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Gardening with Deer

03/10/2012 in gardening, pests

The perennial question of what to do about the deer, is one I often see posted and reposted at help forums.

I wrote up a page about deer-proof gardening a number of years ago, it may be time to revisit the concept.

The Problem

Deer make gardening difficult, they get over their fears of us rapidly. It can seem like they move into the garden, and forget to leave…

When they nibble the pretties, it may kill them.

trilliumThe trilliums are just emerging from dormancy, and the deer have already mowed them down at one of my gardens! These jewels are planted against the foundation of the house!

While there are a lot of products marketed to deter deer, the need to apply early and often can make this prospect tedious….
Some of those products stink, and can make visiting the garden unpleasant.


fencePutting up little fences everywhere can protect individual clumps of plants…

if the home-owner can stand to live with these little pens…

Inedible Plants for the Shade Garden

It might be easier simply to plant stuff that the deer absolutely will not eat…
aconite Aconitum comes to mind… This pretty flower is said to be so poisonous that we are advised to wear gloves when we set out the plants!
There’s a story about high-ranking members of the church coming to dine (some time ago), and when the kitchen help went out to pull horse radish, they accidentally pulled some aconitum instead… oops!
Nobody is going to have problems with the deer grazing on something known as one of the most deadly plants grown in the garden…

dw1 Hellebore are toxic and are a great option for the deer-prone garden. I post a lot of hellebore posts, as hellebore are winter bloomers, and anything that will bloom in the winter deserves a place in my garden to combat the winter blues.

mayapple-bloom May apple also comes to mind, often referred to as American Mandrake…

Mandrake conjures up great memories from the fantasy stories we’ve all read, where a dog is employed to pull the plant out of the ground…. While the fruit can be eaten, the American Natives were said to have respected Mayapples as a vehicle into the next lifetime. Definitely a plant that shouldn’t be bothered by the deer!

foxglove1Consider foxglove, a popular heart medication, foxglove would be dangerous for us to attempt eating, the deer can be reliably expected to completely avoid this medicinal…

Inedible Plants for the Meadow

Moving out of the shade garden, consider the castor bean…
It’s been a few years since I’ve grown this delight, but it is definitely safe from the ravages of garden pests… I wrote extensively about castor beans on the garden video post, when a v-blogger made a mistake in discussing their edibility. Definitely not edible… I used to use the beans to protect my other seeds from rat predation.

brugmansia Brugmansias and daturas are great plants for the garden… they produce incredible displays of blooms, and are pest proof. The deer will not eat these guys.
Now… there may be a minor problem with the neighbor kids, looking for kicks, but these plants really aren’t worth all the brouhaha…. it’s not going to be a pleasant experience for them, and if all the over-reactions of the media were to stop, there’d be a lot less experimentation with stuff that isn’t pleasurable.

poppies The poppy is left alone by the deer.
They can’t afford to have their minds clouded by the plants found in the medicinal garden.
A drunk deer would be easy prey…

ginger-lilyCannas and Ginger are a couple of tropical looking showy plants that the deer seem to avoid.
I don’t know why this is…
Neither is known to be poisonous, I found several sites that claim that cannas are non toxic to pets.

Plant Delights goes further, claiming that canna roots are a human food source!

So… Why don’t the deer eat cannas?

They may eat them in your garden… Deer are notorious for suddenly deciding to eat flowers they’d previously avoided.

Sometimes, we plant the garden, and the deer eat the plants that come with a guarantee of being deer-proof.
When growing a non-toxic garden, these things happen.

I can’t begin to tell you how many supposed deer “resistant” plants that the deer are partial to in my garden.

I’ve seen butterfly weed and echinacea suggested as deer “resistant” on lists of plants recommended for deer problem gardens, the Georgia deer love them.

The aromatics, like monarda are almost deer-proof…
I’ve seen incidents of the deer eating them in spite of the smell.

They don’t eat them to the ground like the main menu items, but I’ve seen it happen.

hawt-lipz1Usually, deer avoid salvia. Salvia are beautiful plants with a strong odor.

I have a garden where the deer have decided they enjoy a bit of salvia with the rest of their salad.

Another almost deer-proof item is lantanna.
I’ve seen them browse it on occasion.
But not that much.
I consider these aromatics very good items for the deer prone garden in spite of the occasional browsing in the rare yard.

I believe that deer can be encouraged to leave the ornamental garden alone, but it’s going to take a heavy handed approach, weeding out those favourite plants that the deer perfer, like the hosta…

Deer-proof Gardening Ideas

I suspect an effort should be made to collect the plants that a monk might have grown in his medicinal garden, or a wizard might have grown in his magical garden.

I read a lot of fantasy, and I’m always drawn to the passages wherein the witch or warlock collects the plants that go into the spells… this makes a magical deer-proof garden grow in appeal.

I’ve seem some forum posts devoted to fairy gardens, and while a lot of space seems to be devoted to the little houses and other art, there’s some great plants that would be very much appropriate to such gardens.

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A salvia garden

09/24/2011 in gardening, xeriscape garden

We all recognize cooking sage, it’s added to ground pork to give it the distinctive “sausage” flavour… it’s also added to the bread crumb mix before ‘stuffing’ the bird…

salvia officinalis

salvia officinalis

A few years ago, I started noticing an uptic in the searches for salvia coming to my site… I’d always grown flowering varieties in my gardens for the humming birds and butterflies, but these visitors weren’t interested in growing flowers…

People were actually searching for information about Salvia divinorum, which was suddenly the plant on everybody’s mind, the deer in the headlights…

Salvia divornum is the only salvia that will provide the hallucinitory effect, and nobody is going to be growing that rare plant by accident, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about…. but seems like everybody needs something to be excited over.

Wikipedea has a nice picture of salvia divornum in bloom. Pretty… I’d plant it… But I doubt I could keep it alive… As a cloud forest plant, it would probably grow somewhere like the smoky mountains… if you brought it indoors in the winter… it doesn’t look like an easy plant to grow.

Okay… on to the easy salvias…

salvia guaranitica

salvia guaranitica

salvia guaranitica, anise salvia, black and blue…

An easy to grow clumping sage.

Salvia uliginosa

Salvia uliginosa is a running sage. Pretty, but invasive… needs constant pulling in an irrigated garden, and dies out in the dry sandhill garden.
I think I’d give this one a miss, unless you have a ditch that needs something blue…

Salvia Leucantha

Salvia Leucantha
Salvia Leucantha is a well-behaved Autumn bloomer.

salvia microphylla

salvia macrophylla

salvia microphylla / macrophylla is a bushy sage tending to grow in expanding clumps… until the edges die, requiring some cutting back.  easy.

salvia coccinea


salvia-coccinea (white)

A coupla salvia coccinea plants… there’s a pink one as well.

salvia coccinea is often grown as a self-sowing annual, in zone 8 it’s marginally winter hardy, but with the ammount of seeds these plants produce, winter die-off isn’t a problem… I pull large numbers out as weeds…

I don’t bother with the annual bedding salvias, if I can’t “plant it and forget it”, it’s probably not a suitable candidate for any of my gardens.

What salvias do you grow? There’s hundreds of varieties, I’ve even got some local varieties that aren’t available from the plant trade…

Here’s one such:

Salvia urticifolia

salvia urticifolia

Nettle-leaf sage can be found growing locally, (maybe in your yard), provided that you’ve permitted a wilderness area, or buffer zone… rather than spraying everything out of existence…

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by stone

The Berries of Autumn

09/13/2011 in native plants, shade garden

This post covers shrubs in the shade garden… Tree fruit will be a separate post.

Euonymus americana L.


(Euonymus americana L.)
A beautiful native shrub that grows naturally in the forest, needs protecting from bambi’s voracious appitite… If you want to see the berries.



Callicarpa americana L.

Beautyberry bush

(Callicarpa americana L.)
Another native that grows naturally in the forest in middle Georgia.
This bush is fairly resistant to Bambi’s depredations.



Ilex ambigua (Michx.) Torr.

Sand Holly

(Ilex ambigua (Michx.) Torr.)
Another bush that the deer seem to leave alone, the sand holly is native to middle Georgia, but less widely seen around Macon, It’s natural habitat is in the sand hills to the west.




Jerusalem cherry

I found this interesting bush growing wild inside the Macon city limits, thriving happily in the forest, an apparent escapee from a garden from a much earlier time. There was a chimmney standing nearby… but the home and garden was long gone.

Jerusalem cherry is an import from South America, but a well-behaved one, and probably would not survive the winter in a cooler zone.

I’d previously understood that the cherries would make a convenient exit strategy, but in reading wikipedia, apparently these berries aren’t deadly… to humans… Doesn’t sound like a very pleasant experience, though.

Perfectly safe from deer, And therefore another good choice for an area plagued by these pests.

All of these bushes do very well in a Middle Georgia shade garden without a drop of extra water.

This endless cycle of drought in which we seem to be trapped, the well simply won’t put out enough water to keep our gardens happy, it becomes a case of getting the well drilled even deeper, or growing suitable plants….
I think that drought proof natives makes a better solution.

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