January 23, 2013

The Deer Resistant Garden 2012 Review

Deer resistant garden. May 2012.
I've been gardening with my deer friends since September 2005 when we built our home. Deer resistance varies according to the availability of food in the wild and the population of both the deer and humans (new construction removes habitat). 

My definition of deer resistance is this: If the deer nibble the plants, but the plants bounce back for my enjoyment in the bloom season, the plant passes the test.

See that pretty Yucca 'Color Guard' in the photo above? The deer nip the tips in January and February when food is scarce. But the leaves recover and the plant blooms on schedule in May. That's what I mean by deer resistant, even though the yucca looks a bit scruffy as I write this post on a cold January morning.

In the photo below, note the mounded Spirea 'Neon Flash' blooming in shades of pink. Once in awhile, the deer will pick a bloom, but overall, I don't miss a few flowers during peak bloom season. The spirea blooms for a long time, then I trim the blooms and the shrub repeats. 

This is the key:  If a flowering shrub will re-bloom after I trim it, then it will re-bloom after the deer eat it—UNLESS they devour every bloom and eat the plant down to sticks and stubs.

For example, the deer pick rose blooms through the cottage garden fence. If I planted roses outside the fence, the deer would destroy the shrubs and I'd have no blooms to enjoy.

Spirea 'Neon Flash' blooms in shades of pink. May 2012.
Japanese iris growing in the deer resistant gravel garden.  May 2012.

The lovely Japanese iris is a favorite of mine. As you can see in the photo, this plant is in full bloom and untouched by deer. I get to enjoy the blooms until a doe has a fawn in the nearby woods. When mama's baby is first born, she won't forage far away from the fawn. During those first weeks, the doe will eat anything she can stomach and Japanese iris blooms are on her post-natal diet. This happens every year to this iris. I know it. I expect it. I'm willing to share. 

Other Japanese irises that are planted in the larger garden are seldom touched because they are too far away from where the fawns are born. I don't use deer repellents, but if you never get to enjoy your irises, then consider using an organic spray.

Susans, coneflowers, shasta daisies and bee balm.  June 2012.
In summer, my deer resistant garden is in full bloom with susans (rudbeckia), shasta daisies, coneflowers (echinacea) and bee balm (monarda). The susans bloom all summer long and by late August, when food is dwindling, the deer will nibble the susans, but not destroy the seedheads or entire plants. These are self-sowing flowers, so I don't sweat the loss of a few flowers because I'll have hundreds of blooms again the next year and will have to thin out the plants myself. Thank you, deer.

I've heard other gardeners complain of deer eating coneflowers, but I've not had a serious issue in the largest part of the garden. Once again, the side gardens that are closer to the woods (where the fawns live) tend to be picked more than the big "meadow" section of the deer resistant garden. That said, we count 20-30 deer sleeping in the grass meadow next to this section of the garden.

The following photos show how our home is oriented next to a meadow and backed by woods. As you can see, the deer have access from all sides.

While not all plants are deer proof, selecting plants that are resilient after occasional browsing is possible—with a bit of tolerance and a lot of planning. 

For more information on my deer resistant gardening experience, check out these links on my blog:

Blooms in the Gravel Garden
Posts (Many) about Deer Resistant Plants
Deer Resistant Plant List

The deer sleep in the meadow out front, next to the deer resistant garden. June 2012.
The large south-facing front section of the deer resistant garden. June 2012.
East-facing deer resistant garden is browsed due to nearby woods. June 2012.
Path below front deer resistant garden. June 2012.
Path below east side deer garden. June 2012.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.
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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