Picea glauca ‘Sanders Blue’, a dwarf Alberta spruce with bright slate-blue needles, came to us in March; a gift from a landscaper friend who spotted it at a specialty nursery. Apart from its striking appearance, the ‘Sanders’ moniker is also our own. The ‘Thomas’ name was always an inside joke. For years, some marketing list-maker has suffered under the delusion that there is a teenager named ‘Thomas’ living at out address, and we get a steady stream of mailed offers for SAT test prep and technical school enrollment. When Sanders Blue arrived, we decided that this must be the long-awaited ‘Thomas’ prophecied by our postal carrier.
|Sanders Blue in the|
Our property abuts several square miles of town conservation watershed and that land is infested with deer. ‘Infested’ is not too strong a word. There are hundreds of them and, like most suburban towns around Boston, hunting is prohibited.
We deal with the deer two ways. When we see them on our property, we run, scream and throw rocks at them. Because the deer would otherwise retreat just a few feet into the woods, we make a point of pursuing them until they are several hundred yards from our property line. But this is only effective during daylight hours when we can see them, or when we are home.
Our second, and more effective line of defense is a product called Liquid Fence. During the gardening season, we mix up as many as three gallons of the stuff and spray it once a month on everything that we care about. Liquid Fence smells awful – its active ingredients are putrefied eggs and other nasty stuff – for about three hours. Then it dries and the smell goes away, or at least abates to the human nose. To deer, it continues to smell and taste unpleasant. It is sufficiently effective that we have watched deer nose up to a hosta, start to take a nibble, then back off.
|The culprit, in a recent photo|
But, come mid-autumn, we let our guard down. The beds are cleared of perennial stalks then mulched in with leaves so there is little for any critter to eat. We fence the vulnerable evergreens and spray Liquid Fence once a month through the winter as the weather allows. Had we been more diligent, perhaps Thomas would have been spared. Then again, being out on the street made him visible – and therefore vulnerable - to the deer that populate our neighbors’ lawns and gardens.
The photo shows the extent of the damage. The deer ate not only the needles (which have no nutritional value) but also the bark. There is no recovery from such an attack. Thomas is a goner.
This weekend, I’ll dig him out and take the carcass to the compost pile at the back of the property. I’ll do so with a sense of resignation that a hunter with a bow and arrow might have saved Thomas. Or even a well-aimed rock.