“Will Deer Eat It?”

Polka Dot plant takes center stage in this fairy garden. It comes in white, pink and red.

~

The lady checking out in front of me at McDonald’s Garden Center on Jamestown Road had two cute little pots of ‘Polka Dot Plant,’ Hypoestes phyllostachya, and she had a single question for the clerk: “Will deer eat it?”  For those of us living among free-roaming herds of deer, that is always the question!

~

Hydrangea macrophylla attract deer, who eat both leaves and flowers.

~

Do deer graze in your garden?  It seems that ever growing herds of deer continue moving into more and more areas across the United States.  Even suburbs and small town now have a problem with deer.  So many are born each year, and they have no natural predator.  There is no longer enough hunting to keep their population in check, and so they have learned to live among us.

~

~

Maybe you, like some of our neighbors, enjoy seeing ‘The Bambis.’  But maybe you, like many of our friends, want to grow a garden around your home to please you and your family- not to offer a free dinner to the local herd.

It is a constant struggle here, in our forested community.  Each doe can have up to five fawns a year.  Triplets aren’t uncommon.  Each buck may have a harem of six or more does in his family group.  We saw a group of more than 20 running across our neighbor’s yard one day in late January.

~

Plants with poisonous leaves, like these Colocasia, won’t be grazed by deer.

~

Even if you are content to let nature take its course in your yard, and you aren’t an avid gardener; you may be concerned about deer ticks and the diseases they carry.  Ticks lurk in places frequented by deer.  They wait on grasses, shrubs, anywhere they can until a warm blooded comes near enough for them to jump on and catch a ride and a meal.

The last time we were at the doctor getting an antibiotic script for a tick bite, the doctor offered up some comforting news.  She told us that the tick must be attached for 24 hours to transmit Lyme’s disease.  That is reason enough to thoroughly check for ticks after a day of gardening!

We have so many neighbors who have contracted Lyme’s disease, and we have had so many tick bites, that we do everything in our power to keep deer out of our garden.

~

Ticks linger in overgrown grasses and on shrubs and trees, waiting for a ride and a meal.

~

And that is not an easy thing.  Unless you are ready to construct a 10′ high chain link fence around the perimeter of your yard, maybe adding a little razor wire on top, they will likely find a way in from time to time.  And so we do everything in our power to discourage the deer from coming in to start with.  And if they do sneak in, we dispatch them and encourage them to stay in the ravine in future!

Which brings us back to buying ‘deer resistant’ plants.  The McDonald’s clerk didn’t know whether annual Polka Dot Plant was deer resistant or not.  But she looked it up somehow in her system, and told her customer that she believed it was.  She was right.  Hypoestes is considered deer resistant.

But that is a very loose term.  When hungry enough, deer will try grazing many things they shouldn’t.

~

Rose scented Pelargonium with Pineapple Sage and Rose.  Herbs with a strong fragrance can offer some protection to tasty shrubs, like this rose.

~

We’ve had to learn a lot about what deer won’t eat in order to garden in our community.  My last garden was enclosed with a 7′ fence in a suburb which had no deer.  My azaleas were 8′ high and I could grow anything I wanted without a second thought.  But the past is the past, and we live in the present, right?

~

Azaleas once grew abundantly in our forest garden, before the deer population skyrocketed. Ours are now badly grazed and misshapen.  Some barely hang on from year to year.

~

So unless you have an eidetic memory, it might be easier to remember some basic principles of what plants deer avoid than trying to memorize a list!  I’ve read lots of lists over the years and listened to a few experts speak on the topic.  No one is 100% accurate. in part because deer develop different preferences.

But here are a few guidelines which might prove useful as you plan your garden this spring:

  1.  Deer don’t like strongly scented or strongly flavored foliage.  This means that almost any herb is ‘safe’ and won’t be grazed.  This includes plants you might not think of as herbs, including annual geraniums, scented geraniums, Artemisias, and some perennials related to the mint family.  All Alliums, including garlic, scallions and onions, repel deer.
  2. Deer don’t like thick, tough and textured leaves.  Your Yucca is safe, as is prickly pear cactus, Iris and Lantana.  I’ve never seen lamb’s ears, Stachys byzantina,  grazed, either.
  3. Many plants are naturally poisonous, and others have oxalic acid crystals in their leaves which irritate deer mouths.  Caladiums and their relatives are ‘safe’ due to the irritating crystals in their leaves.  That said, two friends told me their Caladiums were grazed during a summer drought last year.  We lose a leaf from time to time, but never a whole plant.  Colocasia and Alocasia, Arum italicum, and Zantedeschia all fall into this group.  If a plant is known as poisonous, like Helleborus and daffodils,  you can plant it with confidence.
  4. Deer avoid eating ferns.
  5. Deer avoid grey foliage.

    ~

    Lavender has both a strong fragrance and tough, thick leaves. Deer never touch them and they are helpful as screening plants around tasty plants you want to protect.

    ~

Now, here is what they do enjoy eating:

  1.  Any new shrub from the nursery, which has been grown with lots of fertilizer, looks delicious!  Even a shrub they wouldn’t think of grazing when it is mature will be tasty when young.  Nitrogen, a salt, makes the foliage taste good.  Think salt on french fries….. Give those newly planted shrubs and trees a bit of extra protection until they are at least 2 years old.
  2. Any plant you might eat, especially in your vegetable garden, will attract deer.  We’ve had fruit trees grazed, tomatoes devastated, bean vines harvested, and lettuce made to disappear in the blink of an eye.
  3. Any tender, soft, succulent, beautiful leaf, like a Hosta, Heuchera, Coleus, or Hydrangea, will interest a deer.  They also like flowers, otherwise known as ‘deer candy.’  You wouldn’t think deer would graze roses, but they do.  They adore eating any lily, especially daylily leaves and flowers.

~

Grow tasty annuals, like sweet potato vine, in pots or baskets out of reach of deer.  Grown where they can get to it, expect it to be grazed from time to time.

~

What can you do?  Like the lady with the Polka Dot plant, consider whether or not a new plant will attract deer before you bring it home to your garden.  Let the majority of your new plants be those the deer won’t graze.  I’ve learned how to create an interesting garden by growing lots of herbs and poisonous plants!

But I grow my favorites, too.  We gave up on a veggie garden, but we still have roses, a few Hosta, and Hydrangeas.  I defiantly grow a few tasty annuals in pots and baskets out of the reach of deer, or in pots right up against the house.  You would be amazed how brazen hungry deer can be!  And yes, I’ve had sweet potato vines and Coleus plants eaten off my front patio.

That is why the perimeter of our property is mostly planted with shrubs and trees that deer won’t graze.  We have wax myrtle, crepe myrtle, bamboo, red cedar, Ligustrum and Yucca along  the outer edges, somewhat hiding the more delicious plants in the center of our garden.

~

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.

~

I generally surround tender tasty plants with highly scented ones the deer will avoid.  We grow garlic, chives and onions in random places to protect certain plants.  Highly scented herbs can often give some protection, too, if planted around a shrub you want to protect.  I throw garlic cloves in pots of annuals.

We also regularly spread Milorganite around the perimeter of our property and around shrubs, like azaleas, we want to protect from deer.  You need at least a 4′ swath of this smelly fertilizer to fend off deer.  An interesting benefit is the drastic reduction in ticks we’ve found since we began using Milorganite last spring.

~

Scented Pelargoniums and Zantedeschia prove a winning, and deer proof, combination.

~

I keep a spray bottle of ‘Repels-All’ and spray the Hosta and Heuchera as they emerge; the roses and Hydrangeas as they leaf out.  Rain washes this product away, eventually, and so one needs to use it every few weeks.  Plants are more vulnerable in spring than in late summer, so you don’t have to make a life-time commitment to spraying this stuff.

~

Hibiscus prove deer resistant.

~

No one of us can solve the deer problem alone.  We’ve recently heard of some research in New York with contraceptive injections good for 22 months for an adult doe.  But this program is very expensive and labor intensive.  Hunting remains very controversial.  There are few ideas out there for a humane solution to this growing problem.

As undeveloped habitat disappears deer move in to our neighborhoods, sharing the land with us. And so it is up to us, as the brainier species, to adapt.  One way to co-exist with these gentle creatures is to design our gardens with plants they won’t eat.

Let them eat elsewhere!” becomes our motto, and  constant vigilance our practice.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2017

~

Our ‘deer resistant’ garden, filled with poisonous plants and herbs,  in early spring

Advertisements

Helleborus argutifolius ‘Snow Fever’

Helleborus argutifolius

Helleborus argutifolius “Snow Fever’ still in its nursery pot.

~

Here is a tasty treat for Helleborus lovers: H. ‘Snow Fever.’ 

Known as a Corsican Lenten Rose, this beauty isn’t as cold hardy as some Lenten Rose varieties.  Its parents are native to the Mediterranean islands of Sardinia and Corsica, and it is rated for USDA zones 6-9.

The Helleborus argutifolius varieties may also be termed Corsican Hellebore or even holly leaf Hellebore.  They are large, bold plants with evergreen leaves which persist year round.  These leaves are thick, with toothed edges; but may grow tattered in severe winter winds and weather.  This beautiful H. ‘Snow Fever’ has variegated foliage with a touch of dark red on its stems and the edges of the leaves.  It is a lovely plant, even right out of the pot, and I was delighted to find it last week at a local garden center.

~

november-30-2016-autumn-garden-006

~

Hellebores have found their way into my gardener’s heart because they not only look good year round, but they give a good long season of bloom when little else is actively growing, let alone blooming in our garden!  We already have flower buds on a few of our Helleborus plants, believe it or not.

~

Helleborus already in bud this autumn in our garden.

Helleborus already in bud this autumn in our garden.

~

Though most come into bloom sometime in February or March here, some bloom right through from late autumn until spring.  Our last Hellebores stop pumping out flowers sometime in late April or May.

Corsican Helleborus is known for its abundant clusters of  green flowers.  But this hybrid promises white flowers, with a shadow of green and lovely pink edges to each petal.  It will grow to around 12″ tall, a bit short for the species, but will expand to a wide clump of around 15″.

~

Mid-March 2015

Mid-March 2015

~

I’ve come to love growing Hellebores in pots surrounded with bulbs and Violas.  Sometimes I’ll tuck in an evergreen vine.  But these pots look good and remain in dynamic growth all through winter.  The plants still look good through the summer months long after the bulbs have died back and the Violas have finished.  Last summer I simply moved my best pot into the shade and planted some Caladium tubers around the Hellebore, and had a nice display through most of the summer.

~

july-18-2016-mugs-015

July 2016

~

Alternatively,  if I want the pot for something else in late spring;  I’ll move a Helleborus out of its pot and into the ground where it can sink its roots into a permanent home.

These are close to ‘care-free’ perennials.  First, deer and rabbits won’t bother them.  Their leaves are not only tough, they are poisonous.  Every part of a Helleborus is poisonous, so they make a nice underground ‘fence’ of roots if you want to protect an area from voles or moles.

~

november-24-2016-thanksgiving-020

~

But Hellebores also prove drought tolerant, tolerate mediocre soil, have few disease issues, need only annual pruning of older leaves, and tend to keep going year after year.  Although common advice dictates they grow best in shade, I’ve had a few keep going strong through the summer in nearly full sun.  That was a pleasant surprise!

The main drawback, for most Helleborus cultivars, is that their leaves aren’t that spectacular.  We grow them for their flowers and as a dependable ground cover plant.  As much as we gardeners love the flowers, pollinators depend on them as an important food source.  These flowers are ready to greet the first of the bees and other insects each year.

~

Hellebores

Hellebores given to us as seedlings by a gardening friend.

~

But just look at this beauty!  What unusual and eye-catching leaves!

My first one went into a favorite white pot which held geraniums all summer.  The geranium held out through the first frost, and so I rewarded it by re-potting it and bringing it into the garage for the winter.  I like spunky, tough plants!

~

november-27-2016-garden-002

~

I’ve not finished dressing this pot yet, because I want to pick up a few Muscari bulbs to sink into the soil around the Helleborus’s roots before I finish it off with either moss or gravel.  At the moment, there is a bit of Creeping Jenny and  a few Viola starts taking root, which will soon begin to fill the pot with flowers.

I bought a second H. ‘Snow Fever’  on Saturday, and have now planted it in the huge pot where C. ‘Tea Cups’ grew all summer in the front garden.  The Colocasia’s roots will overwinter in a smaller pot indoors, waiting for their chance to head back outdoors next April.

I’ll find a permanent spot for both H. ‘Snow Fever’ in the garden in the spring;  but for now, I want to really enjoy them, up close and featured in  pots.

I’ve surrounded the second one with some starts of Ajuga ‘Black Scallop,’ some Creeping Jenny vines, and the Daffodil bulbs I left in the pot  last spring.  The Ajuga will keep growing all winter, give blue flowers in early spring, and end up transplanted into a garden bed in early summer.

~

February 2016

February 2016

~

I expect these two pots to give us a great deal of joy over these next few months.  You’ll probably see lots of photos of these special Hellebores as they grow and eventually bloom.

If you love Hellebores,  or are curious to know more about them, I recommend the excellent and beautifully illustrated article in the December Gardens Illustrated on new Helleborus cultivars.  Gardens Illustrated is an UK magazine, but is absolutely the best source for information on plants and horticulture I’ve found.  It doesn’t matter that it is UK based, as much of the information translates just fine to our East coast USA garden!  I like it even better than Fine Gardening, which also offers solid information and advice on garden design, and is based here in the United States.

~

February 2016 Hellebores grow here with Autumn 'Brilliance' fern, which also remain evergreen through our winters.

February 2016 Hellebores grow here with Autumn ‘Brilliance’ fern, which also remain evergreen through our winters. Some of the Helleborus foliage shows wind and cold burn, and these older leaves should be removed in early spring to make room for new growth. 

~

This is the time of year to shop for Hellebores.  You may not find any blooming, but you will definitely find them available in many garden centers in December.  They are pricey, and named cultivars generally have been grown on in greenhouses for at least a couple of years from tissue culture.  Variegated cultivars, like H. ‘Snow Fever’ may not be easy to find in all parts of the country.  But if you live in Zone 6 or warmer, you might want to try ordering from an online source to give this beautiful plant a try.

To simply get started with Hellebores, though, find a friend or  neighbor who has a patch growing in their garden, and ask whether they might like your help in thinning them.  Hellebores seed their offspring generously, and many gardeners are happy to share seedlings.  You may have to wait a season to see them bloom, but the wait is well worth the reward.

~

Hellebores

~

Woodland Gnome 2016

.

Milorganite Update: Remarkable Success!

An Hydrangea brought as a cutting from our last garden, has been grazed each year in this one... until this spring.

This Hydrangea, brought as a cutting from our last garden, has been grazed each year in this one… until this spring.  Might it finally bloom this summer?

~

The early results of our experiment in using Milorganite as a deterrent for deer remain all positive.  A month on, we haven’t seen a single deer in our garden since applying Milorganite in early April.  We haven’t seen a deer, a hoof print, deer droppings, or any damage to the tastiest of our plants.

This is absolutely remarkable!  Spring has proven one of the busiest seasons for deer breaking through our fences and into the garden, right as tasty and tender new foliage emerges.  Damage done in these crucial first few weeks of the growing season has stunted growth and marred the beauty of plants for the entire season… in past years.

~

Deer stripped this struggling little Camellia of all its leaves this past March. It happens once or twice each year, yet the Camellia hangs on. New leaves have begun to emerge from its naked stems.

Deer stripped this struggling little Camellia of all its leaves in March. It happens once or twice each year, yet the Camellia hangs on.  New leaves have finally begun to emerge from its naked stems. 

~

Deer pressure in the garden increased during the last two weeks of March.  A tea rose was nibbled back to its canes the day after I pruned away the Lantana skeleton protecting it.  All those early leaves and tiny buds simply gone overnight.  That was what pushed us into accepting the counsel of other gardeners to at least experiment with Milorganite.

~

This four year old R. 'Pope John Paul II' was grazed within a day when I cut back the Lantana in early March. Protected by Milorganite, it is recovering and has a few flower buds.

This four year old R. ‘Pope John Paul II’ was grazed within a day, in early March, when I cut back the Lantana growing around it. Protected by Milorganite, it is recovering now and even has a few flower buds.

~

Milorganite, or Milwaukee Organic Nitrogen, is the heated and pelletized remains from the city of Milwaukee’s sewage treatment plant.  See why I was reluctant to try it?  But it was much easier and more pleasant to use than the various deer repellent sprays I’ve tried over our years in this garden.  I wanted to simply hold my breath while using most of the sprays we’ve tried!

Milorganite is a clean looking, grey material made of tiny dry pellets; much like Osmacote or pelletized lime.  There is no dust or obvious odor to my human nose.

~

milorganite~

Wearing gardening gloves, I simply scooped it and broadcast spread it using a discarded plastic food container.  I made a 4′ perimeter along the inside of our fence line, and added an extra stripe of it in the plantings along our street and along our drive.

I also spread it around specific shrubs which need protecting, as added insurance, and in areas we’ve seen deer moving through the garden in past years.

~

We spread a double stripe of Milorganite on both the streetside, and the garden side of our deer fences nearest the street.

We spread a double stripe of Milorganite on both the street side, and the garden side of our deer fences nearest the street.  We have Azaleas, native blueberries  and Oak Leaf Hydrangeas to protect in this area.

~

I used the entire 36 lb. bag, which is advertised to cover around 2500 square feet.  This was a huge bargain:  We bought the bag at Lowes for under $13.00.  If you’ve paid top dollar for animal repellent sprays then you know a single bottle can cost twice that amount!

~

Our Hostas have emerged beautifully this spring. I simply abandoned this part of the garden last season due to pressure from deer crossing through the fence and grazing heavily here.

Our Hostas have emerged beautifully this spring. I simply abandoned this part of the garden last season due to pressure from deer crossing through the fence and grazing heavily here.

~

Now, we wondered whether the Milorganite would repel other mammalian visitors to our garden.  Since spreading it, we’ve continued to see rabbits munching on the front lawn and squirrels running about.  But the squirrels already had nests high up in our garden’s trees.  The rabbits were grazing in areas where I hadn’t broadcast the repellent.  We haven’t found any plants damaged by their grazing.

The number of vole tunnels we’ve found this spring has dropped dramatically, too.  Several factors have helped control the voles, particularly the many Daffodils and Hellebores we’ve planted throughout the garden in recent years.  But we’ll assume that perhaps they are avoiding ground treated with Milorganite, too.

~

This little Oakleaf Hydrangea, with ferns and bulbs, gets grazed once or twice a year. So far the Milorganite has protected it this spring.

This little Oakleaf Hydrangea, with ferns and bulbs, gets grazed once or twice a year.  The Milorganite has protected it this spring.

~

And we’ve been delighted to see new growth on the rose which pushed us over the edge.  It has covered itself in foliage and formed new buds over the last month.  Other roses, heavily grazed in past years, are growing happily this spring.  Covered in buds, they have actually bulked up a little!

Little Azalea shrubs, planted by previous owners of our garden, show signs of recovery, too.  Grazed to their stems over the past few years, they have been barely holding on.  But new growth is bursting forth this spring, and many of them bloomed.

~

Hydrangea, Azaleas and Rhododendrons grow in the open Connie Hansen Garden in Lincoln City, OR. Deer have free run of this garden.

Hydrangea, Azaleas and Rhododendrons grow in the open Connie Hansen Garden in Lincoln City, OR.  Deer have free run of this garden.

~

We realize that deer, and their fawns, form habits in early spring for where to go each day to graze.  We believe that keeping them out of our garden in these first few months of spring will help them learn to avoid visiting us during the remainder of the year.

~

I surround roses and other tasty treats with fragrant herbs, which generally protect them. This baby rose grows protected by chocolate mint.

I surround roses, and other tasty treats, with fragrant herbs, which give some protection from grazing deer. This baby rose grows protected by chocolate mint.

~

Deer are actually quite intelligent and resourceful.  And so we opted to re-apply another bag of Milorganite this past week.  Even though we expect an application to last between 6 and 8 weeks based on our reading, we decided to go over the perimeter and the critical areas once again after only 4 weeks.

~

The wider view shows Violas also untouched this spring.

The wider view shows Violas also untouched this spring.

~

We’ve had a lot of rain, and we didn’t want to take any chance that the scent would weaken and a few deer might slip in.  We probably won’t apply it again until late June or early July.

~

The first rose we planted here in 2010, this shrub rose has been grazed repeatedly. In rare years we actually see it bloom. This year it hasn't been touched by grazing and so is bulking up.

The first rose we planted here in 2010, this English shrub rose has been grazed repeatedly. In rare years we actually see it bloom. This year it hasn’t been touched by grazing and so is finally growing a bit.

~

But we will continue our integrated approach to discouraging deer in the garden.  Not only will we monitor our perimeter deer fences, but I still plan to plant fragrant herbs throughout the garden.  I picked up a selection of scented Pelargoniums this weekend to plant near our smaller roses, along with Basil and Lavender.

~

Pelargonium 'Skeleton Rose' has lovely scent and foliage. Rarely hardy for us, I search it out again each spring.

Pelargonium ‘Skeleton Rose’ has lovely scent and foliage. Rarely hardy for us, I search it out again each spring.

~

And we continue adding plants with poisonous leaves and stems, which deer won’t graze anyway.  As awful as that might sound, many of our favorite ornamental plants, like Caladiums, Daffodils and Hellebores are poisonous from leaf to root.

Other favorites have leaves deer don’t care to eat.  Lamb’s Ears, or  Stachys byzantina, most ferns, Lantana, Comphrey, Geraniums, Iris and other garden favorites have leaves with objectionable textures and scents which deer leave strictly alone.  Many ornamentals can be planted in safety no matter how many deer visit one’s garden.

~

Ferns and Hellebores won't be bothered by deer.... ever.

Ferns and Hellebores won’t be bothered by deer…. ever.  Here, transplanted seedlings of Hellebore surround a newly planted Maidenhair fern.

~

I walked around the garden last week admiring this spring’s growth.  All of our Hostas have emerged and are growing undamaged.  Roses and Azaleas grow ungrazed.  Our beautiful Oak Leaf Hydrangeas are bulking up undamaged, for the first time ever.  Perennials continue waking from their winter’s rest, wildflowers bloom and even the low-hanging branches and fruit on our pear tree have gone untouched.  (Deep contented sigh….)

~

Daylily emerges in this bed each spring, but rarely has the chance to bloom. So far the new leaves remain untouched.

Daylily emerges in this bed each spring, but rarely has the chance to bloom. So far the new leaves remain untouched.  Apple mint runs among the Columbines, Iris, Daffodils, ferns and Vinca minor.

~

I overheard some of the volunteer gardeners discussing deer damage to new plantings at the Connie Hansen Garden, when I was in Oregon last month.  I didn’t admit to eavesdropping by breaking into their conversation; I’m shy that way most times.  Deer roam freely in their neighborhood, and the split rail fences around the garden present no obstacle to the deer at all.  They were discussing what a particularly damaging spring it has been for their garden.  But I wanted to interject, “Have you tried Milorganite?” 

~

Epimedium grows this spring in one of our 'stump gardens.'

Epimedium grows this spring  with Salvia and Hellebore in one of our ‘stump gardens.’

~

With the zeal of a recent convert, I’d like to share our success with everyone plagued by deer in their gardens.  Finally, at long last, we seem to have found a product which effectively repels deer; excludes them, actually, long term.  It is working thus far for us, and I hope others with deer problems will soon try it, too.  Please leave a comment if you have experience with Milorganite, or another product which protects your garden from grazing deer.

~

May 2, 2016 garden 015

~

Because beyond the obvious benefits to our plants, the most exciting benefit has been for the gardeners:  We haven’t found a single tick since our first Milorganite application in early April.  In fact, I’ve had only one tick bite this entire year, and that was in mid-March.  My partner hasn’t had any, despite the many hours we’ve both spent outside in recent weeks.

Keeping deer out of our garden has kept ticks out of the garden, too.

May our good fortune continue….

~

May 2, 2016 garden 046~

Woodland Gnome 2016

~

May 2, 2016 garden 048

Our Latest Experiment: Milorganite

Connie Hansen Garden, Lincoln City Oregon

The Connie Hansen Garden, in Lincoln City, Oregon, where deer roam freely through the beach front community.  This beautiful garden remains open to the public – and the deer- year round.

~

A friend and neighbor, allies in our battle against hungry deer, first mentioned Milorganite several years back.  I’d never heard of the stuff.  She said she was trying it as a deer deterrent with some success.

She and her partner garden on one of the most exposed water front lots in our part of the community.  We collaborated together on our list of deer resistant plants, but I never followed up on her suggestion to try Milorganite.  Now I wish we had…..milorganite

A year or so later, a Gloucester based landscaper suggested it to me again.  He recommended creating a barrier around one’s entire garden by broadcasting a 3′-4′ wide strip of the smelly stuff around the perimeter of any area you need to protect.  He swore deer wouldn’t cross it.  Sounded like a good idea; which I filed away to explore in more detail later.

Meanwhile, our personal battle to protect our garden from the deer continues.  It’s not just the plants we want to protect from their grazing.  Deer carry ticks, and ticks carry Lyme’s disease and other nasty infections.  We’ve both had several bites over the years followed by expensive visits to the doctor, tests, and prescriptions.

Lyme’s disease is one of those infections one never truly gets over; it can linger in the body and flare up later in unexpected ways.  It changes people’s lives in unpleasant ways; another reason to stay away from deer and ticks.  We figured this out, of course, only after we fell in love with the community  and bought our little forest garden.  We’ve learned a great deal since then.

~

August 27, 2014 Parkway 021

~

After nearly seven years of finding ways to foil the deer, a few somehow still slip into the garden from time to time.  And once in, they find tasties to nibble while spreading ticks and leaving their little ‘gifts.’   We’ve both had ticks latch onto us this spring, already.

~

By mid-August of 2014 surrounding shrubs shade the actual raised bed..

By mid-August, our garden grows in with plenty of temptations for grazing deer.

~

But a casual conversation with one of the garden experts at Lowes, earlier this week, reminded me of Milorganite.  She gardens on the Northern Neck, along the Piankatank River slightly north of Williamsburg.  And she contends with herds of deer, too.  She highly recommended Milorganite as a deer repellent in the garden.

~

August 7, 2014 garden 040

~

Now, before we go any further in this story, I need to share with you our real reason for avoiding Milorganite all these years.  I was all set to try it years ago until we learned its true nature:  municipal sewage sludge.  Somehow we just didn’t want to spread dried sewage all around our garden, despite its potential benefits.

Since 1926, the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has processed the sludge from its sewage treatment plant to produce a 5-2-0 natural fertilizer known as Milorganite. Milwaukee Organic Nitrogen” was devised to reduce material in landfills while recycling this natural source of nitrogen as a safe fertilizer for lawns, golf courses, and agriculture.  The dried sewage is heat dried to kill bacteria and other pathogens, then pelletized to produce an easy to apply, dust free organic fertilizer.  But all the processing doesn’t completely remove the odor, which is why Milorganite repels deer.

~

Rose scented Geranium

Rose scented geranium has proven a more pleasant deer repellent than sprays.  We plant scented Pelargoniums all around the garden to protect tasty shrubs and perennials.  They also repel mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects.

~

If you’ve bought a spray bottle of deer repellent lately, you know it’s very pricey.  Whether you buy Plantskydd , Repells- All, or some other product; you make an investment which often washes away in the next thunderstorm.

After resisting Milorganite these last few years, we finally decided to try it earlier this week.  The little guys have been slipping through our ‘deer fences’ and have already grazed some favorite roses and Camellias just as they leafed out this spring.  We are weary of chasing them out of the garden with no clue as to how they get in or out….

A 36 pound bag of Milorganite, enough to treat 2500 square feet, was only around $13.00 at Lowes.  On Monday afternoon we decided to give it a try, and bought a bag. Produced as a ‘slow release’ fertilizer, it lasts a long time before it completely dissolves into the soil.  How long will it work for us?  That is part of our experiment….

~

April 5, 2016 070

~

I suited up in my usual garden ‘get up,’ covered head to toe, with hat and gloves; and broadcast the first strip of Milorganite along our street.  Using a recycled plastic quart food container, I shook a light application in the spaces between our shrubs, and especially around the Camellias, from the pavement back to our deer fence behind the shrubs.

It wasn’t bad, really.  It didn’t smell as bad as the sprays we use, and was so much easier to apply.  Our single bag proved sufficient to broadcast a 4′ perimeter around our entire garden, and also to make barriers around vulnerable beds of Azaleas, roses, Hydrangeas, and perennials.  I laid a stripe everywhere we know the deer frequent in our garden.

~

Azaleas once filed our front garden. In recent years, a growing herd of deer graze on what little remains.

Azaleas once filed our front garden. In recent years, a growing herd of deer graze on what little remains.

~

Although the University of Georgia has published studies on Milorganite as a deer repellent, it isn’t marketed as one.  Its use to repel animals is a ‘word of mouth’ sort of thing between gardeners.  And how long a single application will last depends on any number of variables.  We plan to spread it again by the middle of June, then again in September.  Based on what we’ve read, it should last close to 90 days during the growing season.

Now we watch and wait.  My daydreams of full, lush Azalea shrubs and un-grazed roses may finally come true.  Our hopes to finally watch our Hostas mature, un-nibbled and full, may be realized this year.  Faith, hope and love wax strongest in a gardener’s heart in early spring, before realities set in.

~

June 21 Lanai 022~

I’ll let you know how it works, of course.  If Milorganite performs as well as other gardeners have promised, we might actually plant a few vegetables later in the season with hope to harvest a cucumber or two!  I’m curious to learn whether it deters squirrels, rabbits, voles, and other mammals, in addition to deer.  If it does, we will use it faithfully from now on.

~

May 15, 2015 roses 010~

We may be holding our noses, metaphorically speaking, but we’ll gladly support the city of Milwaukee in their recycling efforts.  And we’ll spread the word as broadly as we spread the Milorganite!

Have you tried Milorganite in your garden?  If you have, how well does  it work for you?

~

It was almost 9 PM when I took these photos of our rabbit on Wednesday evening. A long day, indeed.

~

Woodland Gnome 2016

In recognition of Wildlife Wednesday

(Tina has posted some lovely photos of birds visiting her garden this month. 

Please visit her for links to other Wildlife Wednesday posts this April.)

 

~

April 5, 2016 051

A mother Cardinal built her nest by our kitchen door. We feel honored by her trust.

 

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.

~

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.

~

Hydrangea, 'Ruby Slippers'

Hydrangea, ‘Ruby Slippers’

~

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.

~

August 27, 2014 Parkway 024

~

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.

~

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.

~

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.

~

July 16, 2015 Hibiscus 015

~

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.

~

July 16, 2015 Hibiscus 008

~

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.

~

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!

~

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.

~

Camellia susanqua

Camellia susanqua

~

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.

~

Camellia

Camellias begin to bloom here in October.

~

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.

~

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

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

~

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.

~

Bumblebee on Basil

Bumblebee on Basil

~

 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.

~

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

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

~

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.

~

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.

~

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.

~

Re-blooming Iris, "Rock Star"

Re-blooming Iris, “Rock Star”

~

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.

~

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:

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

~

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.

~

All photos by Woodland Gnome

~

June 22, 2015 foliage 012

~

 

 

 

Related articles

 

Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day: June

This little Acer Plamatum germinated in my parents' garden this spring.  I brought it home to grow on, here in a large pot with ferns and Caladiums.

This little Acer Palmatum germinated in my parents’ garden this spring. I brought it home to grow on, here in a large pot with ferns and Caladiums.

~

Our world is leafy green this month; a thousand shades of green.  Yet there are many more colors found glowing on leaves in our garden.

~

Coleus

Coleus

~

Layer upon layer of leaves extend themselves to catch the sun’s rays.

~

Canna lilies have reached about half their final height.  Hibiscus, behind them, will bloom with scarlet flowers in a few weeks.

Canna lilies have reached about half their final height. Hibiscus, behind them, will bloom with scarlet flowers in a few weeks.

~

From the Oaks’ canopies down to the tiny chartreuse leaves of creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia, which blanket parts of our garden; leaves bask in summer’s brilliant sunshine.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 001

~

I ventured into new territory last summer when planting a border of tall Canna lilies, given by a friend, and elephant ear Colocasia.  Both are well up now with the Cannas bursting into bloom.

~

June 16, 2015 blooming in June 022

~

They will continue growing for a few weeks, topping out above head high with blooms through the summer.

~

June 16, 2015 blooming in June 017~

Tall, perennial Hibiscus join these tropical looking, large plants in the front border.  I’ve extended the grouping to a new area in the lower garden where growth has been slow.

~

Colocasia 'Mojito'

Colocasia ‘Mojito’

~

There is less light here, and the Cannas were purchased as roots just this spring.  I hope they will catch up in the summer heat and make a good show by mid-summer.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 012~

They border the new bog garden, filled now with pitcher plants, Sarraceniaceae, which are native to the mid-Atlantic coast; with the African rose Hibiscus; Colocasia esculenta ‘Mojito’ and Coleus.  Two pots of milkweed grow here, too, in our hope to draw in Monarch butterflies.

~

Oxalis triangularis has struggled here because deer frequently graze these beautiful burgundy leaves.

Oxalis triangularis has struggled here because deer frequently graze these beautiful burgundy leaves.

~

The border of Oxalis I planted with such confidence in May is nearly gone, grazed by rogue deer who have somehow snuck into the garden through our fences.  I’ve sprayed what remains with deer repellent and hope they will re-grow from the tubers.

~

This Oxalis has been protected with a clove of garlic grown here since fall.  In more shade, there are no flowers and darker leaves.  A division of hardy Begonia can be seen at the top of the photo, and a division of fern to the far right.  These will fill in fairly quickly.

This Oxalis has been protected with a clove of garlic grown here since fall.  In more shade, there are no flowers and darker leaves. A division of hardy Begonia can be seen at the top of the photo, and a division of fern to the far right. These will fill in fairly quickly.

~

Oxalis is supposed to be ‘deer resistant,’ but anyone who gardens near deer understands the humor of that phrase.

~

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.  Rudbeckia, to the right, will bloom golden in July.  I just love these spotted stems!

~

Our collection of poisonous plants has grown this summer to include the “Voodoo Lily,” Sauromatum venosum, bought at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in April; and a hardy Calla lily, just ordered from Plant Delights Nursery near Raleigh, NC.

~

June 14, 2015 calla lily 2 004~

I was pleased to learn that Calla, native to South Africa, is in fact poisonous.  The poisonous leaves have more staying power in our garden, and do no harm to those who aren’t grazing them!

~

Helebores, also poisonous, protects this pot from grazing.  The Heuchera would be munched if unprotected.

Hellebore, also poisonous, protects this pot from grazing. The Heuchera would be munched if unprotected.

~

There are many more leaves to share, but you’ll see them as the summer unfolds.

~

June 22, 2015 foliage 012~

We continue to plant ferns, and we’ve added several new cultivars this year.

~

June 22, 2015 foliage 002

~

We have also found several interesting cultivars of scented Pelargonium.  This rose scented Pelargonium grows in a pot with Ajuga.

~

June 22, 2015 foliage 007~

Herbs smell wonderful on hot sunny days, and have such beautiful foliage.

~

June 18, 2015 bees 002

~

 I appreciate Christina, who gardens in the Hesperides,  for hosting this Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day meme on the 22nd of each month. She challenges us to focus on the foliage in our gardens; not just the flowers.

Please visit her and follow as many links as you can to enjoy beautiful foliage posts photographed in a variety of different gardens.

But, before you do, we will end with a few more photos of my beloved Begonias:

~

~

There will be another Begonia post soon.  These beauties continue growing better each week.

~

June 14, 2015 garden 017~

Woodland Gnome 2015

Another Weird, Wonderful and Poisonous Plant

Sauromatum venosum, just planted last night.

Sauromatum venosum, just planted last night.

~

Yes, we’ve brought home another weird, wonderful and poisonous plant.

Its name says it all:  Sauromatum venosum.  Get it?  Venosum?

It is also called “Voodoo Lily” because it begins to grow, as if by some strange magic, without water or soil.

That is how we found it, actually.  It wasn’t on my shopping list per se…

~

A second of the several tubers we purchased, planted about 18" away from the first.

A second of the several tubers we purchased, planted about 18″ away from the first.

~

But as we were browsing the summer flowering bulbs offered in Brent and Becky Heath’s bulb shop yesterday, there they were:  the already growing flowers of Voodoo Lily reaching out of their bin for our ankles.

They put me in mind of cats reaching through the bars of their little cages at the animal shelter, vying for attention and maybe a new home….

How could I ignore them?  Some of these flowers were already more than 18″ long, poking out of the holes in their little red mesh bags.  Phototropic, they were reaching for the light.  They were ALIVE!

~

This was the only barely growing tuber of the lot... which is how I missed planting it last night.  It went into the lower fern garden this morning.

This was the only barely growing tuber of the lot… which is how I missed planting it last night.   It went into the lower fern garden this morning.

~

Actually, some weird plantophiles (much like yours truly) will buy these Voodoo Lily tubers and simply set them, dry, on a shelf to watch them grow.  They will grow happily for weeks on the energy stored in their tuber.  Eventually, one must plant them up, of course.  Which is what I did with these poor little guys last night.

~

See?  Not a hint of a root...

See? Not a hint of a root…  Like a Caladium, this is a tuber, not a true bulb.

~

Keep in mind they’ve been growing in a bin of bulbs on the floor.  One mustn’t expect too much yet in terms in statuesque form.  The flowers will grow several feet high, open, release a putrescently musky scent for a few days, and then die back.  The scent is to attract the right insects for pollination, of course.

~

April 9, 2015 planting 018

This flower stalk is only just getting started. It will grow to several feet high before dying back to the ground. Leaves will follow in early summer.

~

Once the flowers have died back, one or more leaf stalks emerge and add a lovely tropical note to the garden for the remainder of the season.  Native to Africa, Sauromatum venosum remain hardy from Zone 7 south.  They will spread by tuber and by seed indefinitely.  Phototropic, they will reach for the light if grown in too much shade.

I hope that as these little guys get established and sink some roots into our garden soil, the flower stalks will lift themselves and continue growing towards the sun.  Plants will do amazing things, given the opportunity.

~

Plant the tuber 2" to 3" in good, moist soil in bright partial shade.  Keep moist.  I've heard these guys stay hungry, and grow better with occasional meals of compost.

Plant the tuber 2″ to 3″ in good, moist soil in bright partial shade. Keep moist. I’ve heard these guys stay hungry, and grow better with occasional meals of compost.

~

Whether the flowers right themselves or not, the leaves will still emerge properly by early summer and offer some interesting foliage in the garden for several months.  They will die back with the fall frost, but the tuber can remain in the garden, mulched, over winter.

So we’ve covered ‘weird’ and we’ve covered ‘wonderful.’  Why poisonous?

~

Yes, another stump garden.  I've been planting around the stump of a peach tree we lost in 2010.  That is a Hellebore to the right, also poisonous.  A deciduous fern will emerge soon, and the 'Voodoo Lily' will complete the set.  I'll add compost and extend this garden outwards bit by bit as the plants fill in.

Yes, another stump garden. I’ve been planting around the stump of a peach tree we lost in 2010. That is a Hellebore to the right, also poisonous. A deciduous fern will emerge soon, and the ‘Voodoo Lily’ will complete the set. I’ll add compost and extend this garden outwards bit by bit as the plants fill in.  The decaying stump retains moisture and feeds the plants as it and the tree’s roots decompose.

~

Poisonous plants don’t get eaten by miscreant deer who sneak into our garden for dinner. 

I’m becoming something of an aficionado on poisonous plants.  For more on this, you might enjoy an earlier post titled, Pick Your Poison.

After losing our early investments in Phlox and lilies, roses, impatiens, holly shrubs, tomatoes and Camellias; we realized that tasty plants disappear in the night.  Poisonous plants manage to grow all season.

~

These N. "Katie Heath,' growing in our garden, were hybridized by Brent Heath and named for his mother.  These have been growing in our garden for several years.

These N. “Katie Heath’  were hybridized by Brent Heath and named for his mother. These have been growing in our garden for several years now.  We continue to plant lots of new daffodils each year to protect other plants, as every part of a daffodil is poisonous.

~

So now it is a bonus when I find beautiful plants for the garden which also happen to be poisonous.  Like Hellebores and daffodils, all parts of the Voodoo lily are very poisonous.  Not only will they not get eaten to a nub; their roots offer protection from tunneling voles to nearby plants.

So there you have my take on the very weird, wonderful and poisonous Voodoo Lilies we brought home yesterday from our shopping excursion in Brent and Becky’s Bulb Shop at their farm in Gloucester.

I’ll show you follow up photos of these lilies as they grow.

A pair are planted at the top of the garden, visible from the street.  If you’re in the neighborhood, you can keep a watch on them as they come along.  And if you smell something like rotting meat when you pass our garden, you’ll know they have come into full bloom.

~

It's Alive!

It’s Alive!

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

Let The Planting Begin!

February 9, 2015 Rhodie 010

~

We had a taste of spring here yesterday and this morning.  We actually hit 70 F yesterday afternoon!  It was the perfect day for a drive out to the country, and so some loved ones and I took off for destinations west after lunch.

Just over the county line, in the eastern edge of Amelia, Clay Hudgins of  Hudgins Landscape and Nursery, Inc., is preparing for his first spring in his new location. We had visited last fall and been impressed with the excellent condition of the plants and friendliness of his staff.

What else to do on the first 70 degree day of the new year, but go wander through a nursery?  Although I was in search of potted Hellebores, Clay interested me in shrubs instead.   Many of his shrubs were on sale, and most of his Espoma products.  So I stocked up on Holly Tone and Rose Tone; and adopted a gorgeous Rhododendron.

~

February 9, 2015 Rhodie 001~

Our neighbors have successfully grown Rhododendron, even without fencing out the deer; and so we are going to try this one in a spot where a Camellia failed this autumn.  The poor Camellia had been nibbled by deer multiple times during its short life.  Sadly, most of its roots had also been eaten by the voles.  It was too abused to even take a photo of it.

But I’ve learned a trick or two to protect new shrubs since that Camellia went into the ground in 2011.  Today I planted both the Rhodie, and a potted dwarf  Eastern Redbud tree, Cercis canadensis, which was already growing with Heuchera ‘Caramel,’ spring bulbs, and an Autumn Brilliance fern.

~

February 9, 2015 Rhodie 003

~

This is a cool and partially shaded area, part of our fern gardens behind the house.  These plants will get afternoon sun, and should grow very happily here.

The first line of defense to protect a shrub’s roots from vole damage is gravel in the planting hole.

~

February 9, 2015 Rhodie 004

~

I dug this hole about 4″ deeper than needed, and about 6-7″ wider.  You may notice a clam shell stuck to the side of the planting hole in the photo.  That is plugging up the main vole tunnel, which is now back-filled with gravel behind that shell.

Like earthworms, voles dig and tunnel through the soil.  My job is to make that as difficult and hazardous as possible.  In addition to gravel, I like to surround the new shrub with poisonous roots.  There were already a few daffodil bulbs growing in front of the deceased Camellia.  You can see their leaves just poking through the soil in the bottom left corner of the photo, if you look closely.  I’ve added a few more daffodils now, planted near the new Redbud, a few feet behind the Rhodie.

~

These roots are beautiful; not potbound at all.  I still scored vertical lines in several places around the rootball with the tip of a knife to stimulate growth and prevent any 'girdling' of the roots .

These roots are beautiful; not pot bound at all. I still scored vertical lines in several places around the root ball with the tip of a knife to stimulate growth and prevent any ‘girdling’ of the roots as they grow .

~

I’ll plan to plant more daffodils in this area when they come on the market again in fall.  But, until then, I’ve surrounded the Rhodie with seedling Hellebores, spaced about 12″ apart.  Hellebores are one of the most toxic plants we grow.  Every part, including the roots, is highly poisonous.  Once these roots begin to grow and fill in, they will form a poisonous “curtain” of plant matter around the Rhodie’s roots, protecting the root ball as the shrub establishes.  Just for good measure, I’ve laid a light ‘mulch’ of the old Hellebore leaves we pruned this morning.  They will quickly decompose into the soil, and their toxins will offer this area additional protection.

~

From top left: Yucca leaves, Heuchera, 'Caramel," a tiny Redbud tree, emerging bulbs, seedling Hellebores, Hellebore leaves, Rhododendron Purpureum Elegans, daffodil leaves, and a mature Autumn Brilliance fern.

From top left: Yucca leaves, Heuchera, ‘Caramel,” a tiny Redbud tree, emerging bulbs, seedling Hellebores, Hellebore leaves, Rhododendron Purpureum Elegans, daffodil leaves, and a mature Autumn Brilliance fern.

~

Japanese Painted Ferns are already established in this area.  Their first fronds will unfurl over the next six weeks.  I’ll add additional ferns, and most likely some Wood Anemones to this planting.  It is mulched in pea gravel and some shells at the moment, to further thwart creatures who might want to dig here.

A little Holly Tone is mixed into the bottom of the planting holes and is also dusted over the mulched ground.  Mushroom compost is mixed with the soil used to fill in around the root balls.  Finally, I watered in all of the plants with a generous wash of Neptune’s Harvest.  It smells so foul that hungry creatures give it wide berth.  Just for good measure, I also sprayed the Heuchera and Rhododendron with deer repellent just before going back inside.

Overkill?  Not at all!  I want these plants to get off to a good and healthy start!  I’ll show you the progress here from time to time.  This gorgeous Rhodie is absolutely covered in buds, which will open in a beautiful shade of lavender later in the spring.   I’m so pleased with this shrub, having seen its beautiful roots and abundant growth, that I’m seriously considering purchasing a few more Rhododendrons from this same lot while they are available, and still on sale.

~

February 9, 2015 Rhodie 013

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

~

Hellebore with a bud emerging in another part of the fern garden.

Hellebore with a bud emerging in another part of the fern garden.

Garlic With Pansies?

Violas with Heuchera, April 2014

Violas with Heuchera, April 2014

 

Every autumn we plant pansies and Violas. 

These colorful little plants brighten our outdoor pots and beds for a good six months.  They are usually still going strong when we need to pull them out to plant spring and summer annuals.

 

Violas jnder a potted redbud tree grow here with Heuchera and daffodils.

Violas under a potted redbud tree grow here with Heuchera and daffodils.  April 2014

 

When the days begin to warm in February and March, the plants expand and come into their glory, covered in bright blossoms.

Paired with bulbs, ferns, Hellebores, evergreen shrubs, and ornamental kale or cabbage; they create a stunning display for the cooler half of our gardening year.

 

Violas with creeping jenny and a hardy Sedum.

Violas with creeping jenny and a hardy Sedum.   April 2014

 

The only problem we have, is that these pretty flowers also taste good… to any passing deer.

We’ve tried various ways to protect them over the years.  And the method which works best (so far), and  which we are using again this season, involves garlic.

 

A newly planted Panola, with its personal garlic clove nestled in the soil near its roots.

A newly planted Panola, with its personal garlic clove nestled in the soil near its roots.

 

We plant cloves of garlic interspersed with our pansy starts.

Our freshly planted Violas were grazed last fall before I tried the garlic.  A few plants never recovered.  Others bounced back in late winter.

A fresh head of garlic with garlic cloves, already broken a part and ready to plant.

A fresh head of garlic with garlic cloves, already broken apart and ready to plant.  The “flat” end goes down, where roots will grow.  The pointy end sticks up, ready for its leaves to emerge.

 

Only the Violas planted out of reach on our back deck went unscathed.

But last year, after the first grazing, I tried simply tossing some cloves on top of the soil around the plants.  It worked:  No more grazing in the garlic laced pots.

But something else happened, too:  the garlic cloves sprouted!  Roots busily grew out of the business end of each clove, seeking soil and moisture.

 

These little Panola starts we purchased yesterday will go out into pots on our next warm, dry day.

These little Panola starts we purchased yesterday will go out into pots on our next warm, dry day.

 

Plants always amaze me with their determination to live and grow.  When I notice the cloves rooting into the pots, I helped them out with a gentle nudge into the soil.  Each clove grew long green leaves, which we could have snipped to eat.

When I dug the Violas to transplant out into beds at spring potting time, the garlic went with them.

These Violas have been growing in their new pot for a few weeks.  Do you see the garlic leaves growing near them?

These Violas have been growing in their new pot for a few weeks. Do you see the garlic leaves growing near them?

 

So I’m starting off right this year. 

Little cloves are going into the soil around ever Viola, Panola and pansy we plant.  Some have already sprouted leaves.

They look like ornamental bulbs beginning to sprout, and don’t detract from the beauty at all, to us.

 

Viola here with garlic under a Brugmansia.  We also push cuttings of scented Pelargonium into the soil for extra protection.  Some will root.

Viola here with garlic under a Brugmansia. We also push cuttings of scented Pelargonium into the soil for extra protection. Some will root.

 

We look at them as “green insurance” for our Violas, Panolas and pansies to last through the winter, ungrazed.

March 20 2014 spring 006

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

*

 

 

December 13 2013 poinsettias 003

Holiday Wreath Challenge 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.

 

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 546 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest