In my last article I outlined some easy, low-key, tactics for dissuading deer. The following strategies employ your plantings to keep the herds at bay:
Think "deer-resistant"not "deer-proof" — Every season seems to reveal fewer and fewer truly deer-proof plants.
However…beyond barberries and daffodils (yes, they are deer-proof, I promise), I have had excellent luck in all of my gardens with the following plants:
• Spirea (Spiraea)
• Butterfly bush (Buddleia)
• Boxwood (Buxus)
• Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)
• Fern (various)
• Ornamental grass (various)
• Catmint (Nepeta)
• Russian sage (Perovskia)
• Peony (Paeonia)
• Monkshood (Aconitum)
• Lenten rose (Helleborus)
• Lamb’s ear (Stachys)
• Globe thistle (Echinops)
• Foxglove (Digitalis)
• Anise hyssop (Agastache)
• Yarrow (Achillea)
• Spider flower (Cleome)
• Floss flower (Ageratum)
• Sage (Salvia)
• Fountain grass (Pennisetum)
• Cockscomb (Celosia)
Employ "defensive planting" — If you absolutely must have a particular plant in your garden, you can increase its chance for survival by surrounding it with plants that the deer tend to avoid. This does not guarantee that a curious (or starving) deer won’t browse, but if it nibbles a distasteful plant first, that may be enough to send it on its way.
Get to know your (plant) families — As I mentioned in my last article, noting plants that are thriving in neighboring gardens can help determine what will fare well in your own beds. You can take this idea a step further (with some help from the internet) if you know the family that a particular plant belongs to. For example, the perennial Yarrow (Achillea) belongs to the plant family Asteraceae. Chances are, if Yarrow is thriving in your garden, other members of its family should do well too.
Fuzzy, wooly, smelly (no, not 3 new dwarfs) — Although starving deer will eat almost anything, they tend to avoid plants with foliage that has a pungent scent (like Catmint, Sage, or almost any herb), or a fuzzy, wooly texture (like Lamb’s ear).
Go native — there are many reasons to incorporate native plantings into your garden — they attract beneficial wildlife such as birds and butterflies, are highly disease and pest-resistant and require little, if any, maintenance. And while they’re not always 100% deer-proof, native plants such as Purple coneflower (Echinacea) and Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium) will bounce back from a deer’s nibbling more readily than non-native varieties.
Last but not least, try to remember that the deer were here first. This is difficult to keep in mind after your garden has been the site of an all-you-can-eat buffet. But the reality is, we are the direct cause of the deer’s rapidly shrinking habitat. And as they become more accustomed to our sounds and scents, they will continue to edge nearer as needed, to seek out food and shelter. Something to think about. Enjoy your garden!
Sheri Silver owns fiori garden design in Irvington. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.fiorigarden.com.