A Botanical Interlude 

Year in and year out one of the most popular people at Niakwa is our gardener. And why not? Her mission is to beautify our facility and to enhance our experience around the clubhouse and out on the course. It doesn’t hurt that our present gardener, Kerrie Ferris, is charming and engaging, and is often accompanied by her friendly dog, Taz.Read More>> 

Our Gardener Kerrie

One of the most common questions that pops out of my playing partner as I’m starting my backswing on the 12thtee is “why don’t the deer eat those flowers”? Well, deer are the nemesis of our gardener and it’s a constant battle (see Bill Murray in Caddy shack).

The main deer-deterring arrows in the gardener’s quiver are texture and scent. Kerrie employs these to the greatest extent possible, in her three main anti deer tactics – planting species that deer don’t like; spraying smelly stuff on the plants; replanting.

Garden centres often claim that certain species of flowers are “deer proof”. Kerry’s evaluation of these claims is that they are BS, (quote unquote).  The main exception seems to be zinnias. The deer leave zinnias alone – although at the end of the year, when they’re fattening themselves up for winter, they’ll chow down on these flowers, too. For a long time the deer left the impatiens alone. Now it seems impatiens is a dietary staple.

Magellan (red) and Zahara (yellow) Zinnias

The stinky stuff Kerrie sprays on our plants and flowers is called “Bobbex”. The Bobbex website claims that the ingredients “create a multi-redundancy ‘smell and taste’ aversion that significantly lowers deer predation’”.i.e. it smells bad – so bad that the rest of the grounds crew insists she mix the concentrate outside the maintenance shed, not inside. Bobbex claims its product is long lasting and rain fast, but Kerrie finds she has to reapply it after every watering.

Planting around the course starts on the May long weekend and hopefully just after the new moon. I was sceptical about the new moon thing, but there is research that shows the gravitational pull of the moon raises the water table slightly at that time. Just like high tide. Who knew?

Kerrie likes to maintain a mix of annuals and perennials , although she’s switching many plants to perennials over time. Plant varieties that bloom at different times are planted so that we have fresh blooms all summer and into fall. The “Niakwa” flowerbed on the north side of the putting green is fibrous red begonia for the background, with letters of dusty miller. Our friends the deer love the begonias and the basic defense is to plant so many the deer can’t eat them all.


Fibrous Red Begonia                     Dusty Miller

The long purple flowers you see around the course are Russian sage. The deer don’t like the scent so they’re somewhat resistant to “predation”.  The tall grass by the first tee and 18thgreen is Forrester perennial grass. Kerrie breaks up clumps of this grass for multiplication and planting in new areas of the course. The tall spindly flowering plants right in from of the patio are cleome.

In addition to the visual splendor we all enjoy, our dining room benefits from Kerrie’s horticultural magic. Fresh chives, basil, thyme and cilantro are all grown in the bed on the northwest side of the clubhouse.  There are a few rhubarb plants there, too so help yourself if you’re making rhubarb pie this weekend.

Kerrie’s getting married this weekend and is taking a couple of well earned days off, but say “Hi” to her and Taz next week when you see them around the course.

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