Deer Resistance, is there Hope?

hungry deer, looking for their next meal
It’s a Herd!!! Of Deer

American Nurseryman chimes in on deer resistant plants. It’s not like we haven’t seen a list very similar to this before-we have, but that doesn’t mean we can’t run the list again, and again. Why, well people forget, or lose that list, or link to that list.

Personally I have had a lot of experience with deer. In my previous abode it was not unusual to see 5 or 6 deer in the middle of the back yard during the day. As we moved into winter it was double that or more along the tree line as the deer were scurrying about looking for anything to eat.

This includes my constant struggles to find bird-feeders that were not routinely cleaned out by the deer and squirrels(oops, another long story).

To find plant material the deer would shy away from was difficult in the best of times, and damn near impossible in the worst of times. I believe to this day that only a strong and consistent rotation of deer-repellant products saved most of the woody’s I had planted around the foundation of the house.

Let me emphasize part of that last statement. A consistent rotation of deer-repellant products. Not just one applied on a regular basis, but several and it is best you try those offered in your area to find what works best for you.

In East Central Ohio the deer are so thick they even went after the juniper sp. of which I had several around the yard. This is the only place I’ve ever lived/worked where deer went after the juniper. They even went after the “birds nest spruce” during the winter.

I can say this with certainty. They did stay away from al the different boxwood sp. that I had planted, and they did stay away from the barberry sp. also. We had to wrap the “weeping Sargent hemlocks”(had some great ones), even spraying was not enough.

One other group of plants I had great success with was ornamental grasses, and I had 100s of them, especially panicum’s, the deer herd never bothered them. They’d walk through the grass garden, for sure, to get to the other plant material, that was the only damage the grass gardens suffered.

I’ve designed landscapes in several different parts of the country and I am known for saying –

If a deer’s hungry enough, he’ll eat the plant, the roots, and then he’ll even try to eat the container.

I knew some groundskeepers in South Carolina and they would tell me stories of deer wiping out masses of plants around certain holes on their golf courses. Plants there and literally overnight, boom, gone the next day.

Final thought is this. These list are scientific fact, but they are a tool for the toolbox in the war to deter the deer from eating away your hard earned money, your labor, and the beauty of your garden.

So, use list like this, but don’t hold the list-maker accountable if their suggestions don’t work in your part of the country.

Asclepias tuberosa

Putting Deer on a Diet from American Nurseryman

It’s a never-ending battle: You design a winning landscape, your clients are thrilled-and then the local deer population dines on the newly installed garden. You can tear out the damaged plants and start over again, but what do you plant this time?

Chasmanthium latifolium

You’ve tried scaring them away. You’ve tried fencing them out. Somehow, deer still can find a way to their favorite snacks and ravage a garden seemingly overnight. There’s a plethora of reliable, reasonably priced, readily available products on the market, but your clients want to protect the wildlife as well as their gardens.

Digitalis purpurea ‘Dalmatian Purple’ Photos courtesy of Walters Gardens Inc., unless otherwise noted.

Although it may seem like a no-win situation, if you work in an area where there’s increasing deer pressure – and who doesn’t these days? – you can choose from a broad range of plants that aren’t appetizing to deer. Keeping in mind that a ravenous doe will find nearly anything palatable, it’s certainly worth your time and your clients’ money to specify selections that have proved to be less tasty than others.

Ligularia ‘Bottle Rocket’

Lists of purportedly deer-resistant plants abound, and most are based on observation rather than scientific trials. Over a number of seasons, however, a keen observer develops a time-tested sense of what’s savory – and what survives.

Is this the sweetest thing ever? Yes, until it grows up and starts munching your profits. Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station Archive, USDA Forest Service, SRS;

Here, then, are suggestions for plants that may reduce the temptation and drive deer to look for a tastier meal elsewhere. A couple of caveats must accompany this abbreviated list: One, depending on conditions and region, a few may be considered to have invasive tendencies. If there’s any question, choose another. And two, there’s never a guarantee that pesky critters will simply walk away. But it’s worth trying a new plant.

Dicentra spectabilis
Oenothera missouriensis

So they put up a fence. Not just any fence: The arboretum built a 3-mile-long barrier along the property’s southern border. It stands 10 feet tall and is composed of 8 feet of woven wire mesh topped by two wires strung along its length. The galvanized, high-tensile steel structure cost $260,000 – funded by a private donation – and is similar to fencing used to deter deer at orchards, vineyards and nurseries throughout Minnesota. The mesh is an effective deterrent, but it’s not plainly visible from a distance.

White-tailed deer and their brethren have seemingly insatiable appetites, but specifying plants observed to be deer-resistant may send them in search of a tastier meal elsewhere. Photo courtesy of Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service,

Fencing them out

Good fences don’t always make good neighbors.

After the University of Minnesota’s Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen suffered extraordinary losses last winter – by some accounts the worst deer damage in 25 years – officials were fed up. Deer had stripped the arboretum’s shrub walk of vegetation, munching shoots and killing arborvitae and yew, dining on the buds of azalea shrubs, dwarf conifers, hostas and countless other plants. Plantings near the facility’s visitor center and the main parking lot also were devastated. And despite the fact that the arboretum’s research orchards had been protected, valuable research projects were put in jeopardy.

Or so they say. Neighbors are up in arms about the fence, describing it as prison-like and objecting to the shiniest of the poles used to support the structure. Residents across the street from the arboretum’s newest deer deterrent claim they had requested that wooden poles be used – they’re not as sturdy or long-lasting – and that the fence be landscaped to soften the industrial look of steel and wire. The arboretum plans to plant along the structure in the near future.

In a sort of modern-day public opinion poll, readers of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and other local papers commented online, telling residents who complained about the fence they “need to get over it” and find something else to worry about.
article via the American Nurseryman website.

By Rick Anderson

The Whispering Crane Institute was originally formed to act as the umbrella organization for the Philosophy of Design Symposium, and other seminars and workshops given by Rick Anderson and Richard L. Dube’. In the year 2000 WCI became a sole proprietorship owned by Rick Anderson. Today the WCI provides design and consultation services for Landscape Contractors, acts as a Green Industry think tank, and provides training for others in the form of workshops, seminars, and individual consulting. The WCI also provides written material, opinions, case-studies and how-to articles for industry trade magazines.

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