Advice on deer eating plants a weeks after planting

Hi all,I'm looking for some advice.We planted up a new herbaceous border for a regular client, £250 worth of plants.A weeks later and before I've invoices, deer have been and munched 50% down to the ground.Client is unhappy and says I must fix. I wasn't told or knew there was a deer problem in the area.The client says he feels let down.What would you do / advise the client?He doesn't want to deer proff the garden.ThanksSam

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  • PRO

    I don't think you're to blame Sam.

    However, over time, I think experience will tell you to look out for certain signs that rodents/vermin and/or deer are, or may be, active in the area, going forward.

    As a matter of procedure I'd make sure you have a section permanently placed in your terms and conditions which draw your clients to any potential problems. 

    Before and after any planting it's wise to point your client to the section of your terms and conditions stating the obvious potential for damage.

    It's always worth trying to up-sell plant protection and if your client declines then you must insist that after completion of works that your responsibility ends.

    I don't think it's too late to salvage herbaceous plants (let's face it most can normally be cut back shortly anyway).

    Write to your client explaining that you feel that all plants will survive and it's in their interest to look into a way of safeguarding them for next season.

    • PRO
      This was my first thoughts Phil, it's a Herbaceous border, the plants themselves will be fine, and as Phil says soon enough you will be cutting them down anyways. As far as I'm concerned it's not your responsibility ref deers and rabbit damage, you were asked to create a border which you have done, personally I wouldn't be replacing any plants... cheers
  • ask him if he wants you to polish your crystal ball whilst you are at it. you need a clause in your t and cs to cover this and similar, handing responsibility for their care to the client after anythings been planted.

    if you painted a white wall and it got graffitti written on it afterwards would that be your fault? put your foot down and stand your ground

  • Unless your clients are prepared to invest in deer fencing, there is not much you can do but learn from this experience. As these are herbaceous plants they should come back next year. I had a similar problem with rabbits nibbling away in a client's garden but she got someone in to rabbit proof the garden instead. I would also suggest you invoice your clients a lot quicker to avoid non payment.
  • PRO
    Whilst this is obviously frustrating and costly for you and the client this is not your fault. Deer, rabbits, slugs...there are any number of things that can eat plants, Its not your fault or the clients its nature, but you have supplied and planted healthy specimens so have done your side of things
  • Thank you all for your thoughts on this. Fingers crossed when they grownback in the spring the deer are elsewhere.
  • deer do not like anything with a strong smell.  They will avoid herbs and plants like lavender which have oil in their sap.  they love roses and can even graze on yew which is poisonous to other animals. The most effective deterrent is carbolic soap (you can get it on the internet). you may be able to find out how they are getting into the garden and place the soap there.  Mostly they are shy and will use a hedgerow as cover (the damage will be worse close to the hedge). Perhaps you can put the soap in the hedge.  Muntjaks are the usual problem and I understand they do not like, or cannot, jump, but can get through small gaps. Perhaps the boundary fence has a gap in it.

    I hope this helps.


  • Rule One of planting.

    Always, always, always ask a client if they have deer or rabbits. So, sorry, it's your fault for not asking. If they say yes, then ask which ones. Fallow deer are the worst as they strip everything including bark, Roe deer are pretty bad and Muntjac are a total pain in the arse as they scramble through badger holes. 

    The client in his/her way is therefore not responsible for your mistake in planting. 

    Tell the client that if they are not prepared to deer proof the garden properly then their pallet is severely restricted or they will have to put up with fences around the borders.

    You'll have to take the hit and replace.

    Ps. The RHS list of deer-proof plants is nonsense and should be ignored.

    (Rule Two is obviously 'know your soil', but you knew that didn't you...)

    • PRO
      Rule one? Seriously ?
  • PRO
    Guy, that is far too harsh placing blame on the gardener for deer eating eating plants in the garden.

    The client says he does not want the deer kept off his garden and presumably knew there is a problem, do you think he can get a gardener to constantly replace what they eat free of charge?

    Having said that I find most of my neighbours are completely oblivious to the the wild life that wanders around the district until there's some damage to their garden or fencing; or a body appears on the side of the road.

    One of the local pest control guys who doesn't use poisons dug a rabbit drop trap into a garden hedge I can see from here, having removed numerous rabbits over several weeks he put his hand in one day and a mink sunk its teeth into his hand, there followed as fight between man and mink as he tried to remove it from his hand.

    You wouldn't be expecting that, neither was a guy with years of experience.

    How foreseeable is foreseeable?

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