By Claire Walla
They may be nice to look at, but for some they’re there to eat.
So the story goes here on the East End, where periwinkle hydrangeas, fuschia rhododendrons, clusters of violet flocks and bold stalks of multi-colored lilies are devoured each year by the bane of many a gardeners’ existence: deer. Until a few years ago, this contingent of disgruntled agrarians included Dafna Priel and Leslie Gelb. Only, instead of letting deer destruction get them down, they came up with a solution. They called it: Whitetail Solutions.
The East End company — managed by both Priel and Gelb — uses a home brew of organic materials to combat the onslaught of those pesky four-legged creatures with an unfortunate appetite for beautiful things.
“We may not be the only game in town, but we’re the best game in town,” Gelb said.
Whitetail Solutions offers seasonal packages for local homeowners. With a one-time summer payment, Gelb said homeowners can expect their yards to be taken care of for the entirety of the summer, with anti-deer spray applied to all the flowers and foliage at least every other week.
“We know what we’re doing and we know it works,” she added.
Part of the company’s appeal, Gelb said, is that its owners have experienced the trouble with deer first hand.
“We’ve seen just about every scenario out there,” she explained.
Gelb and Priel started the company in earnest about three years ago all because the completely unpredictable eating habits of these woodland creatures had become increasingly frustrating for the two avid gardeners.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” she continued. “The hydrangeas at one home would be fine, but the hydrangeas at the house next door would be devoured.”
It’s a story with which hundreds of East Enders have been all too familiar, especially this year, which Gelb referred to as “a code red situation.”
She said she’s seen frustrated homeowners who have used various blends of relative deer-combatting potions made with everything from tea bags and Irish Spring soap to human hair and coyote urine. She’s also seen frustration from landscapers who have used chemical solutions that quickly wash off plants, emit intolerable smells or leave white residue on behind.
Early on, Gelb and Priel were once equally bogged down by efforts to deter the deer.
“We just tried everything, and things would work for a little while or they wouldn’t work at all,” she began. “Or else they were just so disgusting and vile!” She said one of the “stinky ones” is Bobbex—a concoction of fish oil and putrid smelling meat meal.
“Our products don’t smell awful at all, they don’t leave a white film [allowing flowers to keep their vibrant colors] and they’re rain resistant,” Gelb explained. After experimenting with a number of over-the-counter solutions and run-of-the-mill elixirs, Gelb said she and Priel finally found a mix that seemed to work without any of the pitfalls that plagued the solutions they had used in the past.
Gelb stated that she and Priel knew they had a winning mixture when friends of theirs who worked for the Long House Reserve began using it. Without going into details, Gelb said their secret ingredient is an odorless liquid with an extremely bitter taste.
White Tail Solutions currently serves about 40 clients and five landscaping firms, which use the company to deer-proof their building sites. She said their patrons have been impressed with their work. Not only do their organic sprays keep the deer away, but they’ve been known to help restore life to some plants left for dead in the wake of hungry whitetails, she said.
“Some plants aren’t that fortunate, [especially] if they’ve been picked at year to year,” she said. “But, if we catch it in time, they grow back, and we love that!”
Gelb is hesitant to offer exact pricing because “every yard is different,” but she said White Tail Solutions does offer free assessments. Plus, she added, whatever the grand total, “it’s a lot cheaper than putting up a fence.”