Have you ever been walking around your yard and stumble across something you forgot you planted the previous year? Last fall I was super gung-ho to plant elderberry bushes. I had been buying elderberry syrup for years to boost my daughter’s immune system and to help with coughs, but wanted to have my own bushes after discovering how well they grow in our area. On a snowy afternoon last fall, I bought two pots of Sambucus nigra ‘Madonna’ with light green verigated foliage, and two pots of Sambucus Canadensis ‘York’ from Harlequin Gardens. On impulse as I was making my purchase, I threw in a small bag of Allium bulbs.
At 7600 feet in the Arapahoe National Forest, I live where intentional landscape is also known as putting out a critter salad bar, but heard that deer and chipmunks would avoid these onion genus bulbs. I was surprised and delighted in early April to discover that all five bulbs were up! With that unexpected joy came a new worry….will the elk and deer leave them alone? Is it better to know they are growing and look out for them daily, or was it easier to be blissfully unaware of their existence?
A small herd of elk cows started hanging out in our Meadows towards the end of April. Late May to early June is the time elks give birth, so I thought these soon-to-be mamas may have been looking for a safe haven. I should have known better, they were looking for some veggie canapes. Two plants got munched down to the ground. Oh well I thought, share the yield, at least there are three left. To my surprise, the two plants made an amazing comeback and proceeded to send up a flower stock. Then a week later, some mule deer were passing through and one of them just had to sample the allium. It appears that the bulb was yanked from the ground like a prize, only to be spat out as the intense onion flavors were released. I rescued the half eaten plant and tucked it into a soil filed a pot on my deck.
The saga continues as the rain falls this first week of May. It got me thinking about the lessons I learned in permaculture training about companion planting. Even thought the critters tried to eat the allium plants, clearly they found them distasteful. Instead of five bulbs, I really should be planting 50! I imagine fences of showy purple allium globes, protecting their fellow shrubs and perennials, so much prettier and fragrant then a metal fence! ~Karina Z