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It would be great if nobody ever trampled your beautiful landscape but that is not a reality, especially if your area has foraging deer. Your landscape becomes all-you-can-eat-buffet for deer especially during winter season when there is food shortage in the wild. Also high deer population and bad weather can strain their habitat, making deer eat plants they normally don’t eat or like.
You’ve likely seen your favorite plants disappeared overnight. Even a single deer can damage your landscape as they girdle even tree barks damaging the health of the plants. This means you have to be proactive in keeping deer away from tasty treats in your garden.
Deer resistant and deer repellent plants can be used to prevent deer invasion to your landscape.
If you are going the route of deer repellents, be sure to switch up brands from time to time to prevent repellent immunity and always reapply after it rains. Or you can install deer proof fence that is high enough to prevent the animals from jumping over and visible enough to surmount their poor depth perception. It’s also important to remember that unless you build a very tall fence, there is no such as deer-proof garden.
Not willing to install deer fence? Then put daylilies, roses, hostas, tulips and lilies out of your mind unless you’re prepared to put them in containers close to the house, where they can be protected.
Deer will eat anything if they are hungry enough, and they can adapt and eat plants that are considered “resistant”. However, they do have their favorites and they’re more attracted to places where their favorite food is easily available.
Smart selection of plants can be your first defense against deer invasion. Deer do have their favorites and that is typically plants that are bland, with lush foliage and high water content (like hostas), fruits- and berry-producing plants, including vegetable gardens, native plants and flowering plants such as tulips, crocuses and forsythia. And they generally shy away from certain aromatic plants or plants with foliage or sap that irritates them.
Our eyes and nose eat the food before our tastebuds have the chance. Just like that, deer also eat with their noses first. And since their noses are extra sensitive compare to us, if something smells distasteful, they’re less likely to dive in for a taste. Their sensitive noses are easily irritated by overly pungent odors and herbs can be great addition to your garden to repel deer with their strong fragrance while enhancing your culinary and your garden. Most herbs –including butterfly bushes, lavender, yarrows, salvias, boxwoods and thymes –are usually deer safe and can be used in cooking.
Also plants with very aromatic foliage confuse Bambi’s olfactory system and discourage feeding, making them the perfect addition to deer proof gardens. Many flowering herbs, plants with fragrant foliage such as catmint (Nepeta), hyssop (Agastache), Artemisia, Russian sage (Perovskia), boxwood (Buxus), Salvias, tansy (Tanacetum), bee balm (Monarda), mountain mint (Pycnanthemum), dead nettle (Lamium), blue mist shrub (Caryopteris), dill, lantana, and calamint (Calamintha) are deer resistant plants.
Before buying a plant to include in your garden, rub the foliage against your cheek. If you feel small hairs on the leaves – whether bristly or soft – it’s probably a good plant choice for deer proof gardens. Deer don’t like fuzzy or hairy textures against their tongues. Deer-resistant garden plants in this category include lambs ear (Stachys), lady’s mantle (Alchemilla), Siberian bugloss (Brunnera), flowering tobacco (Nicotiana), tuberous begonias, heliotrope, yarrow (Achillea), Ageratum, poppies, purple top vervain (Verbena bonariensis), and many others.
Also disliked by most deer are plants with spines on their leaves. Though some deer learn to eat around the thorns of rose canes to nibble off the leaves, they generally avoid plants with spines on the leaves themselves. In this category are bear’s breeches (Acanthus), globe thistle (Echinops), Cardoon, and sea hollies (Eryngium), among others.
Plants with leaves that are tough to digest are also typically avoided by deer. Pachysandra is in this category, as are most irises, wax and dragonwing begonias, elephant ears (Colocasia and Alocasia), peonies, and some viburnums (including leatherleaf and arrowwood).
Among must-have deer resistant plants are those that contain compounds toxic to deer. All ferns contain compounds that deer can’t tolerate, so do false indigo (Acanthus), globe thistle (Echinops), Cardoon, and sea hollies (Eryngium), among others. Ferns can be great tool to add necessary shade or architecture to any homeowner’s garden or landscaping. Autumn ferns turn a different color with each passing season. These ferns are almost completely self-maintained and can reach two or more feet tall.
Deer much prefer to eat forbs (flowering plants) and woody plant shoots over grasses, though a small percentage of a deer’s diet consists of young, succulent grasses. White-tailed deer cannot survive on grasses alone, and they’ll mostly consume even young grasses as a last resort. Because of this, ornamental grasses are a great plant choice for deer proof gardens. Ornamental grass include (Carex, Blue Oat Grass, Pennistemon including Bamboo).
The idea behind deer resistant landscaping is to fill your yard with plants they don’t prefer, in hopes deer will simply give up and go someplace more appetizing. If you are planting a new border or garden, start with heavily scented and deer-resistant plants on the outside perimeter. Once you’ve established an area and encouraged deer to browse elsewhere, you can add other plants inside the perimeter.
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