Outsmarting The Deer
I had a good laugh when I saw this in a garden center. I used to have a list of 'deer proof' plants, but it has shrunk considerably as I've realized they'll eat just about anything if they're hungry enough. To be fair, they were here first.
Recently, I helped my daughter plant the front entrance of her house. Deer were a big problem in the neighborhood, mostly doing their browing over the winter. Her boyfriend had yanked out the unsightly half eaten yews that were there, so we had a clean slate. More evergreens were not on the plant list. My tactics for deer proofing? Take evergreens off the menu and plant deciduous material instead. Even if they get eaten, they'll bounce right back - you will probably still get some flowers and at the very least you'll have healthy looking foliage.
Sure, it will look bare in the winter, but isn't that better than looking at munched up shrubs and deer netting? Forget winter interest, it will probably be under a couple of feet of snow anyway. Here's what we planted instead.
Hydrangea 'Lady in Red' is a reliable bloomer with attractive pink lacecap flowers. It stays a manageable size, around 4 feet, and even if the deer nip the flowers off, the red veined foliage is interesting enough on its own.
The fall foliage is terrific too.
We combined it with Spirea 'Gold Mound' - no worries about the deer with this cute little guy (3' tall). It will re- bloom if it is cut back or eaten and the gold foliage provides a bit of pizazz. Here it is reblooming like mad after I whacked it back to keep it in shape.
We beefed up the front of the planting with a low perennial groundcover, Teucrium 'Greystone' (Germander).
This is what it looked like right after we planted it. It looks a little sparse right now, but these fast growing shrubs will fill in quickly.
You can put together attractive combinations with deciduous shrubs, perennials and groundcovers. The key is foliage and texture. Concentrate on combining shrubs with gold, variegated, magenta or even dark green leaves and consider flowers a bonus.
Small varieties of spireas are on the top of my list. They fill in quickly, tolerate beating down sun, partial shade, and dry soil. You can count on attractive foliage and flowers no matter what.
Spirea 'Snowstorm' is one of my favorites , I've gotten fond of the delicate gray leaves and flouncy white flowers that bloom in my garden in early June. It gets a little taller than some of the other mounding varieties (4' or so), but you can easily keep it under control by pruning it. It's very handsome in fall when the edges of the leaves turn dark red.
Here's another, Spirea 'Ogon' behind the Hydrangea 'Lady in Red'. It gets a little taller (5-6') so you might not want to put it in front of a window like I did. I whack it back to keep it under control and it rewards me with denser foliage. If you want contrast and texture, this is a great shrub!
If you must have evergreens, try this one..Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Prostrata' - commonly referred to as a plum yew. For whatever reason, it's the only yew I've found that doesn't appeal to our four legged friends. The long dark green needles provide interesting texture to any planting and it can tolerate partial shade or full sun. This variety is slow growing and stays low (2-3' tall, 3-4' wide).
The deer don't chow down on members of the Buxus (Boxwood) family either. Here's a dwarf, Boxwood 'North Star', I combined with Hydrangea 'Lady in Red, Spirea "Gold Mound', and Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' (a safe perennial - the red agastache in front of it is not) in the foreground. There are many sizes and shapes of boxwood to choose from, but most prefer partial shade and some protection.
Tucking in perennials and groundcovers will help make your planting look fuller and more colorful. As I said, my list of deer proof plants has shrunk, but here are a few perennials that don't seem to appeal to them.
Bottom line? Outsmart the deer by choosing plants that can bounce back from their snacking. Who knows? Maybe they'll get bored and go somewhere else.