Just as there are many types of plants, there are many types of gardens. Some gardeners work with shade, some with flowers or succulents and others with just vegetables. Potagers, cottage gardens, rain gardens and so on. Personally, I have an herb garden, a shade garden and a sunny area planted with perennial flowers in addition to the very large potager style vegetable garden that takes up much of our front yard.
Then there is my mother’s garden which is nestled on top of a mountain in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania in a forest like setting; the rocky soil is deeply shaded, heavily wooded and full of wildlife. Planting a garden in her yard is challenging because of the large rocks in the soil, the lack of sunlight and the fact that the deer eat everything, including the things they shouldn’t. Despite all of these things, my mother’s garden is inviting, full of surprises and a wonderful place to visit and sit a spell…
Gardening with deer is a challenge. Especially when the community you live in is surrounded by state owned forest land. At times, there can be a dozen or more deer grazing around the yard. The landscape provides areas for them to sleep and rest and even when you think the small herd may have left the yard, it is entirely possible that some are still there but out of view. As if the deer weren’t enough, black bears also live in the area and have come through yard and more than one raccoon has raised a litter of kits in a tree near the shed. If you think deer can do damage, mischievous raccoons and squirrels can also cause problems.
As a result, my mother is a gardener of things. All around the yard, you will find statues and knick-knacks, baskets of silk flowers and plants, gazing balls. She finds things in stores and yard sales and has them all over the yard. Bird houses hang from low branches all over the yard. Every where you look, little pops of color are present and it truly makes for a restful place to spend the afternoon outdoors.
The deer really do eat just about everything and it was surprising that these little bluets were present since they are usually eaten to the ground.
A constant theme in the garden is a smiling sunface. Actually, sun and moon faces are all over. That may be partly my fault since I often send them to her!
In a small hillside drainage pond, frogs rule. They are loud and you can hear them all over the yard. On this afternoon, I saw four of them in the water and on the rocks around it.
This is one of the few parts of the yard that actually has plants. The previous owners of the yard placed fencing around plants and shrubs to protect them from the deer. It was an unattractive sight and my mother has removed most of it. Although that meant the plants within met a nibbled to the ground death, it greatly improved the appearance of the yard. One place she left the fencing was around the pond and in this small area, she has a few hostas, several sedums and lily of the valley along with statues and knick-knacks.
Lichens and moss cover all of the rocks in the yard.
The pond is truly the focal point in this part of the yard. The Autumn Joy sedum has filled in the crevices above and moss and ferns are filling the areas near the water.
Gazing balls are one of her favorite ways to add color to the yard. She will tell you that they must be colored and not silvered. Twice, my mother has placed silvered gazing balls in the yard and twice, a woodpecker tried to kill his reflection. Both of those gazing balls were shattered.
You must walk around the yard to see it all because it is everywhere.
Along the back of the house, she has a simple row of silk plants with pottery and glass accents.
In that row, tucked in a corner, is what remains of a deer skull. It seems that this buck died on the property and after the vultures cleaned it, my mother placed the skull in her garden along the back of the house. Squirrels continually gnaw on the bones to keep their teeth in shape and have chewed up quite a bit of the skull and antlers.
Have you ever heard the phrase referring to “bones knitting,” especially if you have broken a bone? It is easy to see why they say that when you look at the fuse line going up the skull. This was one of the most fascinating things to look at in the garden!
You really must look carefully or you might miss something.
And look everywhere, despite being colorblind, my mother has a talent for choosing colors so that they either blend in seemlessly or jump out.
She also has a talent for finding unusual pieces like this pottery base to a planter.
This old bench is so worn out that she has added a board to hold the objects on it. That gnome looks familiar-he lived in our house in Nashville for years and when we moved, I sent him to live with my mother. One of the girls, I think Alix, painted the tile and yes, the plants are silk. At least the deer won’t eat them! But beware, the raccoons love to move things and you never know what they will do.