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Oh, Deer!

How to keep your treasured plants from becoming the main course.


    Everyone has heard the horror stories or has told the story them self.  You know the one.  One early morning a herd of four legged eating machines has pulled out all of your begonias and left them laying on the ground.  Your beautiful holly tree has been limbed up for you, and your hosta garden has been reduced to shredded cabbage.  You stare out the window at them, and even beat on the glass a few times.  They lift up their heads, staring back at you through the window knowing two panes of tempered glass is more than enough to keep them safe.

    Here are some helpful hints for keeping these walking stomachs from decimating your yard.


Protective netting for gardens and landscaping

    Deer are well known for browsing their favorite plants, many times they will eat only those favorites and leave the rest of your garden untouched.  If you notice year after year that you have deer damage on the same plants, maybe it's time to do something about protecting those plants.  A 3/4" nearly invisible polypropylene mesh is loosely draped over the plant and is secured either to the plant or to anchors on the ground.   The netting is so thin that it virtually disappears into the shading and textures of the plant.  This is an extremely effective method of curbing browsing during the winter months when the deer are most hungry and active.



Repellent Sprays to deter from a plant or an area

    There are many different brands of repellant sprays available.  Rather than tell you about each of them individually lets put them into two groups.

Scent based:

    Scent based sprays are by far the most common type of spray on the market.  The producer takes a scent that is known to frighten or repulse deer from an area, then concentrates the smell and adds it to a medium that is as durable on a plant as possible. Some of the most common substances used as repellants are eggs, urine, and blood meal.  The advantage of the scent based repellant is that scents travel in the wind and can deter deer from browsing in entire areas rather than just on the plant that you sprayed.  Unfortunately most of the scents that repulse a deer are also repulsive to you.  Typically scent based repellants are suggested for areas that are a short distance from the house.  It may take a couple of days for the aroma of a scent based spray to become undetectable to your nose.  One scent based spray that we have worked extensively with and had great results is Liquid Fence.  Liquid fence is all natural repellent that is safe to use and pet friendly.

Taste based:

    Taste based sprays are a little less common than scent based sprays.  Both, though, have their uses in the garden.  Areas next to walking paths or by the house where you just can't have an aroma may call for a taste based spray.  Tree Guard, the most common taste based spray has an advantage over many scent based sprays as it is rainproof for six weeks.  The only downside to taste based repellents is that you must directly spray the plants you wish to protect.  Tree guard is even more effective during the winter months where there is little precipitation to wash the product off.  Many people use this product for their evergreens in the winter months when deer are the most hungry.


Use deer resistant plants in your landscape

Gallery of deer-resistant plants:


Aromatic plants:

  • Artemisia - (Artemisia)

  • Dill - (Anethum)

  • Lavender - (Lavandula)

  • Mint - (Mentha)

  • Russian sage - (Perovskia)

  • Salvia - (Salvia)

  • Scented geranium - (Pelargonium)

  • Tansy - (Tanacetum)

  • Thyme - (Thymus)

  • Yarrow - (Achillea)



  • Alliums - (Allium)

  • Anemones - (Anemone)

  • Daffodills - (Nercissus)

Relatives of Buttercup:

  • Delphinium - (Delphinium)

  • Larkspur - (Consolida)

  • Monks hood - (Aconitum)

  • Peony - (Paeonia)


Relatives of wild Mustard:

  • Dame's rocket - (Hesperis)

  • Alyssum - (Alyssum)

  • Annual Alyssum - (Lobularia)

  • Rock Cress - (Aubrietia & Arabis)

Cultivated Wildflowers:

  • Foxglove - (Digitalis)

  • Snapdragon - (Antirrhinum)

  • Toadflax - (Linaria)

Other safe Perennials:

  • Astilbe - (Astilbe)

  • Bleeding Heart - (Dicentra)

  • Bearded Iris - (Iris)

  • Epimedium - (Epimedium)

  • Poppy - (Papaver)


Fuzzy Plants:
  • Black-eyed Susan - (Rudbeckia)
  • Dead Nettle - (Lamium)
  • Lamb's Ear - (Stachys)
  • Rose Campion - (Lychnis)

Dead nettle

Evergreen Shrubs:

  • Cotoneaster - (Cotoneaster)
  • Juniper - (Juniperus)
  • Leucothoe - (Leucothoe)
  • Oregon Grape Holly - (Mahonia)
  • Japanese Holly - (Ilex crenata)
  • Boxwood - (Buxus)


Evergreen Trees:

  • Spruce - (Picea)
  • Western Red Cedar - (Thuja plicata)
  • Korean Pine - (Pinus koriensis)
  • White Pine - (Pinus strobus)
  • Fir - (Abies)

White Pine

Deciduous Shrubs:

  • Barberry - (Berberis)
  • Michigan Holly - (Ilex verticillata)
  • Butterfly Bush - (Buddleia)
  • Common Lilac - (Syringa vulgaris)
  • Forsythia - (Forsythia)
  • Potentillia - (Potentillia)
  • Summersweet - (Clethra)
  • Honeysuckle - (Lonicera)
  • Viburnum - (Viburnum)



    No matter how serious the invasion of deer is in your area, don't let them get the best of you.  Just because it's impractical to plant bunches of daylilies or flats of impatiens doesn't mean the landscape must be devoid of color.  A combination of sensible plant choices, deer netting and applications of spray repellants to protect the most defenseless plants will help you have a lovely, colorful garden in spite of the deer.


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