In the wooded hills of Athens, Ohio, gardeners expect to lose their most gorgeous daylilies to hungry deer, which also love to munch on hostas. Flower and vegetable plants, even those growing in pots, frequently disappear overnight.
While walking one evening at dusk, I watched a deer straddle the wire fence someone had installed to protect a lush backyard vegetable garden. The animal looked around at me, judged I was no threat, and then boldly climbed inside the fence to nibble at leaf lettuce.
Lowell Ver Heul’s daylilies are irresistible too. The Ohio University professor says the flowers, which are at peak bloom in July, have become his obsession. More than half of his yard at 10 Charles Street, a half block off State Street in Athens, has been converted to daylily beds that are protected by inexpensive mesh netting strung between poles and trees.
A sign near the curb in front of Ver Heul’s home tells buyers they can purchase plants directly from his garden. Nearly all of his lilies are priced at $5 or $6. “If I just recently purchased a fairly expensive lily, it may not be available,” he says. “I sell throughout the season—whenever anyone can find me at home—but occasionally put out a sign. People are welcome to look anytime and can call ahead if they wish. It’s a garden that is right along many people’s regular route.”
Ver Huel dug about ten plants in a variety of colors, so I could start my own deer feeding program. Someone told him that stringing two strands of monofilament fishing line—one about a foot high, the second about three or four feet from the ground—around a lily patch will keep deer away. The deer feel the line but can’t see it, and it confounds them. It seems like a deterrent I could easily implement. Some nurseries around Athens have resorted to electric fences to keep the deer out.
Ver Heul took some of these photos of earlier bloomers at the beginning of the season, and I took a few pictures of the lilies blooming in his yard last weekend. Shown here is only a small sample of what he has available.