Award-Winning Landscape Designer Celebrates 35 Years Of Living With Deer Amid Well-Planned Landscaping

In the hills and dales northeast of the city of New York, wildlife abounds in the numerous forests. This natural beauty has drawn many people to settle and build homes and businesses in the region. Some want to live with nature  au naturel, to simply enjoy the natural surroundings. Others desire to enjoy the forests and wildlife while using some of their property for the enjoyment of flowering landscape and outdoor entertaining. Ellen Negrin-Fessler, owner of ENF Designs, produces landscape designs that harmonize personal landscapes with nature’s beauty.

In over 35 years of practice, since earning her degree in Landscape Design/Landscape Horticulture from Colorado State University, and beginning her East Coast practice, Ellen has heard one question come up more than all others. That is, “Are we going to be able to have a pleasant landscape here that the deer won’t eat?” Ellen’s answer: “Of course you will.”

With the deer population at current levels, some may long for the days when you could plant deer favorites such as hydrangea and azalea. They may think, “I can’t have hydrangea, I can’t have azaleas, so what’s left? Is it really possible for a person to have a good-looking landscape that I don’t have to re-plant every year?” The truth is there are plenty of plants left.

An experienced professional, Negrin-Fessler also sees two more questions commonly arise in her area: “How can I fix my drainage so that I can have a nice landscape?” and “Can we conquer the slope into a viable plan or a pretty landscape? Can I make a nice level back yard? These issues come up frequently due to the hill-and-dale topography and prevalence of clay soil and shale.

Ellen describes why the topography and substrate cause problems. Property owners may find the land naturally causes water to flow directly toward their structures, endangering their foundations; or the surrounding slope may be so steep as to make even walking difficult, let alone outdoor living. Clay soil is too dense and heavy for most plants to thrive, while the presence of shale beneath the surface can cause the ground to become heated beyond lawn and plant tolerance levels during the heat of the summer. With the use of retaining walls, it’s easy to conquer the slopes she encounters and with proper regrading, drainage issues become solved. Fortifying the soil properly when planting also ensures that the plantings will flourish whether in clay or shale soils.

Negrin-Fessler has been so successful at producing landscape designs that address all these concerns, that she has been awarded the 2014 Best of Houzz Customer Service Award. In addition to helping her clients develop personal landscapes they will enjoy for many years, her own property has been designed and developed to “commune with the deer” while expressing her love of flowering plants, hardscape and the outdoors.

Several elements are key to successful landscaping in areas where deer reside.  The first key is great design. While a property owner knows what they like and how they want to use their property, a professional landscape designer will combine that with intimate knowledge of the elements required to transform the dream into reality.

Negrin-Fessler adds: “There are so many flowering plants, beautiful plants, to use, that the deer don’t eat. There are several levels of deer resistance among plants, but there are an abundance of colorful plants that are in the moderately deer resistant level. I will choose plants that are hardy for the location, that demonstrate needed deer resistance. I design for color and seasonal interest, and blend plants according to their size at maturity.”

Ellen loves the deer she sees in her yard. Something about sharing our land with wildlife still touches her.

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