Beacon Hill rose garden could be moved to fend off deer

For years, there were fences in Beacon Hill Park to keep deer in.

Now, Victoria councillors are considering relocating the park’s historic rose garden and erecting a fence to keep out deer.

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Deer are in the garden eating the plants, said Doug DeMarzo, manager of parks planning and design.

Under a proposal endorsed by the city’s community development, environment and infrastructure committee, the rose garden — established in the 1930s and in its current location since the 1980s — could be moved to a nearby perennial shrub bed and grassy area. The existing garden site would be replaced with an arboretum — a garden devoted to trees.

If approved by Victoria council, an eight-foot fence would surround the relocated rose garden. But that might pose a problem.

A city bylaw specifies residential fences can be no more than six feet high. Fences surrounding parks or industrial areas can be 10 feet high for security, said DeMarzo, who hopes an eight-foot rose garden fence will be allowed without the need for a security report because it is meant to control a pest — deer.

DeMarzo said city parks crews tried many deer repellents, including blood meals in the beds, but nothing worked. Other institutions in the region face the same problem, he said.

“Government House has two rose gardens and they’ve tried a number of things, from blood meals to bone meals to garlic spreads over the years, and they’ve finally given up. They are also in the process of fencing,” DeMarzo said.

The proposed black-wire fence would be hidden as much as possible by shrub plantings, he said.

Victoria director of parks and recreation, Kate Friars, told the committee the city might have to consider more fencing around ornamental plants.

“The rose garden, we know, has been browsed and eaten probably for the last four or five years. It’s wide open with easy access. So those are the kinds of decisions that are going to have to be made.”

Deer were among the first animals kept in the Beacon Hill Zoo, which began in 1889 and, according to the Friends of Beacon Hill Park Society, a deer was the last zoo mammal to leave the park about 100 years later in 1990.

Relocating the rose garden first came under consideration a couple of years ago, DeMarzo said. Now, a private citizen has offered to cover the cost of about $160,000, he said.

The new rose garden would be smaller and circular with concrete walkways, pergolas and arbours. The size of the beds would be reduced to about 1,900 square feet from 2,200 square feet. The existing perennial bed would be halved to accommodate the roses.

“This will allow our gardeners to maintain other areas of the park to a higher standard,” DeMarzo said.

“Since the introduction of the non-pesticide bylaw, I wouldn’t say we’ve struggled, but we’ve been challenged to keep up to the weeding and stuff in some of the other beds in the park. So we think this will free up some more staff time.”

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