“Miss Huff” Perennial Lantana

Perennial Lantana, 'Miss Huff'

Perennial Lantana, ‘Miss Huff’

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One morning last week my neighbor called to ask about the plants blooming along the street at the very front of the garden.  My neighbor is an artist and a gardener.  He and his wife have filled their bit of forest with Daffodils, Rhododendron, Azaleas, Magnolias, and lovely tall trees.

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“Miss Huff” growing below Wax Myrtle, Myrica cerifera.  The Wax Myrtle branches are covered in berries, nearly ripe for the birds.

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He had noticed our bright orange and yellow flowers, and wanted to inquire about them since they were untouched by our shared herd of deer.

As you might imagine, few things make me happier than someone inquiring about beautiful plants.  I was happy to tell him all about our “Miss Huff” Lantana, and invite him to stroll about the garden to see the rest of our Lantana shrubs.

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"Miss Huff", growing along the street beneath the Japanese Box and Wax Myrtle are mostly left to take care of themselves. The walkers in our neighborhood enjoy watching the butterflies visiting the Lantana.

“Miss Huff”, growing along the street beneath the Japanese Box and Wax Myrtle are mostly left to take care of themselves. The walkers in our neighborhood enjoy watching the butterflies visiting the Lantana.

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We ended up going to Homestead Garden Center the next day and filling the car with nearly a dozen gallon pots of blooming Lantana for his garden.  The Pattons had all of their Lantana on the “end of season sale”, and so for a small investment my neighbor bought all the Lantana camara he could plant.  I’m looking forward to next summer when the beautiful golden orange flowers extend across the front of both of our properties.

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Bandana White Lantana.

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Most Lantana plants are treated like tender perennials in Virginia, and the tags generally say they are hardy in Zones 9-12.  “Miss Huff” is a cultivar reliably hardy here in Zone 7B.

Now, Lantana would be well worth the price and effort if they were only annuals.  They form dense, woody shrubs absolutely covered in flowers from mid-summer late into the fall.  They are the hubs of activity in our garden, attracting a constant stream of butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, bees, and song birds.  The birds find secure cover inside them and love the little berries which form once the flowers fade.

Even better, Lantana thrive in full, hot sun.  They require very little water, even in their first year.  Once established, their roots grow very deep into the Earth, keeping them well-supplied, even in drought.

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Nothing seems to faze them.  I’ve never seen one with any fungus or disease.  It is rare to even see a tiny hole in a leaf.  In fact, the leaves are toxic to most animals.  This has created a problem in tropical areas where Lantana camara has naturalized, as livestock who graze on them frequently grow ill and die.  South Americans have found ways to use the leaves medicinally to treat ulcers, and extracts made from the leaves are antibacterial and are used to treat other conditions as well.

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Bandana "Cherry Sunrise" Lantana

Bandana “Cherry Sunrise” Lantana

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I learned about Lantana many years ago when I first planted them in my Virginia Beach garden, on a bank at the front of the yard in full sun.  Once the leaves finally fall off in early winter, the woody skeleton of the plant is left. The birds dart in and out of the branches and peck at the remaining seeds throughout the winter. That first winter I didn’t know what to expect from them, but left them in place.  I trimmed them back to a few inches when the daffodils bloomed, planted some sort of other annual around their stumps, and didn’t give them much thought…. Until, one day I realized there was new growth coming from the stump and branches.

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Several years old now, these "Bandana" series Lantana grew to over 6' last summer. They definitely exceed the 24" of growth promised on their label. This mound is covered in butterflies from sunrise until after sunset.

Several years old now, these “Bandana” series Lantana grew to over 6′ last summer. They definitely exceed the 24″ of growth promised on their label. This mound is covered in butterflies from sunrise until after sunset.

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Within a few weeks the stumps had disappeared beneath vigorous new branches, and by mid-June they were blooming again.  Lantana are actually grown as shrubs further south, and grow larger and more vigorous each year.  In some tropical areas of the world, Lantana camara are considered an invasive species.  Their seeds are spread far and wide by the birds who feast on them.  This has not become a problem in the United States, although they have naturalized along the Southeast and Gulf coasts.

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Lantana in the butterfly garden get regular trimming back, and still fill the path.

Lantana in the butterfly garden get regular trimming back, and still fill the path.

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Moving to Williamsburg, one USDA Zone colder than Virginia Beach, I was concerned that I’d lost the joy of perennial Lantana.  When I talked to Andrew Patton out at Homestead, he assured me that “Miss Huff” had proven reliably hardy here in Williamsburg.

The front edge of our property is a very tough spot to garden.  The dirt is hard packed and poor.  The deer graze freely.  There is only a narrow patch of dirt between the road and a thick hedge of Japanese Boxwood and Wax Myrtle, Myrica cerifera, with established roots which soak up what water and nutrients nature might provide.  It is a long hike with a watering can, and too far for the hose.  Whatever grows in this strip must be mostly self-reliant.

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Lantana, "Confetti"

Lantana, “Confetti”

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So I bought enough “Miss Huff” plants, in little 4” pots, to plant in all of the open spaces between the shrubs along the street.  It was more an attempt to protect the little Camellia bushes I’d planted the year before from the deer’s grazing than a serious effort at flower gardening.  It took quite a bit of digging to break up the soil enough to even plant them, but I did, gave them a little mulch of compost, watered them, and waited to see what would happen.

That first year, the answer is, “Honestly, not much.”  They did bloom, but didn’t put on much growth.  Every year since, the “Miss Huff” Lantana have gotten bigger and more colorful.  All they get from me is a little topdressing of compost from time to time, a sprinkle of Osmocote or Plant Tone in the spring, and a little water in drought.  I cut them back hard when the daffodils come up and then wait for the show.

Our first spring in this garden, I ordered starts of Lantana from The Garden Harvest Supply Company for our new butterfly garden and the main flowerbed in the front yard.  I ordered for color and size, not for hardiness, and frankly I expected them to die over the winter.  I just wanted something drought tolerant that would fill the bed, attract some butterflies and require very little care during the season.  That first year I ordered some of the Carolina Series and some of the Bandana series plants.  At a little less than $3 per plant, they were a huge bargain.

The following spring, I tried to “pull out” some of the dead looking plants in the front bed to replace them.  Well, that was a huge problem.  You see, in just one summer, the roots had gone deep and wide.  It was like trying to dig up a tree with a trowel.  I got one or two out, then gave up.  In just a few weeks… You guessed it… there was new growth on the remaining plants.  They weren’t supposed to survive here, but they did.

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This Lantana, planted in June, has made good growth for its first year.

This Lantana, planted in June, has made good growth for its first year.

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Lantana leaf out relatively late in the season.  Patience is required.  The woody stumps aren’t beautiful in a springtime garden.  I’ve learned to plant bulbs around them, and to fill in with Violas, snapdragons, and other spring flowers and with perennial herbs like sage or thyme.  About the time it gets too hot for the spring flowers, the Lantana will green up and begin to take off.  Eventually you realize they have taken over the bed.  I tried to establish lavender in the bed with the Lantana, but have consistently lost the lavender by late summer because they can’t compete with the Lantana for light and air.

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Lantana, 'Sunny Side Up' is a new hybrid expected to be as hardy as 'Miss Huff,' one of its parents.

Lantana, ‘Sunny Side Up’ is a new hybrid expected to be as hardy as ‘Miss Huff,’ one of its parents.

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Since then I’ve planted Lantana of different varieties all over the garden.  Anywhere there is full sun, and I need something big and bright, in goes another Lantana.  I’ve stopped even reading the tag for hardiness.

There is a trailing lavender Lantana good for hanging baskets or ground cover that is especially pretty.  It is more reliable in the ground than overwintering in a basket.  There is also a lovely creamy white Lantana I like in pots.  I’ve even discarded a seemingly dead white Lantana from its pot, only to find it blooming a few weeks later where the root ball was “planted” to fill a whole in the yard somewhere.  That plant has come back consistently for two years now.

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"Carolina Cream" Lantana in a large pot with Persian Shield, petunias, and Plectranths.

“Carolina Cream” Lantana in a large pot with Persian Shield, petunias, and Plectranths.

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If you decide to plant Lantana, just keep in mind that you might not get a huge amount of growth the first year.  The tags predict growth of about 18-24”, with usually more spread than height.  You need to water regularly until the roots have a chance to grow; and fertilize, whether with compost, Osmocote, Plant Tone, or Neptune’s Harvest.  Plenty of food and water in the first year gives you the best display of flowers.

If your Lantana over winters, its roots have established and it will be much more drought tolerant in the second and subsequent years.  Cut back hard and feed in spring.  Lantana bloom on new growth, so it is fine to cut them back to 6-10” and then let them grow new branches.  Give the plants a few inches of fresh compost, and maybe a sprinkle of Plant Tone or Rose Tone.  After that, they’re on their own.  If you need to prune them during the season to give a nearby plant a chance at survival, you won’t hurt the Lantana.

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Last August we marveled at how high our Lantana grew in the front.  We could stand beside the bed with Lantana branches towering over our heads.  We are both tall, so the Lantana grew to more than 6’ in one season.  Our blissed out butterflies don’t even mind when we come close to enjoy them.  The hummingbirds gather to share the feast throughout the day, but fly off if we approach.  Lantana brings so much life to the garden, I’m happy to introduce them to my friends.

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All photos by Woodland Gnome

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Delicious Attraction

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There is nothing like Lantana camara to attract butterflies.  And if we didn’t know that already, we would have  noticed it yesterday while we were visiting at the Homestead Garden Center near Toano.  Homestead still has a large stock of Lantana in several sizes.  Owner Joel Patton always carries a wide selection of varieties, but he concentrates on L. ‘Miss Huff’ and the new ‘Chapel Hill’ introductions known to survive our Williamsburg winters.  These new varieties are hardy to at least Zone 7A.

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And so Joel was cutting back and potting up Lantana to gallon sized pots yesterday while we visited and watched the many butterflies feeding.  I loaded up  a tray with several L. ‘Chapel Hill Gold’ and L. ‘Evita Orange,’ and a couple of Pentas, also known as butterfly favorites, to fill in some holes in our front garden beds.  I’ve got to tell you, a butterfly flew into the trunk to follow one of those Lantanas and we had to shoo it out before we could leave.

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We had another gorgeous, cool morning today, and I determined to get the new plants in the ground before the heat returns towards the weekend.  Well, once settling the tray near the bed, I made a second trip to bring up the bag of compost.  And before I could return, our butterflies had found the new little Lantana plants.  They were that eager!

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Lantana Chapel Hill Gold will grow to several feed across and 1'-2' high. It has proven winter hardy to zone 7A.

Lantana Chapel Hill Gold will grow to several feet across and 1′-2′ high. It has proven winter hardy to zone 7A.

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And they didn’t mind me a bit.  I suppose ‘the gardener’ has special privileges….  But they just kept right on feeding with me just a foot or two away.  We had mostly Tiger Swallowtails this morning.  There were five or six individuals, including an elusive Zebra Swallowtail which kept a safer distance away.  He watched us from afar as he fed from the nearby Black Eyed Susans.

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Once the Lantana and Penta were planted, a bit of weeding done and  beds dressed in fresh compost; I returned to watering.  I can’t remember when last it rained for more than a few minutes.  The garden is dry now, and my morning ritual goes straight to watering each day before I even think of making coffee.  Hours later, we come in as the mercury climbs to pull together a little brunch.

That said, the butterflies appreciate the water, too.  A lovely Zebra Swallowtail played in the fine spray yesterday morning.  Today a hummingbird showed up nearly as soon as began watering in the new plantings.

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This Lantana 'Chapel Hill Yellow' was planted in late April or early May. It loves our heat, remains drought tolerant, and weaves nicely with other plants. Behind and to the left are our Afghan Fig trees, enjoyed by the hummer this morning.

This Lantana ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’ was planted in late April or early May. It loves our heat, remains drought tolerant, and weaves nicely with other plants. Behind and to the left are our Afghan Fig trees, enjoyed by the hummer this morning.

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There is a mid-sized Afghan fig tree growing in the middle of the bed, and the hummingbird came, as soon as its leaves were wet, to drink from the water now gathered in the cup of the leaf.  The little one actually landed and sat in the leaf for a moment or two, before flying into the edge of the spray.  Well, that must have felt just grand.  He flitted back and forth, pausing now and again, until he was completely refreshed.

If your garden is as dry as mine, and you are looking for ways to help the wildlife there, water a few patches of bare ground until they are well soaked.  You may notice butterflies landing on damp earth and around puddles.  They can drink the water right out of the ground if they need moisture badly.  Birds will come to wet earth, too, finding it easier to dig for insects and worms.

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This is the first Lantana 'Evita' I've purchased. It may be a newly available series of cultivars, and I'm not sure quite what to expect. The butterflies loved it! I've left the tag so I'll know during clean up next spring which Lantana was planted here.

This is the first Lantana ‘Evita’ I’ve purchased. It may be a newly available series of cultivars, and I’m not sure quite what to expect. The butterflies loved it! I’ve left the tag so I’ll know during clean up next spring which Lantana was planted here.

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Gardening to support wildlife is all about creating a delicious attraction.  When we provide steady sources of food, water and  shelter in a safe, poison free environment; they will come.  Bees, birds, butterflies, turtles lizards and toads scout out those special places to live.  They can smell when a place is right.  They can see the seeds and flowers waiting for their feasting.

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This Verbena 'Lollipop' is another nectar plant new to us this season. I bought smalll plugs in late spring from the Heath's in Gloucester. These are perennial and may need a season or two to really show their full potential. But I love the color and see butterflies visit them. These make nice cut flowers, too.

This Verbena ‘Lollipop’ is another nectar plant new to us this season. I bought smalll plugs in late spring from the Heath’s in Gloucester. These are perennial and may need a season or two to really show their full potential. But I love the color and see butterflies visit them. These make nice cut flowers, too.

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Just plant those special plants, like Lantana, Penta, Salvias, Basil and other herbs, Rudbeckia, Verbena, Echinacea,  Hibiscus, Canna, Pelargonium, Petunia, Zingiger  and Fuchsia.  They will attract any butterfly or hummingbird for a long way around.  And then you, too, can enjoy the beauty of these special creatures fluttering through your garden.

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Most of the new Lantana went into this bed, full of bulbs and Iris. A scented Pelargonium makes lovely foliage but has not yet bloomed. The true perennial Geraniums we planted have struggled because they are continually nibbled down. Rabbits maybe?

Most of the new Lantana went into this bed, full of bulbs and Iris. A scented Pelargonium makes lovely foliage but has not yet bloomed. The true perennial Geraniums we planted have struggled because they are continually nibbled down. Rabbits maybe?  Today I added a few parsley plants with next year’s Swallowtail caterpillars in mind….

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Woodland Gnome 2016
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Lantana, ‘Sunny Side Up’

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I was given a pot of Lantana, ‘Sunny Side Up’ last week to trial in our garden by friend and horticulturalist Joel Patton, who owns our local Homestead Garden Center.  Joel knows that I love trying new plants.  Joel also knows that I especially love Lantana for its butterfly magnet blooms. We have steered several friends his way to find Lantana plants for their own gardens.

Joel told me this plant is a new introduction in the series of hardy, perennial Lantana developed by plantsman Mike Dirr of Plant Introductions, Inc.  Mike found the Lantana cultivar now known as ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’ growing in his daughter’s garden in Chapel Hill, NC in 2005, and took notice when it returned, covered in golden yellow blooms in 2006.  After finding L. ‘Chapel Hill Yellow,’ he has been working with hybrid crosses using the cold hardy L. ‘Miss Huff,’ maternal parent of ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’, to develop even more cold hardy Lantana hybrids.  It is a good story, especially for those of us interested in how new plants come to the trade.

Mike’s story is a good story, too.  You can read about his work to develop better ornamental plants at an abandoned hog farm, now converted to a nursery, in Watkinsville, Georgia.  His company  now offers seven new Lantana cultivars, all of which prove drought tolerant, cold hardy, and offer a superior number of blooms with attractive foliage.

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Newly planted Lantana, 'Sunny Side Up' near our new Crepe Myrtle, 'Delta Jazz.' It has been a busy weekend in the garden.

Newly planted Lantana, ‘Sunny Side Up’ near our new Crepe Myrtle, ‘Delta Jazz.’ It has been a busy weekend in the garden.

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I am excited to grow out this gift of L. ‘Sunny Side Up’ to see how it performs in our garden.  This is considered a ground cover Lantana, growing to only  about 18″ but forming a wide, 3′ clump each year.  After debating for a day whether to plant it in a large pot or in the ground, I opted to plant it in a new bed I constructed yesterday for some Iris starts.  As pretty as I know it would look in a pot, I wanted to give the Lantana the best possible chance to establish and survive our coming winter.

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We began this area in the spring with the additional of a new Magnolia shrub, surrounded with perennials. I've just extended the bed another 15' or so to accept some new Iris, perennials picked up at the Heath's nursery in Gloucester two weeks ago, and now the beautiful Lantana. The shrub in the middle is an Afghan fig transplanted a month ago for failure to thrive in its original spot. It likes the soil here better is now growing well.

We began this area in the spring with the addition of a new Magnolia shrub, surrounded with perennials. I’ve just extended the bed another 15′ or so to accept some new Iris, perennials picked up at the Heath’s nursery in Gloucester two weeks ago, and now the beautiful Lantana. The shrub in the middle is an Afghan fig transplanted a month ago for failure to thrive in its original spot. It likes the soil here better, and  now is growing well.

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We have had such great performance from most of the Lantana plants we’ve planted in this garden.  Although they don’t all return, those planted in the warmer, sunnier front garden have come back faithfully now over several growing seasons.

Deciduous, the leaves and flowers soon shrivel and drop after a hard frost.  We leave the woody plants in place over winter, waiting until early spring to prune back the old wood to less than a foot.  It may be that we could just leave last year’s structure to leaf out anew.  I may experiment with that this coming season.  The woody skeleton provides shelter for the birds all winter long as they play among the branches and search for those few remaining seeds.

The plants leaf out a little late; it is sometimes late April or early May before you can see the life still in the branches beginning to push out new leaves.  We have flowers by June and the plants grow prolifically on through frost.

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I stood by a single Lantana shrub earlier today which has already topped 6′ with another month or so left to grow.  It was covered in butterflies, with more coming and flying off continually as I took photos.  I don’t remember this one’s cultivar name, but I know it has returned faithfully each year since at least 2011.

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L. 'Sunny Side Up'

L. ‘Sunny Side Up’ has very deeply green leaves to set off it cream and yellow flowers.

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L. ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’ and L. ‘Sunny Side Up’ are only rated to Zone 7.  If you want to grow these beautiful plants as perennials further north give them a favorable micro-climate.  Plant them on the southern side of a wall or near slates, stones, or concrete paths; which will trap and reflect heat during the winter.

We appreciate that our Lantana have never been grazed by deer or affected by any insect pests or fungal disease.  In fact, we’ve planted a line of L. ‘Miss Huff’ at the front edge of our garden along the street.  They have survived several winters now, and are shoulder high this year.  We love watching the butterflies hovering around them as we come and go.

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'Miss Huff' Lantana growing along the street at the front of our garden in mid-August. 'Miss Huff' was one of the parents of 'Chapel Hill Yellow' and passsed on her cold hardiness to this new line of plants.

Miss Huff’ Lantana growing along the street at the front of our garden in mid-August. ‘Miss Huff’ was one of the parents of ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’ and passed on her cold hardiness to this new Lantana series.

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This plant addresses several needs of gardeners in our area, while also attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, and feeding birds from late summer through early spring with its abundant seeds.  It prefers full sun, though it will grow and flower with some partial shade.

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So please keep an eye out for Lantana as you shop your local garden center.

This is a very good plant to pot up now as you revive your planters for fall.  The rich reds, oranges, yellows and golds of its flowers combine well with fall color schemes.  It will flower non-stop until a hard frost, then continue to give your planter structure through the winter months.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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Our Lantana and rose bed last January after an ice storm.

Our Lantana and rose bed last January after an ice storm.  Even after a long harsh winter, nearly all of the Lantana plants survived to bloom this summer.

Gardening In A Place With Deer

 

Plant ferns with confidence, knowing they will not be eaten by hungry visitors to your garden.

Plant ferns with confidence, knowing they will not be eaten by hungry visitors to your garden.

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Gardening friends across the country share a common frustration with us: deer grazing the valuable ornamental and edible plants in our gardens. This challenge feels as though it is getting more difficult each year as deer populations increase. And its not just deer who show up to feed at the buffet of our well-tended gardens. Rabbits, voles, moles, squirrel and muskrats also destroy plants and steal produce form our gardens each season

Discovering the damage is always a bit of a shock, and always creates frustration. Two Oakleaf Hydrangea shrubs which escaped damage until now were stripped of their leaves sometime yesterday. We’ve had enough rain that spray repellents were washed away. The careful planting of distasteful plants around them was not enough to keep these hungry deer away.

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Hydrangea, 'Ruby Slippers'

Hydrangea, ‘Ruby Slippers’

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A neighbor suggests we plant things especially for the deer, to feed them. While this may sound like a good idea at first, the reality is the deer will eat those plants to the nub, and then continue on to the rest of the garden. The more food available, the more the herd will increase.

Some neighbors enjoy seeing the deer in their yards. They find them beautiful. I have no argument with that. However, the reality is that these gentle and graceful creatures not only decimate the vegetation, they also carry ticks. The ticks often carry Lyme’s Disease and other dangerous diseases, which create life-long illnesses in those who develop the disease.

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That is why my partner and I have spent the last six years, since we moved to this deer ridden tick infested forest garden, doing everything we can to eliminate the deer from around our home. Some tell us up front we are on a fool’s errand. And maybe they are right. But since I love to garden, the alternative is to simply sell and move on in hopes we won’t find deer in our next neighborhood.

But as man develops nature into more sprawling neighborhoods, the native animals learn to live among us. Their fear of us diminishes with their options.

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Native Hibiscus fill our garden this week. Deer never touch them, and they bloom for more than a month each summer.

Native Hibiscus fill our garden this week. Deer never touch them, and they bloom for more than a month each summer.

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I first wrote about gardening in spite of the deer two summers ago, in June of 2013. The techniques and plant list I offered then was based on three years of experimentation and conversation with other neighborhood gardeners; and extensive reading on the subject. After another two years of gardening, and watching deer continue to somehow slither in through the fences we’ve constructed to keep them out, I’m ready to revise the plant list and offer somewhat different advice.

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The bottom line is that there are a few plants the deer almost never touch. They will walk right past them without touch a single leaf. And these are the only species one may plant with total peace of mind. Planting other species the deer and other critters find tasty leads to loss. You may enjoy the plants at times, but will be faced with the damage done at others.

Now sometimes it is worth it. Many plants the deer graze will eventually grow to a height and breadth so that grazing may damage, but will not destroy the plant. Many of our roses have now grown to that stage.

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Yes, I love roses and have planted them despite the fact they are simply deer candy. I have lost many rose shrubs to the deer over the past few years. But a few have established and now flourish. I think the secret has been to chose large growing, hardy shrub roses. The smaller tea roses can rarely gain enough size to survive. The same can be said for Rhododendron, Azalea, Hydrangea, and other marginal shrubs.

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The Rhododendron I brought home in February has finally bloomed! Some may find these electric purple flowers highly strange.....

The Rhododendron I brought home in February finally bloomed!

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Another factor to consider is that newly planted nursery shrubs are already rich in Nitrogen from the grower. A high Nitrogen content makes the plant tastier; like salted French fries to our palate. Nitrogen, and other elements in fertilizer, are considered salts. If we can keep a plant alive, through whatever means, for the first two or three years; it not only grows larger, it also grows less appealing.

When considering how much extra fertilizer to spread around your shrubs and trees, if any, this is an important consideration.  Growing your garden on the lean side might offer additional protection from grazing.

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Camellia susanqua

Camellia susanqua

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We have observed that plants which grow extremely well in some of our gardens, such as Camellias and Hydrangea macrophylla, also called Mophead Hydrangea, get eaten in others.  My mature Camellia bushes are left alone, but I’ve had tremendous damage done to some, but not all, newly planted Camellia bushes.   Sometimes shrub species and perennials that nurserymen and landscape architects recommend as ‘deer resistant’ get eaten, anyway.

Experience is the best teacher. Somehow, deer rarely stick to the published lists of plants they are supposed to avoid.

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Camellia

Camellias begin to bloom here in October.

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Maybe I’ve grown cynical, but now I seek out poisonous plants for our garden. No, I’m not planting poison ivy as ground cover and Castor beans in the flower beds. Although Castor beans have lovely foliage and I plant them some years….

I’m not interested in plants poisonous to the touch. I’m interested in plants which deer and other animals will not graze because of the poisonous compounds in their leaves.

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Caladiums, ferns and Begonias remain my favorite plants for shade.

Caladiums, ferns and Begonias remain my favorite plants for shade.

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These animals are smart, and they know these things instinctively. Even if you lose a Caladium leaf here and there, it won’t happen very much.

The other general group of plants the deer leave alone are the strongly scented herbs. They do not like, and will not bother most herbs. And herbs offer beautiful foliage along with some flowers. Ferns, likewise, rarely suffer from grazing. A frond may disappear from time to time, but the plant remains.

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Bumblebee on Basil

Bumblebee on Basil

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 Rough textured and strongly scented foliage protects other sorts of plants, as well. I’ve never had a Pelargonium grazed. Whether you plant Zonal Geraniums in a flower pot, Ivy Geraniums in a hanging basket, or scented Geraniums in a pot or bed, you can plant with confidence. In fact, I’ve had some success with planting scented Geraniums, some of which will grow very large in a season, around roses and Hydrangea to protect them from grazing. Deer dislike scented plants that much.

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hardy Geranium makes a lovely, deer resistant ground cover all season.

Hardy Geranium makes a lovely, deer resistant ground cover all season.

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Native hardy Geraniums are nearly as safe a bet. If tasted, they won’t be eaten. These make a nice ground cover at the front of a bed and around shrubs.

Many native shrubs and trees remain immune to grazing. Maybe this is why the deer leave naturally overgrown areas to shimmy into our garden buffet. There is a benefit in learning to appreciate the aesthetic of native plants. These may not be first choice from an ornamental point of view, but they will survive.

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Native Mountain Laurel blooms here in May for several weeks. This small tree remains evergreen all year, with interesting bark and slender trunks.

Native Mountain Laurel blooms here in May for several weeks. This small tree remains evergreen all year, with interesting bark and slender trunks.

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It is very frustrating to realize there is absolutely nothing you can do, short of building an 8” high wire cage around your garden, to protect those fruits and vegetables you would like to grow for your own family. I’ve seen 10” high secured netting draped on heavy frames to protect tomato plants in my neighbors’ garden. Sure, the deer couldn’t get at the plants, but squirrels found their way in to steal the tomatoes. Ditto with potted tomatoes grown ‘out of reach’ on the deck.

Just remember, most animals haven’t a care in the world beyond finding food and staying alive. They have 24/7 to scheme a way in to your garden for dinner. So whether you want to plant blueberry bushes, apple trees, strawberries or a row of beans; it is likely it will be eaten before it ripens in a garden like ours.

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Re-blooming Iris, "Rock Star"

Re-blooming Iris, “Rock Star”

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That said, there are still many beautiful choices in trees, flowering shrubs, perennials, annuals, herbs and ferns from which to choose. Here is a freshly curated list for your consideration. We live in Zone 7b, in coastal Virginia. This list is peculiar to our climate, but many of these plants may grow well in your garden, too.

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Echinacea, or Purple Coneflower, is a favorite of nectar loving insects. A perennial, it is rarely touched by deer and grows more vigorous each year.

Echinacea, or Purple Coneflower, is a favorite of nectar loving insects. A perennial, it is rarely touched by deer and grows more vigorous each year.

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Key to symbols:

Butterfly Ginger lily with Black Eyed Susans

!  a native plant in our area

# attracts birds with berries, fruit, nuts, or seeds

*  a nectar producing plant which attracts butterflies and other pollinating insects

+ a nectar producing plant which attracts hummingbirds

$ poisonous

Flowering Trees and Shrubs

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Bamboo provides cover for nesting birds, shelter from the weather, and a steady supply of insects to eat. Deer never touch it.

Bamboo provides cover for nesting birds, shelter from the weather, and a steady supply of insects to eat. Deer never touch it.

# * + Althea, Rose of Sharon Hibiscus syriacus

Beauty berry grows like the native (weed?) it is. These self-seed around the garden, and never suffer from hungry deer. Our birds take great delight in the berries as they ripen.

Beauty berry grows like the native (weed?) it is. These self-seed around the garden, and never suffer from hungry deer. Our birds take great delight in the berries as they ripen.

# * + $ Angel’s Trumpet:  Brugmansia and Datura

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon

Bamboo (various species)

! #   Bayberry, or Wax Myrtle Myrica cerifera

! # * Beautyberry Bush Callicarpa americana

# *   Boxwood Buxus sempervirens

! # * + Butterfly Bush Buddleia (various species)

# * + Butterfly Tree or Glory Tree  Clerodendrum trichotomum

Butterfly tree

Butterfly tree

Camellia C. japonica and C. sasanqua

# * +Crepe Myrtle Lagerstroemia

! # * Dogwood Cornus florida

Edgeworthia

# * English Laurel Prunus laurocerasus

Crepe Myrtle begins to bloom in our garden, and will fill the garden with flowers until early September.

Crepe Myrtle begins to bloom in our garden, and will fill the garden with flowers until early September.

# Fig  Ficus carica

* Forsythia

! # * Fringe Tree Chionanthus virginicus

! * Hydrangea arborescens

# Japanese Maple Acer palmatum

# * + $ Ligustrum

* +Lilac Syringa vulgaris

# * Mahonia Mahonia aquifolium

! $ Mountain Laurel Kalmia latifolia (all parts of this plant are highly poisonous)

Lilac

Lilac

! # * Magnolia virginiana and other species

# *Heavenly Bamboo Nandina domestica (all parts of this plant are highly poisonous)

! * & Native Holly Ilex opaca

! # Oakleaf Hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia

# * + $ Oleander

# * Fire Thorn Pyracantha (various species)

Yucca filamentosa

Yucca filamentosa

! # * +Red Bud Cercis canadensis

# * $ Rhododendron

# * +  Silk Tree or Mimosa Albizia julibrissin

# * St. John’s Wort Hypericum

! # Southern Wax Myrtle  Myrica cerifera

! # + Red Buckeye Aesculus pavia

$ Yew

! #* Adam’s Needle Yucca filamentosa and other species

Perennials and Bulbs

! $ Wolfsbane, Monkshood Aconitum

$ Elephant’s Ear, African Mask Alocasia species

#*$ Italian Arum, Arum italicum

Echinacea

Echinacea

* $ Bleeding Heart  Dicentra cucullaria

! # * + Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberose and Asclepias incarnata

* + Canna Lily Canna

Our garden on the fourth of July:; a Salvia grows through Colocasia, punctuated with a dark leafed Canna.

Our garden on the fourth of July:; a Salvia grows through Colocasia, punctuated with a dark leafed Canna.

*  Centaurea ( various species)

# * + $ Columbine

* $ Elephant’s Ear Colocasia 

* $ Lily of the Valley  Convallaria majalis

! # * Coreopsis ( various species)

 * + Crocosmia ( various species) 

* $ Daffodil Narcissus ( various species)

! # * Daisy Asteraceae ( various species)

* $ Daphne

Butterfly bush with native Hibiscus

Butterfly bush with Canna and native Hibiscus

* + $ Larkspur Delphinium

# * Dianthus ( various species)

! # * Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea

* Euphorbia ( various species)

# * Fall Anemones A. hupehensis

Fern   (click for detailed information)

# * + Gaillardia ( various species)

Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on Lantana

Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on Lantana

* Geranium ( various species)

* + Ginger Lily Hedychium ( various species)

! * Goatsbeard Aruncus dioicus

* Goldenrod Solidago rugosa

Gingerlily

Gingerlily

* $ Lenten Rose Hellebore ( various species) (note, this plant is highly poisonous)

* $ Dutch Hyacinth Hyacinthus orientalis

 * #  Iris (Bearded, Dutch, Louisiana, Siberian, etc.)

# Ivy

! # * + Rose Mallow Hibiscus moscheutos

! * +Joe Pye Weed  Eutrochium ( various species)

Joe Pye Weed

Joe Pye Weed

# * Lambs Ears Stychys Byzantina

* + Mexican (Bush) Sage (Salvia leucantha) or Salvia Mexicana

* Muscari ( various species)

* Oxalis

* Pelargonium ( various species)

* Peony Paeonia ( various species)

* $ Plumeria

* + Red Hot Poker Kniphofia ( various species)

! # * Black Eyed Susans  Rudbeckia ( various species)

Oxalis triangularis grows in a pot outside as part of a small shade garden. Although leaves are grazed from time to time, the plant is happy here in the partial shade.

Oxalis triangularis grows in a pot outside as part of a small shade garden. Although leaves are grazed from time to time, the plant is happy here in the partial shade.

$ Sauromatum venosum, Voodoo Lily

*$ Calla Lily Zantedeschia species

Herbs

Rose scented Pelargonium.

Rose scented Pelargonium.

* $ Artemisia

# * Basil

#*Catmint

apple mint

apple mint

* Comfrey

* Curry

# * Dill

* Fennel

* Germander

* + Lavender

*Marjoram

* Mint

!# *+ Monarda

Salvia with Colocasia

Salvia with Colocasia

* Oregano

# * Parsley

* + Pineapple Sage Salvia elegans

Rosemary

* Sage Salvia species

Annuals and Biennials

Pineapple Sage reliably fills the garden with beauty at the end of the season. Here it is just coming into bloom as we greet October.

Pineapple Sage reliably fills the garden with beauty at the end of the season. Here it is just coming into bloom as we greet October.

* Angelonia

* $ Caladium

$ Castor Bean Ricinus communis (all parts of this plant are highly poisonous)

# *+Spider Flower Cleome hassleriana

* Dusty Miller Centaurea cineraria

# * +$ Foxglove Digitalis purpurea

# * + Lantana or Shrub Verbena Lantana camara

* + Mandevilla sanderi

* Mexican Heather Cuphea hyssopifolia

* New Guinea Impatiens Impatiens hawkeri

Rudbeckia laciniata

* + Pentas ( various species)

* Plectranthus ( various species)

* Purple Heart Tradescantia pallida

# * + Zinnia elegans

Vines

May apples with Vinca

May apples with Vinca and ivy

! * + Trumpet Creeper Campsis radicans

! * + Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens

# * $ Ivy

! # * + $ Passionflower Passiflora incarnata

*  Periwinkle Vinca major & V. minor

# * Star Jasmine Trachelospermum jasminoides

! # * + Virginia Creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia

To have confidence your garden won’t be grazed, choose plants known to be poisonous. 

Pick Your Poison:

Poisonous ornamental shrubs: 

Narcissus

Narcissus

Angel’s Trumpet:  Brugmansia and Datura

Daphne

European Holly Ilex aquifolium

Hellebores

Hellebores

Elder Sambucus

Ligustrum

Mountain Laurel Kalmia latifolia

Oleander

Rhododendron

Yew

Some species of Oak are poisonous

Poisonous Perennials and Bulbs

Artemesia

Wolfsbane, Monkshood AconitumApril 13, 2015 spring flowers 007

Columbine

Caladium

Daffodil

Bleeding Heart  Dicentra cucullaria

Elephant’s Ear Colocasia

Foxglove Digitalis

Columbine

Columbine

Hellebore

Hyacinth

Lily of the Valley  Convallaria majalis

Larkspur Delphinium

Plumeria

Sauromatum venosum, Voodoo Lily

Poisonous Annuals

Castor Bean Ricinus communis

Tomato leaves (though the deer have grazed my tomatoes)

Potato leaves

Voodoo lily and a division of Colocasia 'China Pink' grow in front of our Edgeworthia in part shade.

Voodoo lily and a division of Colocasia ‘China Pink’ grow in front of our Edgeworthia in part shade.

Poisonous Vines

Ivy Hedera

Poison Ivy

Poison Oak

Passion Flower Passiflora Caerulea (leaves)

 

Plants that will need extraordinary measures to protect in a forest garden include:  Azaleas, Hostas, daylilies, Oriental Lilies, Roses, impatiens, some sedums, Tomatoes, squashes, sweet potato vines, cucumbers, beans, and mophead Hydrangeas.

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All photos by Woodland Gnome

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June 22, 2015 foliage 012

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Related articles

 

“Indian Summer”

African Blue Basil and Comfrey still attract bumblebees in late September.

African Blue Basil and Comfrey still attract bumblebees in late September.

September is nearly gone.  We will greet October in only three more days.

Yet summer lingers in our garden.

Shorter days and cooler nights have brought color to our Dogwood trees.

Our Caladiums have passed their prime.  Cool nights send them into dormancy.

Our Caladiums have passed their prime. Cool nights send them into dormancy.

 

The Caladiums began to crumple and lose leaves three weeks ago.    But we forgive them.  They are tropicals, after all; and they hate temperatures below 50 F.

We know the cool nights, sometimes dipping into the 50’s lately, have sent a strong signal that it is time for a rest.

It is nearly time to dig them and bring them in for winter.

 

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But most of our herbs and flowers looks as lovely as they did in May, June, and July.

Here, near the coast, we have something like a  “second spring” in September and October.  And I grew up calling it, “Indian Summer.”

Although nights may be cool, we still enjoy sunny days of 70 and 80 degrees.  Last week’s rain signaled an opportunity for new growth through most of the garden.

September 27, 2014 garden 001

The color palette may have shifted towards richer, deeper tones  now that the Black Eyed Susans have opened.

And our Pineapple Sage opened its first scarlet flowers this week.  Perhaps I’ll remember to take some photos of them tomorrow.

I gathered figs today, and pears.  There is pear butter cooking in the crock-pot this evening, filling the house with the rich aroma of cinnamon and cloves, brown sugar and stewing fruit.

 

September 25 iris 003

But the Basil still blooms, perfuming the garden with its spicy sweetness.

Some of our Lantana now bloom over my head,and I’m rather tall for a Woodland Gnome.

"Miss Huff" Lantana, now in its third summer, blooms at "head height" now.  It will continue to bloom until a hard freeze kills the leaves.

“Miss Huff” Lantana,  in its third summer, blooms at “head height” now. It will continue to bloom until a hard freeze kills the leaves.

The Cannas still open their crimson flowers  each day, and the Elephant Ears grow larger than toilet seats.

That may not be an elegant way to describe them, but I bet you know exactly how large they’ve grown!

Colocasia, "Blue Hawaii" is supposed to be hardy here in Zone 7b.  I'mn debating whether to pot up a division to keep inside as insurance...

Colocasia, “Blue Hawaii” is supposed to be hardy here in Zone 7b. I’m debating whether to pot up a division to keep inside as insurance…  This one spent the winter in the garage.

Geraniums still offer up  fresh fuchsia, cream  and pink blossoms in their pots.  They love these cooler days and nights.  Almost embarrassingly bright now, they soldier on as though summer will last forever.

Those who spent winter in our garage are most determined to keep the blooms coming, savoring each new day out of doors.

A particularly nice cultivar of ornamental sage, this has bloomed in the garden since I planted it from a 6 pack in April.

A particularly nice cultivar of ornamental sage, this has bloomed in the garden since I planted it from a six pack in April.

 

And of course, our Begonias have covered themselves in tiny pink blossoms; hundreds of them on every stem.

Their new foliage has grown in, replacing the pale winter leaves with which they greeted May.  I”m a little sad now, realizing they have grow so much there isn’t room for them all to come in next month.

All of those little cuttings I stuck into pots with such optimism are now full fledged plants.

These blooming adults need new homes of their own if they are to survive.  I am hoping to find some willing adoptive parents among my gardening friends.

Although this photo was taken a month ago, Begonia "Flamingo" remains covered in flowers.

Although this photo was taken a month ago, Begonia “Flamingo” remains covered in flowers.

I sent home a little division of a favorite Begonia, tucked into a clam shell as there was not pot at hand, yesterday evening with a beloved friend.  We are sisters at heart, although she grew up half a world away, speaking different languages and eating different foods.  Somehow our paths brought both of us to this community at about the same time.  And now she fosters Begonias for me over the winter in her bright, sunny home.

Colocasia, "Black Magic"

Colocasia, “Black Magic” is supposed to be hardy here, and should survive winter with a little mulch over its crown.

 

And yes, it is time to begin the move back indoors for those tender plants who won’t make it through the  first hard freeze.  Another friend and I were chatting today, as I visited her garden for the first time.

We agree the coming winter will be as cold and harsh as winter 2013.   She is waiting to buy perennials for her newly made border, knowing in her bones they don’t have time to establish before the weather shifts.

Flowers have grown into seeds on this butterfly tree.

Flowers have grown into seeds on this butterfly tree.

 

This “Indian Summer” may be tantalizingly sweet, but it will be brief.  Gardening friends to the north already feel the change that is coming.

And so I’ll begin to close the garden down next week.  I’ve already been walking around and making plans; assessing what will be hardy and what is not.  My windowsills are full of cuttings.   I’m gathering seeds; pulling up spent annuals.

 

September 27, 2014 garden 003

But it’s not quite time to bring all the pots back inside, yet.  It is still September, and the sun shines bright and golden on the garden this weekend.

Bearded Iris have come back into bloom and there are new buds on the roses.  Bumble bees still hum around the herbs.

 

September 27, 2014 garden 005

New leaves are opening on the figs, and early mornings feel like spring.

I hope summer still lingers in your garden.   

I hope a few vegetables are still ripening on your vines, and flowers are still blooming in your beds.

 

Pyracantha berries have begun to ripen.

Pyracantha berries have begun to ripen near the street.

 

As the trees turn up the volume of color a little more each day, there is no mistaking the crisp scent of change  in the air.

But let summer linger just a little longer, before it fades back into memory.

 

September 27, 2014 garden 002

Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

The Herd

DSC_0290

Our neighbor took these photos of “The Herd,” which hangs around our bit of the neighborhood.

Many of our neighbors enjoy sighting the deer.  Some even feed them.

Our wooded neighborhood hosts several family groups who wander the ravines and gather around the ponds.

DSC_0284

Although the deer are beautiful creatures, they are extremely destructive to our gardens.

And worse, deer roaming through the area bring deer ticks, which harbor Lyme’s disease.

Our neighbor took these photos near our homes, in mid-morning.  Not a bit shy, this group was happy to rest in full view in the middle of the day.

DSC_0291

Other neighborhood friends describe deer who regularly rest in their yards during the day, like a pet dog might.

DSC_0288

We began the conversation, which resulted in the gift of these photos, when my neighbor called to ask what is growing in our new pot on the driveway.

It seems this group was grazing their way down the street, but completely by-passed our new planting.

DSC_0289

Watching the deer leave our  pot  untouched,  our neighbor wanted to know what flowers are so  immune to grazing.  And the answer is, zonal geraniums.

The odor of geraniums is distasteful to deer.  I suspect they don’t care for the thickness and texture of geranium leaves, either.

Zonal geraniums are distasteful to deer both for their odor and the texture of their leaves.  They protect the Coleus, Begonia, and ivy in this pot.  The Caladiums are poisonous.

Zonal geraniums are distasteful to deer both for their odor and the texture of their leaves. They protect the Coleus, Begonia, and ivy in this pot. The Caladiums are poisonous. The Lamium vine  is also distasteful to deer and has not been grazed in other locations in our garden.  It has a purple or blue flower earlier in the spring.

Other plants in this group, like the Coleus, have been grazed other years.  I suspect the geraniums deter interest in the entire pot.

Deer nibble our coleus from time to time, depending on where they find it.  Petunias, in the rear, are distasteful and rarely bothered.

Deer nibble our Coleus from time to time, depending on where they find it. Petunias, in the rear, are distasteful and rarely bothered.

We are growing five different varieties of zonal geraniums this year, in addition to ivy geraniums, and several varieties of scented geraniums (Pelargoniums).

Not only are they left untouched, the deer pass the other plants in pots where they grow.

Ivy geraniums (white flowers) and a rose scented Pelargonium share this pot with Eucalyptus.  Artemisia grows behind the pot.  All are scented and distasteful to deer.

Ivy geraniums (white flowers) and a rose scented Pelargonium share this pot with Eucalyptus. Artemesia grows behind the pot. All are scented and distasteful to deer.

If you live where deer graze frequently, you can still grow beautiful flowers. 

The trick is to know what the deer will leave alone, and only invest in plants which will have a chance to grow.

This Lantana is blooming for its third season here.  It survived our winter.  Here, Lantana, "Miss Huff" which is hardy to Zone 7.

This Lantana is blooming for its third season here on the street. It survived our winter. This is  Lantana, “Miss Huff” which is hardy to Zone 7.

“Deer Resistant” has lost its meaning for me.  I’ve purchased too many “deer resistant” plants which were grazed within the first week.

This same sage, sold in 4 packs this spring, also comes with white flowers.

Our Catnip, with white flowers.

I prefer “poisonous” plants, like Daffodils, Caladiums, and Hellebores; but will settle for “totally distasteful” plants like Geraniums and most herbs.

A perennial sage grows here with Dusty Miller.  Both have gone untouched for several years in our garden.

A perennial sage grows here with Dusty Miller. Both have lived untouched for several years in our garden.

For more information on “deer proofing” your garden, please look back at some of my previous posts:

Deer Resistant Plants for Our Area- Revised Annotated list

Living With A Herd of Deer

Pick Your Poison

Tick Season Is Here

Scented Geraniums

 

June 19 garden 012

If you just want to bring home something pretty which will survive on your deck or porch through the season, make sure to include some geraniums and herbs in your pot.

I hope your herd of deer will walk right past it, on the way to someone else’s garden.

Deer photos by Denis Orton 2014

Plant photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Situated in full sun at the street, this newest, unprotected pot must tolerate heat, drought, and stand up to our herd of deer.

Situated in full sun at the street, this newest, unprotected pot must tolerate heat, drought, and stand up to our herd of deer.

 

Southern Wax Myrtle

Southern Wax Myrtle along the front edge of our garden.

Southern Wax Myrtle along the front edge of our garden.

Southern Wax Myrtle, Myrica cerifera, makes a beautiful loose hedge across the front of our garden.  A tough, fast growing evergreen, this shrub is covered in beautiful, dusty blue berries in autumn.  The late spring flowers are tiny and white, almost unnoticeable, but the fall berries clothe the stems in soft blue.

Myrica cerifera produces beautiful blue berries along its branches each autumn.

Myrica cerifera produces beautiful blue berries along its branches each autumn.

Growing to 15′ tall and wide, it offers privacy and attracts many species of birds, offering shelter and safe areas to perch.  The berries, produced only on female plants, offer migrating birds an important source of food.

Growing from New Jersey south to Florida along the East Coast, and then west along the Gulf into Texas, Southern Wax Myrtle is hardy in zones 6-9.  Closely related to Northern Bayberry, Myrica pensylvanica which grows in Zones 3-7;  it is also fragrant, and its berries can also be boiled to render a waxy substance for use in candle making.   Both shrubs can take salt spray and thrive near the coast.  Southern Wax Myrtle grows considerably taller than the Northern Bayberry, and retains its leaves.  Northern Bayberry loses many of its leaves during the winter.  Both enjoy part shade to full sun.

October 17 2013 monarch bf 008Native Americans and the early settlers used Myraca to treat a number of conditions from diarrhea to fever.  Compounds in both the roots and leaves can be used in herbal medicine.

Unattractive to deer, this is a reliable grower in the edges of a forest garden.  It tolerates a variety of soils from sand to clay, and will grow in areas with low soil fertility.  It is one of the first shrubs to colonize a newly cleared area.  Its roots fix more nitrogen in the soil than many legumes, and so it actually improves the soil where it grows.   it is a thirsty shrub and is happy growing near water, but can tolerate periods of drought.  Southern Wax Myrtle will spread by underground roots which sucker, which makes it even more effective as a screening plant or hedge.December 15, Christmas mantel 004

Finally, this is a good plant to cut for holiday decorations.  Although many of the berries may already be eaten by mid-December, branches will last many weeks in a vase with water.  Its evergreen leaves will remain fresh looking into the new year.  Because of its loose, branchy habit, I like to use it with small glass birds clipped onto the branches.  It makes a good filler for flower arrangements, and the the shrub responds well to pruning with new growth in spring.

This tough, beautiful, native shrub is an excellent choice for anyone hoping to attract more birds to their garden.

Southern Wax Myrtle in August.

Southern Wax Myrtle in August.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome

Southern Wax Myrtle grows as a large shrub or small tree, and grows thickly enough to make a good screen.

Southern Wax Myrtle grows as a large shrub or small tree, and grows thickly enough to make a good screen.

Bringing Birds To the Garden

July 11 2013 garden 011~

Do you feed the birds?  Most of us gardeners do.  Unless you are protecting a crop of blueberries or blackberries, you probably enjoy the energy and joy birds bring to the garden with their antics and songs.

Birds also vacuum up thousands of flying, crawling, and burrowing insects.  Even hummingbirds eat an enormous number of insects as they fly around from blossom to blossom seeking sweet nectar.  Birds are an important part of a balanced garden community.

We have everything from owls and red tailed hawks to hummingbirds visiting our garden, and we enjoy the occasional brood of chicks raised in shrubs near the house. There is an extended family of red “guard-inals” who keep a vigilant watch on our coming and goings and all of the activities of the garden.  There are tufted titmice who pull apart the coco liners in our hanging baskets to build their nests.

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Mistletoe, growing in many trees, produces winter berries enjoyed by many birds. But it also offers sheltered areas for nesting, collects water when it rains and attracts a variety of insects.

Mistletoe, growing in many hard wood trees, produces winter berries enjoyed by many birds. But it also offers sheltered areas for nesting, collects water when it rains and attracts a variety of insects.

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A forest garden welcomes many types of birds.  During the frozen months especially, a lawn full of robins proves endlessly entertaining.  The bright yellow flash of goldfinches brightens the dullest winter day.  Some birds make our garden their year round home, others come and go with the seasons.

There was a time when I kept feeders stocked with seed during much of the year.  I felt a sense of obligation, almost, to provide for the back yard flock.  What a mess!

As much as I love watching the endless parade of birds and food tray drama, There was always the pile of empty sunflower husks and spilled millet seed, and the rodents it attracts.  Our first winter or two in this particular garden I put out pounds and pounds of food in the deep winter.  Many times we watched as huge flocks of grackles swooped down, and  emptied our feeders  in less than half a day.

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Snow~

Well, grackles weren’t what we had hoped to attract.  We were looking for the cute and colorful birds who eat a little at a time, and chirp their appreciation on the shrubs by the windows.

That brought some rather brutal soul searching about the true nature of generosity.  Did it really matter whether one type of bird or another ate the seeds I freely offered?  Did it matter how many came at once, or whether the life-giving seeds were consumed by bird or squirrel?  Or a raccoon at night?

It did matter.  I mattered to me, and to those who share the garden, the birds, and the bill for the bird feeder with me.

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bird feeder

A sack of Niger seed and a tube of seed  hang in a Hazelnut shrub to attract finches, cardinals, and other small colorful birds. Squirrels soon learned to tear into both feeders to liberate the seed for themselves.

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So, I tried a different approach;  I targeted my offerings to those birds I most wanted to attract.  We bought skinny stockings full of Niger seed.  Niger seed attracts goldfinches, purple finches, tufted titmice, and cardinals.

After the first frost or two, when the garden was largely empty of other food, we hung the Niger seed feeders in a shrubby Hazel near the living room window where we would see them easily.

This worked beautifully, until the very hungry and very determined squirrels learned to tear holes in the feeder bags and gobble up the seed like it was Chicklets gum.  After a year or so of making repairs and frequent re-filling,  I finally realized the birds were living in the garden whether my little offering of purchased seed was there, or not.

Maybe we don’t need to keep buying better feeders, bigger baffles, more seed, and all sorts of other gizmos to invite birds into our garden.  In fact, biologists tell us that birds need insects in their diets much more than they need seeds and the other treats we like to offer.

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the ravine in fall

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Bringing birds to the garden, and keeping them as residents, simply requires providing for their needs.

Birds chiefly need shelter, safe perches, varied food sources, and water to choose a garden as their home.  They also like their privacy.  A feeder rig out in a lawn, without shrubbery and trees nearby, actually makes the  birds vulnerable to all sorts of predators and competitors while they eat.

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Trees

A Magnolia tree, a gift from my neighbor’s garden, will offer abundant food and shelter to birds in years to come. Planted here near a Red Cedar and a Mimosa.

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Begin by considering which birds you most want to attract, learn their preferences, and then provide those things in the garden.

For example, large predatory birds, like hawks and owls, like to perch in the branches of large trees, well off the ground.  They prefer to eat small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.  By leaving areas of old forest with tall trees intact, and wild areas where the small animals they hunt can live, we have families of these beautiful birds living around us.  We hear the hawks calling to one another by day, and the owls by night.

Cardinals, robins, and grosbeaks come for the many berries provided by our shrubs; and goldfinches appear in late summer to feed on ripening seeds of Basil, Echinacea, and Rudbeckia.

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Pokeweed

American Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, is a shrubby herbaceous perennial which grows to 8′ in our garden.  Birds love its nutritious berries, which ripen over several months.

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A forest garden is built in layers.  There are the tall pines and hardwoods, the shorter under story trees, various shrubs, annual and perennial herbaceous plants, grasses and finally ground covers.  Each of these layers has something to offer to wildlife, whether food, shelter, nesting areas, perches or playgrounds.

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Barmboo, technically a grass, not a tree, attracts huge numbers of birds to live in the shelter it provides.

Bamboo, technically a grass, not a tree, attracts huge numbers of birds to live in the shelter it provides. American Beautyberry shrubs grow nearby.

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The trick then, to attracting birds to the garden, is simply to cultivate plants which not only meet the needs of the gardener, but also meet the needs of the gardener’s favorite avian companions.

To bring colorful finches up close, leave some flowers to go to seed, and they will swoop in for the feast.  Expect  Dogwood trees to fill with a variety of birds in the autumn when their berries ripen, and the Pyracantha will lure cardinals and grosbeaks a few weeks later when their berries are ready for harvest.

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Eastern Redbud produces abundant, nutritious seeds. They may be eaten while still green like peas, or left to feed birds and other wildlife as they ripen.

Eastern Redbud produces abundant, nutritious seeds. Their pods may be eaten while still green like peas, or left to feed birds and other wildlife as they ripen.

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Beginning with whatever trees or shrubs already grow in your garden, plant additional useful varieties, keeping an eye to what is best suited to your climate.  Plan mixed borders where  species of different heights, textures, colors and forms blend together.

Just as most people are happiest among friends and family, most trees and shrubs enjoy growing in community with others.  This is how they grow in natural areas.

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Provide shelter, water, food, and nesting areas and birds will make your garden their home.

Provide shelter, water, food, and nesting areas and many different birds will make your garden their home.

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Avian visitors actually help spread seeds of the fruits and berries they love from one garden to another.   Over time, seedlings  pop up in odd spots, and you can encourage the ones you want, and remove the rest.   The more different species your garden offers, the more interest it will hold for you, and the birds you welcome to your garden.

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Flowers have grown into seeds on this butterfly tree.

Butterfly tree, Clerodendrum trichotomum, attracts many butterflies when in bloom, but feeds the birds as its berries ripen.  This small tree has naturalized in our neighborhood.

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Here is a list of trees, and a few shrubs, native or naturalized in Eastern Virginia (Zone 7B), which attract multiple species of birds.  Although those shrubs and  trees listed below are either native, or naturalized, in Eastern Virginia;  most grow throughout much of North America. They are specifically chosen for this list because they attract birds to the garden.

They all provide food in one form or another, in addition to the myriad insects crawling and buzzing around them.  But trees and shrubs offer so much more than just food.  They provide shade, privacy, perches and nesting spots.  They allow birds to move about the garden safely in short swoops from one to the next.

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Dogwood berries feed many species of song birds.

Dogwood berries feed many species of song birds.

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The Devil’s Walking Stick, Aralia spinosa Deciduous native shrub with a very thorny trunk, crowns itself with a huge spray of flowers each summer, quickly followed by inky purple berries. 

This plant spreads with runners and readily self-seeds.  It grows along the edges of roads where it leans in to the sun.  It is striking when in bloom in berry, but grows best in low-traffic areas where the gardener won’t get caught on its thorns!  Long compound leaves give this tree a tropical appearance.

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"The Devil's Walking Stick" berries ripen at the end of summer.

“The Devil’s Walking Stick” berries ripen at the end of summer.

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Beautyberry Callicarpa americana Deciduous ornamental shrub to around 8′ which blooms through the summer months, with small berries quickly following each blossom.  The berries turn an unusual shade of violet as they ripen.  Native to the Southeastern United states, it forms clumps and thickets and easily spreads from dropped seeds.

Beautyberry attracts nectar loving insects all summer.  Birds enjoy this shrub for its ready food supply and dense growth, which gives them cover.  Berries persist for many weeds, even after the leaves fall after frost.  This shrub responds well to hard pruning in late winter.

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Beauty berry grows like the native (weed?) it is. These self-seed around the garden, and never suffer from hungry deer. Our birds take great delight in the berries as they ripen.

Beauty berry grows like the native (weed?) it is. These self-seed around the garden, and never suffer from hungry deer. Our birds take great delight in the berries as they ripen.

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Butterfly Tree Clerodendrum trichotomum Deciduous ornamental shrub to 30’ which blooms with clusters of white flowers July-September and forms bright seeds well into the autumn.  Native to Asia, naturalized in our area.

Butterfly tree attracts butterflies and other nectar loving insects.  Many birds are attracted to Butterfly tree for the dense shade and shelter provided by its huge, heart shaped leaves, the insects it attracts, and its berries in autumn.

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Butterfly Tree

Butterfly Tree

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Red Buckeye, Firecracker Plant Aesculus pavia Dedicous ornamental shrub or tree to 30’ which produces clusters of red flowers in spring important as a food source for hummingbirds and bees, and seeds in the fall.

Red Buckeye attracts hummingbirds and nectar loving insects when in bloom.  Many species of birds are attracted to feed on the insects, nest, find shelter under its large leaves, and eat its seeds.

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Ligustrum

Ligustrum produces abundant dark purple berries, which feed birds through the coldest months of winter and into early spring.

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 Birch Betula species Deciduous, beautiful bark, grows to 80’ depending on variety

Birch attracts many different birds who nest, eat its seeds and buds, or eat insects in its foliage or bark.  Incl. dark eyed juncos, blue jays, pine siskins, titmice, chickadees, cedar waxwings, goldfinches, purple finches, towhees, bobwhites, wood ducks, orioles, vireos, warblers, grouse.

Catalpa Catalpa speciosa, deciduous ornamental tree to 100’ or more with very showy spring flowers important as a food source for hummingbirds and bees.

Catalpa provides secure nesting and roosting sites for many birds, shade and shelter under its large leaves, nectar in spring for hummingbirds, and a huge variety of insects for other birds throughout the season.  In fall its seeds are produced in long “cigar like” pods which are an important source of food for many species of birds and other wildlife. 

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Birds enjoy the Euonymus berries, and we enjoy its scarlet leaves.

Many different birds enjoy these Euonymus berries, and we enjoy its scarlet leaves.  This shrub earns its name, ‘Burning Bush’ when it turns bright scarlet each autumn.

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Burning Bush Euonymus americanus, Euonymus alatus Deciduous ornamental shrub which turns scarlet in early autumn before dropping its leaves to reveal highly textured bark and scarlet red berries. It may grow wider than it is tall, and the native species can top out around 20′.  Dwarf varieties are widely available.

This shrub, whether the native species or a hybrid, feeds and shelters wildlife while remaining highly prized by gardeners  for its stunning fall foliage.

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White Crepe Myrtle tree is a popular spot for birds to rest, and provides seeds all winter.

White Crepe Myrtle tree is a popular spot for birds to rest, and provides seeds all winter.

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Crepe Myrtle Lagerstroemia indica Deciduous ornamental tree or shrub to 30’ but most smaller, cultivated for its bright flowers in shades of red, pink, lavender, and white which last approximately 100 days from July through September.  Crepe Myrtle was brought to North America from Asia in 1790, and has been widely grown ever since.

Crepe Myrtle flowers attract hummingbirds, as well as insects which hummingbirds and other birds eat.  Many different birds eat the seeds which remain available all winter. Birds use Crepe Myrtles for shelter and nesting.

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Catalpa, or Monkey Cigar tree, on the Palace Green at Colonial Williamsburg. The lawn is lined with Catalpa trees of various ages, and they are absolutely stunning when in bloom.

Catalpa, or Monkey Cigar tree, on the Palace Green at Colonial Williamsburg. The lawn is lined with Catalpa trees of various ages, and they are absolutely stunning when in bloom.

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Eastern Cottonwood Populus deltoids Deciduous landscape tree to 100’ or more

Cottonwood attracts birds who nest, find shelter, eat its seeds, and eat the insects in its bark Incl. goldfinches, grosbeaks, grouse, and great blue herons

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Holly

Holly provides high-value nesting sites for many birds, including our cardinals who remain in the garden through the winter.

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Crab Apple Malus species Deciduous ornamental tree or shrub with spring blossoms, colorful fruit, and fall color to 30’

Crab Apple provides secure nesting and roosting sites for many birds, nectar in spring for a variety of insects, including bees, and fruit for many species of birds. Incl. cedar waxwing, robin, mockingbird, finches, bobwhite, woodpecker, flicker, grosbeak

Dogwood Cornus florida Deciduous ornamental spring blooming tree with colorful fall foliage and berries to 40’

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Dogwoods, scarlet in November, frame a view of the ravine.

Dogwoods, scarlet in November, frame a view of the ravine.

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Dogwood attracts many different types of birds who nest, eat its berries, or eat insects from the bark. 98 different species of birds eat Dogwood berries incl. flickers, tanagers, woodpeckers, catbird, thrashers, bluebirds, cardinals,

 Hawthorn Crataegus crus-galli A deciduous ornamental spreading tree with spines which produces beautiful berries. Grows to 30’

Hawthorn attracts over 39 different types of birds who nest, eat its fruit, or eat insects from its foliage.  Incl. robin, purple finch, several different grosbeaks, cedar waxwing, blue jay, mockingbird, chickadees, warblers, cardinals, and hummingbirds.

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Perennial Lantana, 'Miss Huff'

Perennial Lantana, ‘Miss Huff’

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Lantana camara  Lantana may be sold as an annual in our area, but often survives winter and grow into a 6’+ tall perennial shrub.  Its summer blooms feed pollinators, but tiny green berries follow each flower to the delight of a wide variety of birds.

Frost kills its flowers and leaves, but the berries last for many months on Lantana’s woody branches.  Small birds take shelter in these branches through the winter. Certain cultivars, like L. ‘Miss Huff’ and related varieties, have proven hardy through our Zone 7 winters.  Cut this plant back in late winter, and it will leaf out and begin its new season of growth by May.

 Ligustrum japonicum An evergreen shrub or small tree which covers itself with white flowers each spring, and produces abundant purple berries each autumn.  This tough shrub forms a good windbreak.  It self-seeds easily to the point it is considered invasive in some areas.

Ligustrum provides secure shelter nesting and a steady supply of food for many species of song birds.  It is strong enough to support vines such as honeysuckle, grape and Virginia creeper, which also produce berries. 

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American Holly trees come male and female. Both are required for the female to produce red berries. This seedling is only a few years old.

American Holly trees come male and female. Both are required for the female to produce red berries. This seedling, one of many volunteers in our garden,  is only a few years old.

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Maple Acer rubrum or A. saccharum Deciduous landscape tree, grows to 70’

Maple attracts many different types of birds who nest, eat its seeds, or eat insects from the bark. Incl: grosbeaks, finches, pine siskins, cardinals, nuthatches, bobwhites, orioles, wrens, warblers, chickadees Excellent shade tree.

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Maple

Maple

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 Mulberry Morus Rubra Deciduous ornamental tree which produces edible berries to 60’

Leaves are valuable food for caterpillars, including silk worm caterpillars.  Fruits are delicious in pies and over ice cream.  Mulberry attracts many different birds who nest, 59 species who eat its berries and others who eat insects on its bark.  Incl. bluebird, cedar waxwing, orioles, cardinal, blue jay, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, yellow billed cuckoo, kingbird, warblers, robin, titmouse, and mockingbird

Holly Ilex opaca and other species  Evergreen, grows to 50’, covered in red berries in winter.

Holly provides shelter during bad weather and protected nesting sites for many birds.  Over 49 species enjoy its fruits.  Incl. cardinal, mockingbird, catbird, brown thrasher, bluebirds, cedar waxwing, and robin

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Live Oak

Live Oak on the banks of the York River.  This Southeastern native tree grows to huge proportions and remains evergreen, producing abundant acorns.

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 Oak Quercus species Decidous or evergreen landscape trees to 100’ or more depending on species

Oak is one of the most important wildlife and landscape trees.  It attracts birds who nest, find shelter, eat its acorns, and eat insects in its bark and foliage Incl. woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, cardinals, flickers, grouse, blue jays, meadowlarks, nuthatches, doves, thrushes, ducks, bobwhites, quail, grosbeaks, and scarlet tanagers

 Oregon Grape Holly Mahonia aquifolium Ornamental evergreen shrub to 5’

Mahonia offers flowers for nectar loving insects and hummingbirds and dark purple clusters of berries. Its dense cover, when established, offers shelter from the weather and protected nesting areas.  Mahonia has naturalized in central and eastern Virginia.

Pine Pinus strobus Evergreen tree to 100’ or more which produces seeds in large cones.

Pine attracts birds to nest, roost, eat its seeds, and even eat its needles.  Birds also eat the many insects attracted to pine trees.  Pine is one of the most important trees for wildlife.  Species attracted Incl. woodpeckers, chickadees, grosbeaks, nuthatches, jays, dark eyed juncos, pine siskins, meadowlarks, woodpeckers, thrashers, warblers, grouse, robins, doves, cardinals, and finches.

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Mahonia blooming in January. Each golden flower grows into a deep purple, edible berry. Evergreen leaves sometimes turn yellow or red in the cold.

Mahonia blooming in January. Each golden flower grows into a deep purple, edible berry. Evergreen leaves sometimes turn yellow or red in the cold.

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 Prunus various species including plums and cherries Deciduous ornamental trees to 30’ grown for beautiful flowers in spring and edible fruit in summer

Cherries and plums attract 84 species of birds to nest, eat insects, and eat their fruits Incl. grosbeaks, cedar waxwing, finches, blackbirds, jays, orioles, robins, bluebirds, woodpeckers, catbirds, sparrows, mockingbirds, cardinals, and  thrushes.

Pyracantha various species and hybrids (Firethorn) Thorn covered evergreen shrub to 20’ native to Europe and Asia, and now naturalized across large areas of the US grown for its white spring flowers and abundant red or orange berries in autumn.

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Pyracantha berries

Pyracantha berries turn bright orange in October.

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Pyracantha shrubs attract many species of birds to nest, roost, eat its berries in early winter and eat the insects living in and around it year round.  It is an important source of nectar for bees and other nectar loving insects in spring Incl. bluebird, cedar waxwing, orioles, cardinal, blue jay, grosbeaks, warblers, robin, titmouse, and mockingbird

 Red Cedar Juniperus virginiana Evergreen tree to 50’ with aromatic leaves and blue berries.  Foliage is good for holiday decorations and its aromatic wood for storing clothing.

Cedar provides shelter during bad weather, protected nesting and roosting sites for many birds, and over 54 species eat its fruit. Incl. cedar waxwing, purple finch, robin, evening grosbeak, warblers, flickers, mockingbird, bluebird, bobwhite, swallows, eastern kingbirds, jays, and cardinals.

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Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon

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Rose of Sharon Hibiscus syriacus, Deciduous ornamental shrub or tree growing to 12’ with large flowers which attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and nectar loving insects

Rose of Sharon provides nectar for hummingbirds and attracts insects eaten by many species of birds.  Capsules of seeds  feed many species of birds all winter.   More information on Hibiscus here

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Sumac

Sumac

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 Sumac Rhus species Deciduous shrub or tree to 30’ with brilliant fall foliage and abundant berries. 

Sumac trees are an important winter food source for nearly a hundred species of birds.

 American Sycamore Platanus occidentalis Deciduous landscape tree to over 100’ with excellent fall color

American Sycamore provides shelter during bad weather, protected nesting and roosting sites, and seeds and insects for many bird species

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Trees

Tree on the far right is the beautiful Tulip Poplar, a very important tree for wildlife. Bees need it as an early, reliable source for nectar.  Dogwood grows to the left, with Ligustrum taking center stage in this mixed woody border.

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Tulip Poplar Liriodendron tulipifera Deciduous landscape tree to well over 100’ tall.  Its spring blossoms are an important source of nectar for bees.  This is an especially beautiful tree with interest year round.

Tulip Poplar provides shelter during bad weather, protected nesting and roosting sites for many birds, and many species eat its seeds and the insects living in it.  Hummingbirds use it as a nectar source in spring.

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Evergreen Wax Myrtle provides dense cover as well as fall berries loved by many species of birds.

Evergreen Wax Myrtle provides dense cover as well as fall berries loved by many species of birds.

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Wax Myrtle Myrica cerifera and M. pensylvanica Evergreen shrub to 40’ with small blue berries covered in wax.  Small flowers in spring attract nectar loving insects.

Wax Myrtle berries are eaten by 86 species of birds Incl. robins, tufted titmouse, finches, chickadee, bluebirds, bobwhite, swallow, woodpeckers, cardinals, and finches

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Woody perennial vines

 Virginia Creeper

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All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013-2016

For more detailed information, especially on the habits of many much loved “backyard birds”, see Birdscaping Your Garden: A Practical Guide to Backyard Birds and the Plants That Attract Them by George Adams,  Rodale Press 1994

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American Holly

American Holly growing among mature pines

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Deer Resistant Plants Which Grow Well In Our Neighborhood- Revised and Improved

July 20 garden photos 008

This Lady Fern has grown on the bank for years, never bothered by the deer. It is deciduous, but returns each spring larger than the year before.

The plants in the following list are mostly ignored  by our herd of deer.  They are well suited to our climate (USDA Zone 7B), our soil, and the light  most of us have in our gardens.  Some of my gardening friends and I have been compiling this list over the last few years.

We have observed that plants which grow extremely well in some of our gardens, such as Camellias and Hydrangea macrophylla, also called Mophead Hydrangea, get eaten in others.  My mature Camellia bushes are left alone, but I’ve had tremendous damage done to some, but not all, newly planted Camellia bushes.   Even newly planted Oakleaf Hydrangeas have been stripped of their leaves during the last few weeks.

In fact,  newly planted trees and shrubs are the most vulnerable because they are rich in the nitrogen based fertilizers growers lavish on them.  They taste salty and delicious to deer, like salted French Fries for us.  Plants which have been in the garden a while tend to have less nitrogen in their leaves and so aren’t as tasty.  When considering how much extra fertilizer to spread around your shrubs and trees, if any, this is an important consideration.  Growing your garden on the lean side might offer additional protection from grazing.

Echinacea, or Purple Coneflower, is a favorite of nectar loving insects.  A perennial, it is rarely touched by deer and grows more vigorous each year.

Echinacea, or Purple Coneflower, is a favorite of nectar loving insects. A perennial, it is rarely touched by deer and grows more vigorous each year.

Key to symbols:

a native plant in our area

# attracts birds with berries, fruit, nuts, or seeds

a nectar producing plant which attracts butterflies and other pollinating insects

+ a nectar producing plant which attracts hummingbirds

Flowering Trees and Shrubs

Bamboo provides cover for nesting birds, shelter from the weather, and a steady supply of insects to eat.  Deer never touch it.

Bamboo provides cover for nesting birds, shelter from the weather, and a steady supply of insects to eat. Deer never touch it.

# * + Althea, Rose of Sharon Hibiscus syriacus

Bamboo (various species)

! #   Bayberry, or Wax Myrtle Myrica cerifera

! # * Beautyberry Bush Callicarpa americana

# *   Boxwood Buxus sempervirens

! # * + Butterfly Bush Buddleia (various species)

# * + Butterfly Tree or Glory Tree  Clerodendrum trichotomum

Camellia C. japonica and C. sasanqua

# * +Crepe Myrtle Lagerstroemia

! # * Dogwood Cornus florida

# * English Laurel Prunus laurocerasus

Mountain Laurel blooms in early May in our neighborhood.

Mountain Laurel blooms in early May in our neighborhood.

# Fig  Ficus carica

* Forsythia

! # * Fringe Tree Chionanthus virginicus

! * Hydrangea arborescens

Japanese Maple Acer palmatum

* +Lilac Syringa vulgaris

# * Mahonia Mahonia aquifolium

"Josee" re-blooming lilac, in its second flush of bloom in late June, is appreciated by all the nectar lovers in the garden.

“Josee” re-blooming Lilac, in its second flush of bloom in late June, is appreciated by all the nectar lovers in the garden.

! Mountain Laurel Kalmia latifolia (all parts of this plant are highly poisonous)

! # *Magnolia virginiana and other species

Fall blooming Camellia extends the months of bloom well into early winter. Deer don’t graze established shrubs.

# *Heavenly Bamboo Nandina domestica (all parts of this plant are highly poisonous)

! * Native Holly Ilex opaca

! # Oakleaf Hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia

# * Fire Thorn Pyracantha (various species)

! # * +Red Bud Cercis canadensis

# * +  Silk Tree or Mimosa Albizia julibrissin

# * St. John’s Wort Hypericum

! # Southern Wax Myrtle  Myrica cerifera

! # + Red Buckeye Aesculus pavia

! #* Adam’s Needle Yucca filamentosa and other species

Perennials and Bulbs

! # * + Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa

July 17 hibiscus 007

Rose Mallow, Lavender, Artemesia and Dusty Miller hold no attraction for hungry deer.

* + Canna Lily Canna

*  Centaurea ( various species)

! # * Coreopsis ( various species)

 * + Crocosmia ( various species) 

* Daffodil Narcissus ( various species)

! # * Daisy Asteraceae ( various species)

# * Dianthus ( various species)

! # * Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea

* Euphorbia ( various species)

# * Fall Anemones A. hupehensis

Fern   (click for detailed information)

Autumn Brilliance fern produces coppery colored new leaves throughout the season.  Here, trying to protect a little Hosta.

Autumn Brilliance fern produces coppery colored new leaves throughout the season. Here, trying to protect a little Hosta.

# * + Gaillardia ( various species)

The Passion Fruit vine can grow up to 50' a year and produces edible fruit.  Grown throughout warm climates, this perennial vine is beautiful and productive.

The Passionflower vine can grow up to 50′ a year and produces edible fruit. Grown throughout warm climates, this perennial vine is beautiful and productive.

* Geranium ( various species)

St. John's Wort

St. John’s Wort

* + Ginger Lily Hedychium ( various species)

! * Goatsbeard Aruncus dioicus

* Goldenrod Solidago rugosa

* Lenten Rose Hellebore ( various species) (note, this plant is highly poisonous)

* Dutch Hyacinth Hyacinthus orientalis

 * #  Iris (Bearded, Dutch, Louisiana, Siberian, etc.)

Re-blooming irises will bloom again in late summer, and then continue throwing out blooms through December.  They need to grow in an area of full sun to continue blooming.

Re-blooming Irises will bloom again in late summer, and then continue throwing out blooms through December. They need to grow in an area of full sun to continue blooming.

# Ivy

! # * + Rose Mallow Hibiscus moscheutos

! * +Joe Pye Weed  Eutrochium ( various species)

# * Lambs Ears Stychys Byzantina

* + Mexican (Bush) Sage (Salvia leucantha) or Salvia Mexicana

* Muscari ( various species)

* Pelargonium ( various species)

* Peony Paeonia ( various species)

* + Red Hot Poker Kniphofia ( various species)

! # * Black Eyed Susans  Rudbeckia ( various species)

! * Solomon’s Seal Polygonatum biflorum (other species, not native to North America, are available)

Butterflies enjoy Echinacea growing here with Gaillardia, Comfrey, Pentas, and other herbs.

Butterflies enjoy Echinacea growing here with Gaillardia, Comfrey, Pentas, and other herbs.

Gaillardia, gift from a friend's garden, growing here with Comfrey.

Gaillardia, gift from a friend’s garden, growing here with Comfrey.

Purple ruffles basil is one of he most beautiful.

Purple Ruffles Basil is one of he most beautiful.

Herbs

* Artemisia

# * Basil

* Comfrey

* Curry

# * Dill

* Fennel

* Germander

* + Lavender

* Mint

Pineapple sage blooming in late October is a favorite food source for butterflies still in the garden

Pineapple Sage blooming in late October is a favorite food source for butterflies still in the garden

Pineapple Mint with Lavender

Pineapple Mint with Lavender

!# *+ Monarda

* Oregano

# * Parsley

* + Pineapple Sage Salvia elegans

Rosemary

* Sage Salvia species

Annuals and Biennials

* Angelonia

* Caladium

Castor Bean (all parts of this plant are highly poisonous)

Ginger Lily, hardy in Zone 7

Ginger Lily, hardy in Zone 7

# *+Spider Flower Cleome hassleriana

Spiderflower, or Cleome, is beautiful in the garden and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

Spider Flower, or Cleome, is beautiful in the garden and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.  Seen here with Lamb’s Ears and Coneflowers

* Dusty Miller Centaurea cineraria

Star Jasmine, also known as Confederate Jasmine, is evergreen, fragrant, and a magnet for butterflies.  Very hardy, it grows enthusiastically.

Star Jasmine, also known as Confederate Jasmine, is evergreen, fragrant, and a magnet for butterflies. Very hardy, it grows enthusiastically.

Yucca in bloom

Yucca filamentosa  in bloom in partial shade.

# * + Foxglove Digitalis purpurea

# * + Lantana or Shrub Verbena Lantana camara

* + Mandevilla sanderi

* Mexican Heather Cuphea hyssopifolia

* New Guinea Impatiens Impatiens hawkeri

Persian Shield Strobilanthes dyerianus

Persian Shield

Persian Shield

* + Pentas ( various species)

* Plectranthus ( various species)

* Purple Heart Tradescantia pallida

# * + Zinnia elegans

Vines

! * + Trumpet Creeper Campsis radicans

! * + Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens

Purple Heart, Sage, and purple Pentas are safe from deer grazing.

Purple Heart, Sage, and purple Pentas are safe from deer grazing.

! # * + Passionflower Passiflora incarnata

*  Periwinkle Vinca major & V. minor

# * Star Jasmine Trachelospermum jasminoides

! # * + Virginia Creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Plants that will need extraordinary measures to protect in a forest garden include:  Azaleas, Hostas, daylilies, Oriental Lilies, Roses, impatiens, some sedums, Tomatoes, squashes, sweet potato vines, cucumbers, beans, and mophead Hydrangeas.

All photos by Woodland Gnome.

Virginia Creeper is growing up this dead Black Locust tree, delighting all hummingbirds and butterflies in the garden with its huge orange blossoms.

Virginia Creeper is growing up this dead Black Locust tree, delighting all hummingbirds and butterflies in the garden with its huge orange blossoms.


Always Evolving

August 3, 2014 butterflies 019

 

Why do you choose certain plants to add to your garden, and not others?  What drives your selections?

My answer shifts from garden to garden, year to year, and even season to season.  Perhaps your priorities for your garden shift, also.

 

Basil, "African Blue" grows in a bed of plants chosen to be distasteful to deer.

Basil, “African Blue,” Catmint, and scented Pelargoniums  grow in a bed of plants chosen to be distasteful to deer.

 

We garden to fill a need.  Some of us need to produce some portion of our own food.  Some of us want to grow particular ingredients or specialty crops, like hops or basil.

Some of us want to harvest our own flowers for arrangements, or produce our own fruit or nuts for cooking.

 

August 3, 2014 butterflies 074

Once upon a time I focused on growing flowers, and am still struggling to grow decent roses in this wild place.

And our garden is filled with flowers; some already growing here, some that we’ve introduced.

But our current inventory of flowers is driven more by the wildlife they will attract  than by their usefulness as cut flowers.

Lantana attracts many species of nectar loving wildlife to our garden.

Lantana attracts many species of nectar loving wildlife to our garden.

 

Although I could still walk around and clip a decent bouquet most any day from February to November, we rarely harvest our flowers.  We prefer to leave them growing out of doors for the creatures who visit them whether for nectar or later for their seeds.

Purple Coneflower, a useful cut flower, will feed the goldfinches if left in place once the flowers fade.

Purple Coneflower, a useful cut flower, will feed the goldfinches if left in place once the flowers fade.

 

Our gardening  focus is shifting here.  It began our first month on the property.  I moved in ready to cut out the “weedy” looking Rose of Sharon trees growing all over the garden.

I planned to replace them  with something more interesting… to me, that is.

And it was during that first scorching August here, sitting inside in the air conditioning and nursing along our chigger and tick bites, that we noticed the hummingbirds.

 

 

Hummingbirds hovered right outside our living room windows, because they were feeding from the very tall, lanky Rose of Sharon shrubs blooming there.

The shrubs didn’t look like much, but their individual flowers spread the welcome mat for our community of hummingbirds.

And watching those hummingbirds convinced us we could learn to love this Forest Garden.

This butterfly tree and Crepe Myrtle, volunteers growing along the ravine, normally attract dozens of butterflies each day during the weeks they bloom each summer.

This butterfly tree and Crepe Myrtle, volunteers growing along the ravine, normally attract dozens of butterflies each day during the weeks they bloom each summer.

 

Our decision to not only leave the Rose of Sharon shrubs, but to carefully prune, feed, and nurture all of them on the property marked a shift away from what we wanted to grow for our own purposes, and what we chose to grow as part of a wild-life friendly garden.

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After a year or two of frustration and failure, hundreds of dollars wasted, and a catastrophe or two; we realized that we had to adapt and adjust our expectations to the realities of this place.

A dragonfly and Five Line Skink meet on a leaf of Lamb's Ears.

A dragonfly and Five Line Skink meet on a leaf of Lamb’s Ears.  Lamb’s Ears is one of the ornamental plants we grow which is never touched by deer.

 

What had worked in the past became irrelevant as we had to learn new ways to manage this bit of land.

And how to live in a garden filled with animals large and small.

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The other major shift in my plant selection has been towards interesting foliage, and away from flowers.

Fig, "Silvre Lyre" and Sage

Fig, “Silvre Lyre” and Sage

 

Although the garden is filled with flowers loved by hummingbirds, butterflies, bees of all sorts, wasps, moths, and who knows what else; the ornamentals we choose for our own pleasure run more towards plants with beautiful and unusual leaves.

 

Huge Cannas and Colocasia chosen as a screen between home and road have interesting leaves.  The Cannas also produce wildlife friendly red flowers.

Huge Cannas and Colocasia chosen as a screen between home and road have interesting leaves.  The Cannas also produce wildlife friendly red flowers.

 

If they produce flowers, those are secondary to the foliage.

There is such a wonderfully complex variety of foliage colors and patterns now available.

 

Begonias in a hanging basket are grown mostly for their beautiful leaves.

Begonias in a hanging basket are grown mostly for their beautiful leaves.

 

And leaves are far more durable than flowers.  While flowers may last for a few days before they fade, leaves retain their health and vitality for many  months.

Begonia foliage

Begonia foliage

 

We enjoy red and purple leaves; leaves with  stripes and spots; variegated leaves; leaves with beautifully colored veins; ruffled leaves; deeply lobed leaves; fragrant leaves; even white leaves.

 

"Harlequin" is one of the few variegated varieties of Butterfly bush.

“Harlequin” is one of the few variegated varieties of Butterfly bush.

 

While all of these beautiful leaves may not have any direct benefit for wildlife- other than cleansing the air, of course –  they do become food now and again.

These Caladiums are supposed to be poisonous, and therefore left alone by deer.... But something ate them....

These Caladiums are supposed to be poisonous, and therefore left alone by deer…. But something ate them….

 

It’s easier to find plants with distasteful or poisonous leaves, than with unappetizing flowers.

Our efforts to grow plants the deer won’t devour may also drive our move towards foliage plants and away from flowering ones.

Scented Pelargoniums offer pretty good protection to plants near them.  This pepper has survived to ripeness.

Scented Pelargoniums offer pretty good protection to plants near them. This pepper has survived to ripeness.

 

Our interests, and our selections, continue to evolve.

Gloriosa Lily, new in the garden this year, is hanging down off of the deck.

Gloriosa Lily, new in the garden this year, is hanging down off of the deck, still out of reach of hungry deer.

 

We choose a few new plants each year to try; and we still seek out a few successful  varieties of annuals each spring and fall.

The garden never remains the same two seasons in a row.

 

Spikemoss is a plant we've just begun using as groudcover in pots and beds.

Spikemoss is a plant we’ve just begun using as ground cover in pots and beds.

 

It is always evolving into some newer, better version of itself.

As I hope we are, as well.

 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2014

 

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