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Deer and Narcissus


Proof that narcissus has some pests: something bit a chunk out of ‘Minnow’

I found out something at my local nursery that I hadn’t believed possible: some deer will eat narcissus.

I’d always recommended narcissus as the ultimate pest-proof plant: they are poisonous, and apparently that poison makes itself known through its awful taste.  I personally had never had any problems with narcissus pests, nor did I know anybody who had.

But as I stood in line with my multiple bulb pots (shamefully late for planting but willing to rely on the kindness of bulbs), I heard the guy behind the counter advising the woman ahead of me. Apparently, some of her daffodils had been disappearing. “It could be deer,” said the man behind the counter.

“I didn’t think deer ate narcissus,” I said, surprised. “I didn’t think anything did.”

“Older deer won’t,” he explained, “but the younger ones who haven’t learned yet – sometimes they’ll eat them.”

The practical change I’ve made since hearing this is to give my narcissus the same deer-discouraging treatment I give most of my plants: enough spraying with Liquid Fence or Deer Off to keep deer at bay most of the time; it’s the best you can hope for, really.

The old belief I lost in that checkout line was more than balanced by the three long-held beliefs it reaffirmed. First: local nurseries are the first place to go for the plants, information, and tools you need to garden well in your own area. Second, never assume you know everything about something, even if you’ve had a lot of experience. (This is a tough one for me.) And the third belief? Happenstance conversations in public places can become illuminating exchanges: what Whitman called “letters from God in the street”.

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Daffodil Planter March 1, 2009, 6:28 pm

    Young and foolish deer may eat anything–and then throw it up. I have heard of them demolishing oleander bushes and then tossing up the chewed leaves on the spot.

    Just remember those poor Roman soldiers carrying a Narcissus bulb into battle; if their battle wounds were too terrible they would bite into the bulb for a quick death.

    And huzzah for the local nurseries and local information. The Blogging Nurseryman is currently talking about the importance of nurseries who know their areas well and see themselves as educators. He also advocates close relationships between local nurseries and local garden bloggers.

  • Tatyana March 1, 2009, 7:41 pm

    Those stupid young deers! Don’t their mothers teach them?! Now, I shoul worry about narcissus! Thanks for the info!

  • Racquel March 1, 2009, 8:10 pm

    A garden pest I am grateful to not have to deal with that’s for sure! Silly deer, but then again I had a Lab that ate some onetime. One time, and that was it for her too. lol :)

  • Pomona Belvedere March 2, 2009, 11:16 am

    DP, trust you to come up with useful and esoteric information. I didn’t know about the Roman soldiers, poor things, they led pretty grim lives. I’ll definitely put the Blogging Nurseryman on my list of places to check out.

    I guess mother deer believe their children should learn things for themselves? I have known labs and I know they eat everything, but somehow I didn’t think this would extend to daffodils!

  • Karen - An Artist's Garden March 2, 2009, 12:47 pm

    I didn’t know that about the roman soldiers either.
    But I did know about the deer – in my last garden the baby munkjack used to try and eat anything and everything – it used to reduce me to tears. No deer in this garden :)

  • Pomona Belvedere March 4, 2009, 2:44 pm

    OK, I admit to trans-Atlantic ignorance: what is a munkjack? (Great name.) We have mule deer here.

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  • MaGuy October 24, 2015, 11:46 am

    I started vaierctl gardening for my Tomatoes , Cucumbers and pole beans. I use supports either made of wood or pvc pipe to grow vaierctlly. Using twine from the top support to the ground, the plants grow upward on the twine. I use Tomato clips to clip the plants to the string for support. Last year (2012) my plants grew 8 1/2 feet tall with 5 sets of clusters of tomatoes on each plant. The tomato clips can be purchased from Johnnies Seeds through the internet. One thing that really matters is pinching off the suckers, this allows the plants to grow really tall. I also use drip irrigation for watering, as this keeps the plants moist without a lot of daily work. I have been gardening here in Minnesota for 43 years.

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