I am still often amazed when people bring their children into the public garden where I work and not only the kids but the adults are totally freaking out over seeing four ducks in the pond near the garden entrance. OK I kind of get it when they are excited over a school of a couple dozen colorful 2 feet long KOI fish, but ducks?
What flips them out even more than the ducks are when chipmunks (or to be accurate, I should say three lined tree squirrels) run in front of them. Really? Ducks and chipmunks. I can only imagine what would happen if these people got within a few feet of a deer.
I have to admit it; I do stop and stare when I see a deer. Even though they really are just super sized rodents that are actually very common in the area where I live. Sure, I admit Bambi is awfully cute in the movies and even in real life in a field. When she is in your backyard removing $200 of plants you spent last weekend planting, she is not so cute.
Deer are a major problem to many a gardener. Not only do they have this habit of seeing your landscape as a salad bar, those darn antlers are often rubbed out on the bark of your favorite new landscape tree. About a decade ago, I planted three bald cypress in the lot behind my house that I subsequently lost this way.
After that, I planted 3 of those little $25 Home Depot white pines. They were promptly eaten bare the next winter. That was the final blow in my attempt to beautify the scrub woods adjacent to my home. About 10 clumps of daffodil and an abandoned wood chip path are all that remain.
Today, I know better. I now know you need to select plants that are not the 1st thing a deer would order if he went into Ric Bayless Frontera restaurant.
Here are some recommended plants if you have lots of deer pressure in your garden.
Deer resistant ferns
For natural style shade gardens ferns are the bee’s knees and they are one of the most deer resistant plants. Most of them like shade and moist soil, but there are lots that are more adaptable and can take a bit of sun especially morning sun. Royal fern (Osmunda regalis) and Cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) are two examples. Both of these ferns grow from 2 to 4 feet tall and are bold additions to the landscape. Even the standout Japanese Painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) can take a bit of sun or dry soil – not both though.
Deer resistant ornamental grasses
If you are going for a prairie or new American style garden you are aware of the potential of ornamental grasses as a center piece in creating a sun filled garden sanctuary. What you might not be aware of is deer don’t much care for most ornamental grasses or bamboos.
Some good choices include:
- Andropogon sp. – Big Bluestem
- Fargesia sp. – Clump Bamboo
- Festuca glauca – Blue Fescue
- Hakonechloa macra – Hakonechloa
- Helictotrichon sempervirens – Blue Oat Grass
- Imperata cylindrica – Japanese Blood Grass
- Juncus Effusus – Hard Rush
- Miscanthus sinensis – Japanese Silver Grass
- Panicum virgatum – Switch Grass
- Pennisetum alopecuroides – Fountain Grass
- Pennisetum orientale – Oriental Fountain Grass
- Schizachyrium scoparium – Little Bluestem
Deer resistant groundcovers
Depending upon the groundcover, Bambi can either ignore them or in the case of Wintercreeeper, English Ivy, or Hosta they really enjoy the variety of your menu. Here are some of the better choices that deer will tend to ignore.
- Convallaria majalis – Lily of the Valley
- Epimediurn sp. – Barrenwort
- Galium odoratum – Sweet Woodruff
- Lamium sp. – Spotted Deadnettle
- Pachysandra procumbens – Allegheny Spurge
- Pachysandra terminalis – Pachysandra
In future posts I will talk about trees, shrubs, and perennials that deer don’t prefer.