• One Minnesota Writer

Urban gardening invites more than people

Golden Alexander and bee in our wildflower garden.

Maybe I should say “suburban” in today’s post title, since I technically live in a first-ring suburb of both Minneapolis and St. Paul. Roseville, where I live, is unique among Twin Cities suburbs in that part of its border touches Minneapolis and another part touches St. Paul. But Roseville has an urban feel in its sounds, traffic, and density. Our yards aren’t terribly big - well, the one Mick and I have isn’t, anyway. So we consider ourselves urban gardeners.

The one thing we do have that feels suburban is deer. Deer love gardens, treat them as their very own salad bar. This causes some gardeners to complain and stress and try all kinds of things to keep the deer from filling their furry bellies. I could complain about the petunias somebody ate Monday night, only a few hours after I hung them in their lovely basket from a shepherd’s hook behind our garage. By Tuesday morning, three-fourth of those petunias were being digested somewhere nearby. I wasn’t all that surprised. At least the culprit left a few blooms and the rest will grow back, so why complain? However, I did move the basket to the table on our deck. No deer has ever climbed the stairs and unlatched the dog gate at the top, so I think the petunias will recover nicely.

Petunias before deer and after deer.

I made a new hanging basket for that spot behind the garage. This time, I planted stuff deer don’t care for: chocolate mint, pineapple mint, creeping thyme. I’ve filled other containers nearby with geraniums, basil, parsley, and nasturtiums; they’re all thriving.

On Monday morning, a young deer rested beneath our spruce tree, chewing cud without a care in the world. She was beautiful. I wondered if she was the fawn that hung out in our backyard last summer, the one whose mother would leave her in our wildflower garden near the back fence hidden from sight. I like to think that our gardens are as much a refuge for all kinds of non-human creatures as they are for us. I should have known, when I hung up the petunia basket, that she might come back for a bite.

View from our living room window early Monday morning.

What Mick and I really want to do with our gardens goes beyond having pretty flowers. We put soil health and bee health at the top of the list of reasons why we garden. Bird health ranks up there, too. If our gardening techniques also feed deer and bunnies (yep, we have lots of them), so be it. We figure we’re stewards for this small yard, this piece of earth entrusted to us. We have to share.

A few days ago, I watched baby bunnies play near the edge of the wildflower garden. They moved with warp speed when I came out the back door of our garage. The only way I could get a photo of them was to take it from our living room window. They were so sweet, and the way they hopped around each other looked like the very essence of joy. Who could possibly get mad at that? I found myself thinking that they could eat whatever they wanted.

Watching skittish bunnies through our living room window.

All photos by kcmickelson 2021.

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