fern flourished.  The deer seemed uninterested.  Typically deer aren’t interested in licorice fern.  Typically.

Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza,Polypodium occidentale, Polypodium vulgare subsp. occidentale, many footed fern, sweet root, , garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

A dozen years pass & their family grows.  The large buck has several generations of grandkids browsing the neighborhood.

Just down the street, beside a busy pathway to the college, licorice ferns still flourish on a similar rock outcrop.

Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza,Polypodium occidentale, Polypodium vulgare subsp. occidentale, many footed fern, sweet root, , garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Perhaps the deer don’t linger there?

Looking more carefully, I find a couple fronds that have been munched.  Mostly the ferns are full-sized & healthy.

Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza,Polypodium occidentale, Polypodium vulgare subsp. occidentale, many footed fern, sweet root, , garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

On our chunk of rock – where several more deer now hang out – – the licorice ferns are small, nibbled and struggling.

Coincidence?

Perhaps they’re less ‘deer resistant’ than I think.

Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza,Polypodium occidentale, Polypodium vulgare subsp. occidentale, many footed fern, sweet root, , garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

A couple years ago I shifted a few small mats of licorice fern from our rock to other spots around the garden.  In places where the deer rarely linger, the ferns grow to their regular size.  Hmmmmmm.

Deer aren’t typically interested in licorice fern…

Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza,Polypodium occidentale, Polypodium vulgare subsp. occidentale, many footed fern, sweet root, , garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
  • unless there’s a dense population of deer…
  • and the hyper-active fawns just want to taste everything
  • and the herd’s favourite hangout is carpeted in licorice fern…

THEN deer can have a negative impact on licorice ferns.
Just because a plant is considered deer resistant, doesn’t mean it won’t suffer when the population of deer intensifies.

black tail deer near hiking trail in Sooke, Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

That’s my guess.
But really, who knows for sure?

Maybe it’s the raccoons?
Or squirrels?
Rabbits?
Ravens? Cats?
Maybe I’m just blaming deer because I notice them so often.

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Some other ‘resistance’ musings:

Belief In Magic

It was one morning in September 2006 when I realized fairies are real.  Dancing in the autumn chill beneath the birdbath was a flurry of naked ladies.

colchicum in bloom
photo by SVSeekins

I found them enchanting….
surely elves & pixies would pop up any minute.

Only a month had passed since we’d purchased our home.  I’d done nothing in the yard, besides delivering a few pots from our old home.  This magic just ‘happened‘…  unprompted.

birdbath 2006 09
photo by SVSeekins

We were crazy-busy making the house our own.  It would be a long while before much time could be spared for gardens…
yet I knew, then & there, this circle of fairy dancers had to be incorporated into our landscape plans… Somehow.

Given the birdbath & tiny flower bed was awkwardly adrift in a sea of lawn, I needed imagination.  It took me a while to figure out what to do with it.

birdbath bed 2008 01
photo by SVSeekins

Finally, we moved forward creating a corner border. Rock edging started at the forsythia & gate (to the right / east)…
encompassed the birdbath,  & cherry tree at the end of the driveway (center-right)…
then followed the northern fence line to the rhododendron (far left).  (photo: Xmas 2007)

birdbath bed 2009 08
photo by SVSeekins

Early on it felt like a large, near-empty space that would take forever to turn into a real garden.  The new shrubs seemed tiny & lost. The local deer nibbled the Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo).  They nearly destroyed the Bottlebrush (Callistemon) with their antlers. Happily, the fairies came back every autumn to dance in the shivery sunshine.  The deer gave them peace. 🙂     (photo: August 2009)

birdbath bed 2013 09
photo by SVSeekins

Five years in, it was starting to look like something more.   The Rhodo (far left) loved the company – growing almost as much as the newer shrubs.  Those shrubs were now large enough to stand up against the deer a little better, so I removed their cages.  The birds & fairies were enjoying the extra privacy as the garden grew up around the birdbath.   (photo: Sept. 2013)

birdbath bed 2019 09
photo by SVSeekins

After a dozen years, the party continues.  The shrubs have matured into small trees.  The border has grown into a mini-woodland.  The birdbath almost disappears in the dappled understory! I reckon it’s even more magical than before. And each September the fairies come to dance.     (photo: Sept. 2019)

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July Meadow

After our drain tile renovation destroyed our lawn, we laid sod.

clover, selfheal, purple deadnettle, meadow, self-heal, Prunella, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

In the 10 years following, other plants joined the grassy monoculture.  Our classic lawn has become more of an urban meadow.

I still enjoy the tidy look of a freshly mown lawn… all smooth & green…  But I appreciate the wildflowers, too.

blacktail fawn deer garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

And I’m not alone.

The local deer seem to be spending more time grazing the meadow than they do harvesting in the ornamental beds.
Hooray for that!
For the moment I can enjoy watching the young family  – – rather than spend my time shooing them out of the garden.

wild clover, trefoil, Trifolium, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Wild clover naturalized early on.  It mostly blooms white, like the short Dutch clover, but often with a hint of pink.  I wonder if it’s interbred with the larger red clover which we grew fields of on the homestead?  So sweet.  Think clover honey…
(FYI – I’ve never been stung in our yard).

selfheal, purple deadnettle, self-heal, Prunella, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Self-heal, aka purple deadnettle, works wonderfully as a low growing groundcover too. Like the clover, it stays green while grass browns in the summer dry. Prunella vulgaris blossoms attract more beneficial insects into our yard.  The seed feeds birds, too.

creeping buttercup, sitfast, restharrow, creeping crowfoot, Ranunculus repens, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The European Creeping Buttercup is well established under our apple tree & along the shady foundations of the house.  Ranunculus repens resides safely below the lawnmower blades. It colonizes via runners. New roots spring off a runner a few inches from the mother plant, creating a baby.  Then the same runner continues along for more adventures.  In our yard, it’s never crept toward the drier, sunnier areas.

creeping buttercup, sitfast, restharrow, creeping crowfoot, Ranunculus repens, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

C thinks the buttercup is pretty.
But the deer avoid the whole plant.   They’ll graze carefully all around it.  To mammals buttercup is toxic. (Blisters inside the mouth & throat are reason enough to avoid.)
That said, insects enjoy the flowers.
🙂

blacktail fawn twins deer, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I recently learned from Dr. L. A. Gilkeson that insects have declined at least 45% since the 1970s. (!! That’s 10 times faster than we’re losing mammals  !!) The decline is mostly due to habitat loss – and lawns don’t count as ‘habitat’ if they’re monocultures.

blacktail doe deer grazing on clover selfheal meadow, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

In fact, untended weedy lots have more insects than a diverse ornamental garden.  Perhaps in relaxing our ideas about the golf green lawn, we’re helping sustain the insect population that’s left?  I’m confident our meadow hosts far more insects than the post-reno sod did.

blacktail fawn deer garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

This meadow is certainly better for the birds & bees.  The deer like it more.  And it’s less maintenance for us.  With the deer helping out, C doesn’t need to mow or fertilize it as often.  We don’t water it as much.  Granted, the meadow wants to creep into the decorative borders just like a grass lawn wants to do. So, I’m still edging the beds.  Oh well, one day I’ll come up with a solution for that.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying the flowers & all the wildlife.    🙂

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Here are some other meadows: