Gardening With What You Have

Stomp Out Stupid Weeding: 5 Perennials That Make It Easy

Christine Froehlich 09/23/2020 Comments

Weeding can be a real buzz-kill, especially in spots where growing anything is a struggle and it  doesn't look much better when you're done. I call it 'stupid weeding' and I'm on a mission to reduce it in all my gardens.


The photo below is an example of what I'm talking about - a steepish hillside,poor soil,full sun and browsing deer. Originally, I amended the soil and secured the hillside with shrub roses and lamium. I figured it would be fat, flowerful and full in no time. Hah! That was before I realized this spot was the local deer cafe. They were the only ones who enjoyed this planting. I did my best to protect it, but they ate every flower and nibbled the lamium down to little brown nubs. After a summer filled with hours of unrewarding weeding I threw in the trowel and ripped it all out.


I replaced the roses and lamium with boxwood, but was hard pressed for other deer proof options that would fill in all that space.


boxwood hedging on a hill


More beauty and less weeding was my top priority. I started scoping out reliable deer proof perennials. 


Candidates had to meet these criteria:

  • Long lasting flowers, no deadheading required
  • Textural interest
  • Bold foliage 
  • Fast growing but not invasive
  • Reliably winter hardy (zones 5-9)
  • Deer proof
calaminth and stachys on hillside
Bottom,Calamintha nepetoides 'White Cloud' center, Stachys byzantina 'Helen von Stein'
right, Lavender 'Phenomenal'

These 5 bold, beautiful and tough plants made the cut:


1Calamintha nepetoides 'White Cloud' (above photo): This fast growing little beauty is a member of the mint family. The leaves have a strong pepperminty smell - deer are repelled by aromatic plants. I massed them together in big blocks so the tiny white flowers showed up from a distance. They bloom reliably from July to September. It's a bit of a hog, but plays well with others and perfect for a large space like this.


2. Stachys byzantina 'Helen von Stein' (photo below): I chose this fuzzy gray leaved perennial for it's bold foliage. It sure makes that Calamintha pop doesn't it?  More importantly, this one doesn't flower - I find that the flowering varieties tend to look sloppy and I sure didn't want to deadhead them. The foliage doesn't brown out to any noticeable degree either.


Calamintha nepetoides 'White Cloud' and Stachys byzantina 'Helen von Stein'


3. Lavendula intermedia 'Phenomenal' (photo below): If you're going to plant lavender (deer proof) this is the most reliable variety I've used. It's not as aggressive as the above two perennials, but it's a good filler. Early July brings forth electric violet blue flowers and finely textured gray foliage endures til fall. Every garden needs a little lavender!


lavender phenomenal
top right, Lavender 'Phenomenal'


4. Geranium 'Gerwat' Rozanne'(photo below): If you've got room, this is the perfect geranium. It rambles all over the place and never misses a beat. Flowers pop from July until frost. It's on the list of perennials deer don't eat, but to be honest, I have had some people tell me that it's not true. In this planting, they don't bother it, maybe all the other aromatic plants are keeping them at bay. Whatever - it's well worth a try.


perennial planting on hillside
bottom left, Geranium 'Rozanne' above Caryopteris x clanondensis 'Blue Mist'


5. Caryopteris x clanondensis 'Blue Mist'(photo below): True, this little sub shrub looks like a bunch of sticks until the gray foliage leafs out in June, but when nothing else is happening in August and September,those masses of little blue flowers are a welcome sight. This little roundy moundy adds a little height (3') to this planting and fills in the spaces between the perennials. I massed them in groups of three for impact.


calaminth, geranium and stachys


Here's a shot of the garden taken a few weeks ago. This is the end of the first year - as you can see, it's pretty full. The other planting used to make me cringe, this one makes my heart sing. Best of all, I've only weeded it three times since May. What used to take the whole morning now can be done in an hour or two. I rarely water. 


hillside planting with boxwood,calaminth, lavender and geranium


Wouldn't you rather spend more time enjoying your garden instead of weeding it? At the end of the day, it's all about plant choices that work for you. 

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