Thursday, May 31, 2018

Garden hair

There didn't used to be deer in our neighborhood. I gardened for years happily oblivious to those soft-eared, black-nosed little predators. When my hostas began to disappear, I blamed snails. I encircled the plants with crushed egg shells. No luck. Within a season, my hostas were chewed to the nub, never to return.

I still was blaming snails when, a couple of years later, my tulip buds began disappearing magically, over night, just before they blossomed. Then my rose blooms. Always, the flower nipped off neatly, leaving the forlorn stem as a reminder of what might have been. Cut worms? I wondered. But how could they get so high off the ground?

"What could be eating my tulips and roses?" I asked an avid gardener friend of mine.

"It's the deer," she said. "They get my roses, too. I have to build cages around my rose bushes, or I get no flowers at all."

I hadn't seen deer roaming around, so it seemed unlikely. Then, one night coming home from a meeting after dark, there he/she was, munching through my front garden.

Who me? Yes, you.

This spring, as I began to plant my garden and ruefully prune my roses, and yes, watch my tulip blooms rudely devoured one by one, I began to look into deer repellents. As it turns out, deer rely on smell for foraging; powerful odors, especially the smell of other animals, can be successful in warding them off. And wouldn't you know, one of the most common solutions? Human hair.

So, last week when I got my hair cut, with some embarrassment, I asked my stylist David if I could take my hair snippings home with me.

"I've brought a plastic bag," I told him. "We could sweep it in there."

He got a funny look on his face, until I explained about the deer. Then, with a shrug, he swept my hair up and handed it over.

"I'll have to hear if it works or not, next time you're in," he said in farewell.

When I got home, feeling a bit skeptical, I spread my hair around as best I could.

Last Saturday, I came home from running errands and my niece's truck was there. She's been coming by on weekends from time to time to help me out with the gardening. We hadn't talked in a while, so we reviewed recent developments in the yard.

"And can I just ask," my niece said cautiously, like she'd been wondering whether she dared broach the subject, "about the red furry stuff around the roses?"

"Oh, that's my hair," I said. "It's supposed to repel the deer. Apparently, hair smells enough like humans that it keeps them away? It probably won't work, but I thought it was worth a try."

So far so good.