By Emily J. Weitz
It used to be that only people who chose to live in the woods wrangled with the presence of deer in their beloved gardens. But in the past ten years, deer have taken over the East End, emerging from the woods to chomp rose bushes and azaleas from the heart of Sag Harbor Village to the shores of Georgica. Unlimited Earth Care, which has been serving the East End in a sustainable, healthy way for the past 18 years, has come up with practical and beautiful solutions to keep the deer completely uninterested in your back yard.
The goal of Unlimited Earth Care is to create and maintain gardens that can more or less care for themselves. Frederico Azevedo, the founder, came from Brazil, where the idea of utilizing native plants and minimizing the use of pesticides was a part of gardening philosophy.
“We [Unlimited Earth Care] were among the first to talk about organic methods and sustainable gardens,” he said. “We specialize in the creation and design of gardens in as sustainable a way as possible, so that they can take care of themselves as they progress.”
Azevedo has been working with some of the same gardens since the outset – after 18 years, he’s seen sapling trees grow to cast shadows across entire yards.
He uses the relationship between the various plants to set up a thriving ecosystem.
“You want to use plants that will be good companions to each other,” he said. “If you’re in the deep shade in the woods, you need to find plants with shallow roots. Ferns are good because they’ll keep the soil aerated naturally for the trees, and the ferns thrive in the shade that the trees cast.”
It’s this idea of working with what you have that has brought the deer issue to Unlimited Earth Care time and again. People love their roses, and so do the deer. So Azevedo, through experimentation and research, has come up with a huge variety of options for flowers, trees, and shrubs, all of which are completely unattractive to deer.
While you may have to give up on the rose bush (or fence it in), you’ll still find every color of the rainbow as well as the sweetest scents in plants that don’t attract deer. It’s when you try to fight the reality of the environment that you run into problems. In this area, you need to face the existence of deer and work with it.
“I live in North Haven,” Azevedo explains. “I develop all my landscaping according to deer. There are lots of varieties that can be used to make a beautiful yard that don’t attract deer. For screening,” he continues, “cryptomeria is an evergreen that grows fast and the deer won’t touch them. They have a beautiful texture and shape, not like a conifer evergreen but more free-form.”
Other trees, like white pines, will help keep deer at bay.
“Shrubs,” he adds, “like boxwoods and Andromeda work well and can be displayed in different ways in company with ornamental grasses.”
But everybody, including deer, loves a beautiful flower with an enticing scent. Can we possibly have flowers without tempting those little herbivores into our yards?
Azevedo says absolutely, and hashes out a long list of options for flowers that may be magnetic to us but are repellant to deer.
“Hyperion is a flowering shrub with yellow flowers,” he said. “Butterfly bushes have lilac type flowers in different colors. Digitales, peonies, veronica, lavender: there are lots of choices that allow the garden to flow well and attract birds and butterflies instead of attracting deer.”
In fact, by lining the property with flowers like these, deer will stay away.
Because of the ever-mounting tick problem on the East End, keeping the deer out of your yard is all the more essential.
“As soon as deer don’t feel attracted to your yard,” Azevedo says, “you’ll cut down on ticks, which are carried mostly by deer.”
Deer, ticks, sandy soil, lots of shade: there are many challenges that people face as they begin their gardens out here. But Azevedo says that “Nothing is a problem. It just becomes a problem if you’re trying to incorporate something that doesn’t fit in that environment.”
He says that by insisting on plantings species that won’t thrive in the natural environment, you’ll increase the need for maintenance and the use of pesticides.
“We always create the perfect garden with sandy soil or clay soil,” he says. “You have to use the right plants for the right environment. When you try to force things then you get a problem. You just need to understand where you are, and work with that.”