July 21, 2009

Need a Deer Fence Around Your Flower Garden?

You don't necessarily need a fence to keep the deer from eating your flower garden. It all depends upon what you plant and how you plant it.

Yes, deer will eat a lot of plants like hostas, phlox, hydrangeas, daylilies and other favorite flowers. To grow plants that deer like, you do need a fence or a high-maintenance repellent plan. Spraying plants repeatedly with repellents is costly and time-consuming. And, just when you miss an application of repellent, the deer will move in and munch the plants. Do you really want bars of soap hanging on your plants? Do you really like to go through electric wire to see your flowers?

To garden happily alongside deer, give up on what they like and find your new favorites among the many deer resistant plants.

There are lots of colorful flowers you can grow that deer won't destroy. My favorite perennials are agastache, salvia, nepeta and gaillardia. Cleome, snapdragons, marigolds and larkspur are my favorite annuals. Buddleia, osmanthus fragrans, clumping bamboo and crepe myrtle are my favorite deer resistant ornamentals. Herbs like thyme, lavender, rosemary, oregano and basil grow in my gardens. Bulbs include daffodils, Dutch irises, allium and Spanish bluebells.

Deer will sample a lot of plants, so even the most deer resistant plants may have an occasional missing bloom or leaf. However, the deer aren't as likely to do sufficient damage to keep you from enjoying the flowers and foliage of select plants. In times of severe drought or overcrowding of habitat - when no food is available in the wild, starving deer will eat unusual plants in order to survive.

I've also learned that a large garden that is wide and long, with no clear path for the deer to travel is less likely to be entered. I do have stepping stone paths through my garden and the deer know where those are located. However, since I grow deer resistant plants, their efforts to come into the garden haven't been rewarding. What's the point of going to a restaurant if you don't like what's on the menu? The deer have learned that my garden isn't appetizing or filling.

To block the deer path that was established before I started the garden, I planted large woody ornamentals such as clumping (not running) bamboo, ornamental grasses, bronze fennel, rosemary, buddleia and mass plantings of tall agastache 'Blue Fortune' and 'Salmon and Pink'. These tall and wide ornamental plantings have now grown close together to form a "green" deer fence that cuts off their old trail.

Deer do not like to enter an area where they cannot see an exit. They do not like to be trapped or cornered. By forming "walls" with the taller deer resistant plants, I've blocked the view and not given them anything interesting to nibble.

My deer resistant gardens were planted in 2007. I am still adding and subtracting plants for design and weather conditions, rather than the deer.

I don't stress out over the deer in my garden. I can relax and enjoy the flowers.

Photos and story by Freda Cameron; Location: Home Garden; July 2009
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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