Metro-East Living

The heat and deer kept killing their plants, so they came up with a solution

Belleville couple landscapes without a lawn

Rhonda and Kevin moved into their Belleville IL home with rocks covering the yard, and they’ve found the hardscape landscape is resistant to deer’s appetites.
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Rhonda and Kevin moved into their Belleville IL home with rocks covering the yard, and they’ve found the hardscape landscape is resistant to deer’s appetites.

Landscaping around the Borutta home in Powder Mill Woods faces two main threats to thriving: Deer and heat.

Rhonda Borutta’s description of the shrubs and flowers around her home are peppered with references to those deer, which have come up to their patio to nibble on potted flowers.

“They will be orange daylilies,” she said, pointing to clumps of green shoots circling a backyard oak tree. “But the deer will eat them almost immediately. That’s why we can’t have any flowers.”

And, later, “I tried hostas. They ate my hostas ... I got tired of spending money on flowers.”

The neighborhood’s wild animals are frequent visitors to the yard. Deer nest in an area behind the house that is lined with Canadian Hemlock, and 22 wild turkeys once strolled right up to the bird feeder in the side yard.

Everybody back here — you have a sense you’re out, away, but you’re in the city.

Kevin Borutta

Rhonda, 70, and her husband, Kevin, 63, bought the Belleville home in 2002. They had previously lived in a condominium, and she had never done yard work before. The grounds already featured a rock lawn, with not a blade of grass to be seen. The Boruttas still changed quite a bit.

“All the rock was here, it just sloped down to the back,” Kevin said.

The backyard now has a path to a small flagstone patio, and smaller paths to other features as well as a terrace holding some deer-resistant evergreen shrubs. He added the path himself, but relied on landscaping help for the patio.

Rhonda did much of the literal heavy lifting in the side and front yards, uncovering river rock covered with years of mulch.

“I dug up all those, they were just buried under the trees,” she said, indicating the river rock lining different planting areas in the front yard. “The smaller ones were just buried.”

As extensive as the hardscape is, Rhonda says she’s always looking for a deal. Much of what wasn’t already there was a find — people just don’t want things, and she will take them, she said.

“Some bricks were given to us. I go to estate sales, I can’t wait ’til my legs are better, I’ll be out there again,” she said. Rhonda is healing from knee replacement surgery.

The back and side yards are shaded by towering oak trees, but much of the front yard takes direct sun. The Boruttas keep mulch closest to the house, with burning bush, daisies and yuccas, along with some other low plantings. A sprawling Rose of Sharon is in the corner where the drive meets the street, and a variety of irises — which the deer do not eat — are throughout the yard.

“There is a lot of hardscape, but the plants and the mulch soften it,” Kevin said.

The front yard used to have more greenery, she said.

“But a couple years ago it just got so hot,” that many of the plants in the sunny areas died out, Rhonda said.

“You need stuff in here that’s hardy,” Kevin said.

He said neighbors have been receptive to the landscape, which stands out in a neighborhood of large neat and green lawns.

“Everybody back here — you have a sense you’re out, away, but you’re in the city,” he said.

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