Browsing the autumn garden

The slant of the autumn light is making for dramatic mornings in the garden. Sunlight sifts through the dark leaves of the oak and maple trees, reminding me that the autumn equinox is only a week away.


The herb garden glows in the low morning light, highlighting the flower racemes of Pennisetum ‘Little Bunny’ in the thick mix of natives Eupatorium rugosum and Rudbeckia triloba in the herb circle. (Click on any photo in the mosaic to see a larger image)

Sedums and autumn crocus bloom along with a few vibrantly colored annuals.

But parts of the autumn garden have been pruned for me unintentionally. A few weeks ago, the tall phlox began to disappear, the hostas were cut to the ground, rose branches were stripped of flowers and leaves, the Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ was greatly reduced in size. Even the branches on the weeping cherry were stripped bare. cherrytreedeer

What could be doing this in the protected garden safely enclosed in fencing? Was it the work of the 17 year cicadas that appeared this summer or perhaps a very large rabbit? As I was eating a late dinner at dusk on the deck, I heard a creature in the garden but saw nothing. I went down the steps to investigate and watched the head of a beautiful male white-tail deer emerge from the woods and happily finish off the remaining hostas.

(Photo courtesy of Mary Pegher ©2019)

Creeping quietly around him, I discovered that someone had opened the back gate of the garden and left it ajar. This beautiful creature had been making nightly forays for at least a week into Lynn’s Gourmet Deer Cafe as I was busy teaching evening classes instead of working in the garden. The last time a deer entered the garden, it threw itself against the fence in panic when Angel gave chase. To avoid that catastrophe and to stay safe in the face of a healthy 6 point buck, I chose to open the gate wider and coax him quietly out. I spoke gently and made the encouraging noises I would use to coax a dog to my side. Intrigued, he stepped hesitantly towards me until he almost reached the gate, then paused. I quietly entered another gate behind him and told him firmly that it was time to leave. He looked at me over his shoulder, then trotted out out of the garden while I hurried to shut both gates. Only after he disappeared into the woods did I realize that I hadn’t thought to photograph him.

Every creature was designed to serve a purpose. Learn from animals for they are there to teach you the way of life. ~Suzy Kassem

My friend Mary Pegher takes amazing photos of the denizens of North Park, a 3000+ acre county park near our house; she graciously let me use her pictures of a healthy 10 point buck she had photographed this past week. Our deer fence serves to keep these wild creatures out of my garden but I cannot help admire their beauty. And like the deer in Mary’s photos, the one that ate my garden looked very healthy indeed. I’m sure that the nutritious food I provided will make him a favorite of the ladies this fall. I find myself amused rather than upset – the garden is entering its last phase of the season and will take no permanent harm. There is plenty to share and I truly feel graced by a gentle encounter with a magnificent animal.

Wildlife in the world can only be protected by the love of compassionate hearts in the world! ~Mehmet Murat Ildan

I admit that I worry about the wildlife in our changing world. Housing developments continue to spring up everywhere, displacing the creatures who once lived there, and climate change  also disrupts sources of food and migratory habits. In spite of maintaining an organic garden and providing protected space for many different creatures, I see a dramatic drop in bees and other pollinators. Every chance to live in harmony with the natural world seems a small win for us all.

MPdeer2Photo courtesy of Mary Pegher; you can see more of her work on Facebook at MLP-Photography.

If we can teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. Share my wildlife with me. Because humans want to save things that they love.  ~Steve Irwin

34 thoughts on “Browsing the autumn garden

    • Thank you, Otto. Most of the bloom is gone and the garden is starting to go to sleep. Still, there is a lot of texture and green in spite of the deer damage. Time to put the garden to bed for the winter 🙂

  1. Even if autumn is not for every plant I still like it. It has this cool climate of beautiful orange leaves, burning good-smell candles and of course pumpkins. I can’t imagine autumn without carving a pumpkin with my daughter who definitely loves it. The biggest satisfaction we have when we grow it on our own and then we can use it as a decoration (or in the kitchen!). This year I tried a ‘big max’ pumpkin from and I have to say that it is really big. One of them grew up to 40 kg! We will have a lot to do before halloween! 🙂

    • The autumn light is so beautiful, Jason. We had some truly hot sticky weather here for the past few weeks but now we’re getting cool nights and breezy days – perfect fall weather! I hope your weather turns more comfortable soon.

  2. a beautiful story, well told. Love the reflections on the buck, and the good end of this encounter. The garden is beautifull and beautifully photographed.

  3. Your herb circle is so beautiful in that light. And I confess to a small chuckle when I read “Lynn’s Gourmet Deer Cafe ” as my OH always refers to my garden as “Jude’s Country Café” – we don’t get deer thank goodness (although I do like to see them in the wild / semi-wild), and only the odd rabbit comes into the garden. Most of my plants are munched by much smaller beasties: S&S, caterpillars and earwigs this year! I don’t mind sharing, but do they have to make such a mess of the pretty flowers? (PS The deer photos are very lovely, what a talented photographer your friend is.)

  4. Yes, indeed the first signs of autumn are here, beautifully shown by your garden as well 🙂
    I noticed that I don’t get that upset anymore about the damages done by rabbits, groundhogs and others….never had any deer around though.

  5. Beautiful garden photos and lovely photos of the deer from your friend, as well…Sorry for the garden’s losses, but, as you say, nothing was permanently damaged, and you were graced with a most sacred encounter. 🙂

    • Yes, Kitty, I valued the encounter far more than I mourned the loss, which was temporary at any rate. Perhaps it is just the evolution of my perception of the garden, from a form of personal expression to a move towards sanctuary for all creatures, including me 🙂

  6. At least you have a fence and gates, Lynn. I’m not pleased when deer visit my garden as there are tons of things to eat in the wild land in our rural area. Phlox and lilies must be their candy. 😉

    • Eliza, phlox and lilies are definitely their candy, along with roses and hosta. I couldn’t grow any of those things without a deer fence; my gardens outside of the fence have been an experiment with what survives their eating habits.

  7. Know that feeling well–Deer just finished off our roses and some other flowers we were enjoying–supposedly ‘deer proof’–forgot to tell them! Enjoyed pics. Thanks.

    • Hi Carol! Thanks for stopping by. I’ve been posting semi-regularly for the past few years, but it is easy to miss things on the WP Reader. Hit the title bar and you can backtrack if you want. Great to hear from you; the deer pics are from my friend Mary – she has a gift for capturing life in the wild.

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