House & Home

View from the Garden: Life and Death in the East End Garden

My being a gardener is a part of my larger concern for all plants and animals.

I want to know all aspects of them: those in other places, those we eat, our pets and those in our immediate surroundings. Of particular interest are the plants and animals closest to my house and garden. I am constantly looking for the insects in the garden, as well as the squirrels, the birds, the neighbor’s cat, the stray cat that has begun to live at our house and the deer. I don’t mind having them in the neighborhood, though I would like them to stay away from the back garden where the yummies are. What roles do they play in the garden and what is my relationship to them and their lives?

Friday afternoon I heard a heart-shattering cry of distress coming from the back of my neighbor’s house. My husband I ran over and went over the four-foot fence to find two dogs attacking a very small fawn. These dogs were not wild. I don’t think there are wild dogs in Sag Harbor. They had done severe damage to the baby. My husband vigorously dismissed the dogs and I followed the deer as it tried to walk and soon collapsed. We called the police and the animal wildlife rescuer. While we waited for them I stayed with the deer to keep it quiet and in one place and to, I hope, comfort it. Eventually it did get up and move before collapsing again. I sat beside it and did not allow it to move again. It died while I was holding it. All of this took about one hour.

There is an area very close to our house where people let their dogs off of the leash to run. I would like to think that the dogs did not come from there but they did come from pet owners who had allowed them to run free. They killed a fawn. Might they not attack a pet cat, a smaller dog, a child playing in a backyard?

We are all aware of the deer problem in this area—especially us gardeners. But part of the solution cannot be death by dog attack. Let us all be concerned in responsible ways about the plants and animals in our area and care for them in the best and most vigilant ways possible, including our pets.

In other aspects of the garden: The fall seems to be winding down but do not wind down your attention to the garden. Many of the larger weeds are setting seed now. If you don’t get them, you will be sorry next year. The garden still needs water, even as the cooler days set in.

Resist the temptation to prune shrubs that might seem to have outgrown themselves over the summer. Pruning spring flowering shrubs and macrophylla hydrangeas at this time removes next year’s flowers. Wait to prune other shrubs until they are dormant. Don’t hard prune roses at this time as it may cause new growth to form in warmer fall weather only to be killed with the first frost.. Some gardeners cease deadheading roses at this time and let hips form to let them begin to rest.

This is the time to divide bearded iris and peonies. Bearded iris need to be divided about every three to four years. Peonies don’t need to be divided at all but you might need to transplant some that have grown too close to their neighbors and divide them at the same time.

The local garden centers are having their fall sales so it’s a great time to find some goodies and perhaps just the right plant for that spot in the garden. This is a good time to plant trees and shrubs—be sure to supply adequate water. It’s also time to order spring bulbs—so get out those catalogs and order some surprises for yourself.

While we are tending our gardens, let us be conscious, careful and responsible for all of the life around us.

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