Q: We loved reading about those basic plants you don't have to fertilize, divide, water too much, etc. (Plant Life, Nov. 21.) I have a question: Are any of them deer-resistant...
We loved reading about those basic plants you don’t have to fertilize, divide, water too much, etc. (Plant Life, Nov. 21.) I have a question: Are any of them deer-resistant?
We live on a remote five acres near Hood Canal and have a gate entrance that is 250 feet from our house. This limits what we can plant there, with water and access considerations. We have lots of native huckleberries, salal, firs and pines, so green is not an issue. We are excited about getting some color. Can you recommend any of the sturdy plants that meet that criteria? Deer feed on most anything we plant outside fenced areas.
I did forget to consider deer predation in my list of easiest-care plants, and certainly no plant eaten to a stubble by deer qualifies as foolproof.
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I’ve had many more suggestions from readers since; for those of you who missed the admittedly far-too-brief list of easy-care plants, it included:
Smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak’ or ‘Royal Purple’).
Mophead hydrangeas (H. macrophylla).
Flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum).
Crocus, tulips, narcissus, allium.
Lungworts (Pulmonaria species).
Coral bells (Heuchera species).
Sweet box (Sarcococca ruscifolia and its shorter cousin, S. humilis).
Rosemary New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax).
Having far more experience with slug predation than foraging deer, I turned to wildlife biologist Russell Link’s newest book, “Living With Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest” (University of Washington Press, 2004). Flowering currant, lungwort, rosemary and crocus all offer color, and make Link’s list of plants that are deerproof, or close to it.
There is a number of other lovely, durable, easy-care, colorful plants on Link’s deerproof list, including catmint, lavender, elderberry, red twig dogwood, mahonia, poppies and yarrow.
Link cautions that browsing deer tend to root out any small new plants recently put in the ground, and that trees and shrubs need to be at least 4 feet tall before they can withstand browsing deer. Along with his list of reasonably deerproof plants, Link offers other humane strategies for gardening with deer.
Valerie Easton also writes about Plant Life in Sunday’s Pacific Northwest Magazine. Write to her at P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions. Sorry, no personal replies.