January 26, 2010

Substitute Pulmonaria for Hosta in Deer Country

Once upon a time, I grew beautiful hostas. I lived in the shady woods, had fertile soil and could keep their roots moist with little effort. There were no deer problems at that home, so my hosta garden looked fabulous. I miss those hostas.

My growing conditions now include deer. I don't expect a hosta to survive and flourish planted in my open garden. It will be eaten - guaranteed! I don't want to take heroic measures using spray repellents nor fencing in the shady area of my garden. The cost of doing so would exceed the cost of a few hostas.

I have learned to substitute and love the plants that are happy in my growing conditions. So, what perennial can I grow instead of hosta?

Pulmonaria! Yes - there's a big pulmonaria world out there that sounds just as exciting and interesting as growing hostas.

I am putting Pulmonaria 'Silver Bouquet' PP through deer resistant trials, totally unprotected from deer, rabbits and any other critters. This is my first experience with pulmonaria and all I did was follow the growing condition suggestions on the plant tag.

The trial pulmonaria plants from Terra Nova Nurseries arrived as small plugs and were planted out in late September. After watering the pulmonaria for the first month, I have totally ignored the perennials since.

The deer and rabbits have ignored the pulmonaria, too. As a result of all this neglect, the four plants are thriving!

Pulmonaria are herbaceous, so they should die back in the winter. The fragrance garden is a protected area in winter, located on the east side of my house and I've not had the die back yet. Which means, that if the deer and rabbits were hungry enough this winter, they have sniffed out these pulmonaria as possible food and rejected this menu.

Growing conditions for Pulmonaria 'Silver Bouquet' are similar to hostas:

zones: 4-9
light: part sun to shade
size: 20" wide/7" high/10" high w/flowers

In my zone and summer sun conditions, I decided to plant the pulmonaria in a spot that is full shade with a bit of dappled morning sunlight. The soil needs to be moist, but well-drained.

The silver leaves really brighten up the ground beneath the sweet bay magnolia tree in my fragrance garden. With a mature width of 20 inches, I have spaced the plants to make a ground cover in this spot.

We use the fragrance garden in late afternoons for dining in good weather, especially in spring and fall. The pulmonaria should bloom in April - in my favorite colors, changing from pink to blue. The understory in this area is also planted with Spanish bluebells. I look forward to seeing the impact of combining these two deer resistant spring-blooming plants.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel.The pulmonaria plants were provided for free by Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc. Deer resistance may vary in your garden.
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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