Category Archives: urban deer

sharing the garden

Monkey Puzzle Envy

Half a block along our street grows a tree I admire.

  • It’s evergreen.
  • It’s super tidy & symmetrical.
  • And it’s just so FUNKY looking.
monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana, monkey puzzle tree, monkey tail tree, piñonero, pewen, Chilean pine, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The Monkey Puzzle Tree, Araucaria araucana, is the national tree of Chile but seems to grow happily all along the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana, monkey puzzle tree, monkey tail tree, piñonero, pewen, Chilean pine, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

That said, I reckon there’s no danger of it overwhelming the gardens hereabouts. That beautiful symmetry is created by triangular leaves spiralling around the branches and even along the trunk. The rigid leaf edges are sharp & the tips are severe needles.

It’s downright dangerous.

Even still, I NEEDED one in our garden.

No gardener of sound mind would position a Monkey Puzzle Tree near a high traffic area — nor underplant with high maintenance perennials.

monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana, monkey puzzle tree, monkey tail tree, piñonero, pewen, Chilean pine, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Ever so carefully, I installed a Monkey Puzzle in an out-of-the-way section of our yard. I mulched from the trunk to the dripline. The very first season, a large buck attacked it with his antlers. I watched in amazement. I’ll bet the deer walked away with a migraine. The poor sapling survived with only 1 broken branch.

The Araucaria lasted maybe 3 or 4 years before it had sliced C one too many times.
He disappeared it. 😦
It hadn’t had the opportunity to grow to more than 3 feet.
So sad, but I understood.

monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana, monkey puzzle tree, monkey tail tree, piñonero, pewen, Chilean pine, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The neighbour’s Araucaria was here when we arrived in the ‘hood. Over 15 years, it’s grown from a sturdy 6 ft. to an impressive 30 ft tall. (It takes patience to grow a Monkey Puzzle). They’ve limbed up the branches so whoever mows the lawn is much safer.

One day soon, I’m hoping it’ll be mature enough to produce cones. Can you imagine how pre-historic they’ll look, too?

I’ll happily admire it from afar.

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White Stonecrop Challenge

Sedum album hanging basket, white stonecrop, Oreosedum album , small house leek, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Ok – I thought it was a gorgeous, drought-tolerant addition to a hanging basket. I was so pleased with the look of the white stonecrop when it started to flower in July. The blooms looked great for a month or so.
I was stoked.

Sedum album hanging basket, white stonecrop, Oreosedum album , small house leek, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

AND then, as nature progresses, the flowers turned to seed heads.
hmmm. Brown.
Kinda messy looking. .. My inner tidy freak cringes. 😦
An over-tidy garden isn’t all that great for wildlife.

And THEN we went camping for a couple weeks in early September & I didn’t have to control my urge to deadhead the perfectly good birdseed.

Now, autumn is arriving & with it cooler temperatures + some moisture. The licorice ferns are coming alive.

Licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza, many-footed fern, sweet rootSedum album hanging basket, white stonecrop, Oreosedum album , small house leek, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The messy seed heads of the sedum album are overshadowed.
Crisis averted.

Last year the ferns on our rocky outcrop were not surviving the appetite of our local deer. Shifting sheets of moss that the licorice ferns were growing in & creating a basket hanging above the reach of Bambi has proved successful. 🙂
The baskets promise to hold my interest through the humidity of fall & winter,

So now the question:
Is there anything I could plant to distract from the brown look through August & early September until the licorice fern becomes The Show? It needs to be drought tolerant & happy in a bit of shade ….
Any suggestions?

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Great Camas In Bloom

Great Camas, Camassia leichtlinii garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
Great Camas photo by SVSeekins

It’s easy to tell the Great Camas flower from the Common Camas flower, especially in our garden.

  • Each May, Great Camas blooms naturally in the full sun of an open meadow. That said, it’s also happy with a bit of dabbled shade along the forest edge. (Common Camas is a stickler for full sun.) So, if you see Camas flowering in our garden borders, it’s Camassia leichtlinii.
  • Great Camas blossoms open gradually from bottom to top. Sometimes the flowers at the bottom of the spike are finishing while the very top is yet to begin. (Common Camas blooms in more of a rush to open all at the same time. I’m trying to restore a Camassia quamash meadow in some deeper soil around our rocky outcropping.)
  • The spent petals of Great Camas twist themselves into a hug. (Common Camas petals die back willy-nilly without even thinking about tidying up).

While the strappy Camas leaves naturally wither to the ground, feeding the bulb for next year’s bloom, I enjoy the decorative seed heads amongst the supporting foliage of other perennials. The glossy black seeds feed birds (and deer) or eventually drop to sprout in the spring.

In the meantime, the Calla Lily follows with its elegant summer flower. Later, simple pink Japanese Anemone flowers float in the breeze atop tall stems. Then the Viburnum ‘pink dawn’ entertains me through winter. Together, they all make good garden companions.

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Check out these local Camas Meadows: