September 26, 2008

Gardening Challenge: Deer Resistant or NOT?

For the most part, the flower gardens were rarely browsed during the summer. That’s the way I planned the outer gardens. However, even deer will sometimes eat plants that are listed as deer resistant. I have a high tolerance for winter browsing if the plants rebound and perform without damage in the peak bloom period, so I refer to these as “deer tolerant.” If the damage is too severe to enjoy the plant, then I will either move the plant or shovel-prune it to replace it with something that is more deer resistant.

Recently, the deer have had an increased interest in the garden. This is too early for the winter browsing, so I’m attributing most damage to the new fawns frolicking through the garden as though they are pets! The large herd of deer sleeps in the meadow that borders the garden, but I find teeny-tiny hoof prints around the recently damaged plants. Rabbits are becoming more of a problem, so I am now having to research rabbit resistant plants as well.

First the good news: Agastache, amsonia, asclepias, baptisia, buddleia, canna, cestrum, colocasia, crocosmia, delosperma cooperii, echinacea, echinops, gaillardia, gardenia, ginger, hypericum, iris pseudocorus, lavender, monarda, nepeta, perennial heliotrope, perennial verbena, ornamental grasses, salvia, snapdragons, stacys, vitex, and yarrow have not been browsed by deer. The oak leaf hollies, carissa hollies, osmanthus fragrans, osmanthus ‘Goshiki’, nandina alba, clumping bamboo, eucalyptus, crape myrtle, magnolias and willows have not been browsed by deer. Spring blooming bulbs, such as Dutch irises, daffodils and Spanish bluebells, were not browsed.

The Japanese irises were planted in the autumn of 2006. When the irises are in bloom in the spring, there is occasional nipping of blooms, but not buds and not foliage. I love Japanese irises so much and the damage has been minimal enough for me to leave these in the garden. In fact, I need to divide my clumps and will continue to spread these throughout the rain garden and dry streambed.

Geranium ‘Rozanne’ was planted in May this year. At first, only a few blooms were eaten. Lately, the fawns can’t seem to leave these perennials alone. I find the fawns around these perennials all the time, so I’m convicting them of this particular browsing. I’ve decided to transplant these geraniums inside the fenced cottage garden. If it turns out that the damage is being done by rabbits (that can get inside my fence), then I’ll pardon the fawns.

I’ve seen occasional nips in the perennial ageratum, but nothing significant. This may also be rabbit damage.

The spirea shrubs were left alone until recently when the deer started picking off the fading blooms. These are deciduous, so I have no serious concern.

The mass plantings of Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ have been in the butterfly garden since 2007. The rabbits eat these flowers as often as possible, but the deer still munch the blooms occasionally. I’m not going to bring those inside the fence because the colors won’t work there. I’ll leave these plants in the butterfly garden. The Goldfinch also strip the petals while they hang on to feed on the seeds. I’m okay with leaving these rudbeckia for the wildlife to enjoy.

One of my Helianthus angustifolius ‘First Light’ has been constantly pruned by the deer all summer. It is blooming right now, so I’ll leave it in the outer garden. I noticed that the deer tried a few of the blooms, but the majority of the blooms were left alone.

Someone has been eating my heuchera. I don’t know if it’s the deer or the rabbits or both. The heuchera were left alone until recently. In the past, these were munched only during the winter and still flourished beautifully in the summer. I’ll try to find a protected location for these heuchera since they are evergreen in my zone.

Although the deer don’t eat magnolias, the deer will rub antlers on these trees. We recently pruned up the lower limbs on our southern magnolia to prevent further damage.

Heptacodium or Seven Son Shrub was planted in 2007. The deer eat the leaves and the blooms. This small shrub/tree is out front in a prominent position, so I’m going to move it to a less conspicuous place and not worry about the deer.

Loropetalum chinense rubrum is definitely deer food in the winter. I have already moved one of these shrubs inside the fence. I am contemplating moving the remaining one to use in an espalier fashion against my stone chimney as it’s blooming beautifully right now. I’d like to save it from being browsed by the deer this winter.

Much to my surprise, the fawns recently ate all of the blooms off of one of my lantana! I’ve never seen the deer show any interest in lantana until now. It was definitely the fawns due to the way my shrub-sized lantanas were browsed. I guess they heard me complain that these perennials were too large for the location!

As always, your experience with deer may vary from my experience with deer resistant perennials, shrubs, bulbs and annuals.

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Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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