War of the Roses: Princely advice on deer intruders in Government House gardensLouise Dickson / Times Colonist
November 29, 2014 09:37 PM
A member of the Royal Family has some advice on the local deer problem.
In May 2013, Prince Andrew was visiting Victoria to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Highland Games. Touring the gardens at Government House, the prince stopped to talk with a large group of volunteers present for his official opening of the rose garden gates.
“Prince Andrew asked why there were no roses in the rose garden,” one of the volunteer gardeners recalled.
“We told him the deer had been eating them and that we’d like to cull the deer, but we can’t because it’s not politically correct and has not been approved by the City or the Capital Regional District.”
Prince Andrew looked at the volunteers as if they were crazy, she said.
“He said ‘It’s very simple. This is what we do at Balmoral. You just get a truck. You fill it with feed. The deer come up to it and you shoot them. It’s so simple.’ ”
Adrienne Dunton, communications and events co-ordinator at Government House, said she had not heard the story and did not have a record of the remarks by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York and the Queen’s second son.
But 18 months later, the Balmoral solution has yet to be used to protect plants in the formal and woodland gardens at Government House, said Valerie Murray, head gardener of the Friends of Government House Gardens Society.
“We don’t want to see the end of all of the deer, but it has had a big impact on the gardening,” said Murray, who estimates 18 to 20 deer live on the grounds.
Deer started becoming a nuisance in the gardens about five years ago, Murray said.
“In the last three years, we’ve tried everything. But we just had to stop growing a lot of plants. And it’s doubly discouraging for the volunteers who also buy the plants for the gardens. If you buy rose bushes or trees and the deer eat them, you’ve lost your plant and you’re out of pocket.”
The rose gardens are now fenced and were in full bloom this summer. The 200 or so volunteer gardeners are planting deer-resistant plants such as irises, peonies, ferns and grasses.
“We experiment all the time, but the gardens used to look slightly different. There’s a similar plant palette in the different gardens,” Murray said.
Deer are also really hard on native plants such as the camas in the Garry oak woodland garden and they destroy songbird habitat as they graze through the undergrowth, Murray said.
While the deer aren’t particularly welcome, the gardens are open to the public from dawn to dusk every day of the year.
On Dec. 12, the public is invited to see the Christmas decorations at Government House. Singer Louise Rose will lead a Christmas singalong in the ballroom at 6 p.m. On Dec. 20, people can take a guided tour of Government House at 10 and 11 a.m. On Jan. 1, 2015, the annual New Year’s Day Levee will be held from 10 a.m. to noon.