How does your garden grow? If you’re like Carolyn Singer, ‘yucky’ flowers are part of the plan |

How does your garden grow? If you’re like Carolyn Singer, ‘yucky’ flowers are part of the plan

“It’s major. Most people have a problem,” said one of the employees at Weiss Bros. Nursery.

She’s talking about deer and their voracious appetites for almost everything green growing in people’s yards.

Communities like Lake Wildwood, Lake of the Pines and Alta Sierra are some of the hardest hit pockets in the county, according to area nurseries.

But deer problems are not isolated to the Sierra foothills. The ruminants plague gardens across the country and frustrated gardeners have purchased more than 3,000 copies of local author Carolyn Singer’s first in a series of books on the subject.

“Deer in My Garden, Vol. 1: Perennials and Subshrubs (Yucky Flowers),” has won four national and three state awards since it was first published last September and was recently recognized with an honorable mention for non-fiction at the New York Book Festival.

The 210-page book lists nearly 50 flowering plants that have been tested for “deer-proofness” during 27 years of gardening on her five-acre mountain homestead in Nevada County.

“I literally have hundreds of deer resistant plants,” said Singer. Her 3-year-old grandson’s wisdom to grow yucky flowers because the deer wouldn’t eat them inspired her to do just that. Many of the deer resistant plants Singer has trialed are also drought resistant and can withstand neglect.

For three years Singer was forced to neglect her garden after a dog attack crushed her right hand. The injury required hours of physical therapy, and the time it took to heal meant the closure of her nursery, Cottage Hill Gardens.

She had to re-think the way she did everything, including writing. Singer used voice recognition software installed in her computer to write “Deer in My Garden” and her weekly garden articles for The Union. She overcame the hurdle of using a program that didn’t recognize Latin names and wrote the book in seven weeks while housesitting in Seattle.

This winter she celebrated pruning with loppers again, and this summer her hand once again gripped a wheelbarrow.

Using her hand is still painful and she is limited to a couple hours of work a day. She devotes most of her gardening time to a vegetable plot where tomatoes, basil and peppers are well protected from the hungry deer.

Some of her favorite deer resistant plants have thrived, despite neglect, in what she calls a wild and country garden.

Perennials like Teucrium, commonly called Germander and 20 different varieties of Thyme flourish in her “wild” garden. The deer rarely nibble on ornamental grasses or her favorite bushes like Choisya (Mexican Orange) or Elaeaganus (Silverberry).

Despite what many people think, there is a wealth of plants that the deer won’t eat.

“This is the whole point of writing this series. There are options,” Singer said.

Singer is working on the second installment in the series and expects the book to be out by October.

Visit the Foothill Cottage Gardens Web site for information on propagation classes held this summer:


To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail or call 477-4231.

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