On Monday I showed a hosta that had been chewed up by a groundhog (or woodchuck, if you prefer).
The center of this hosta has been chewed off by a deer. Hosta are known as “deer candy” in most gardener’s yards, although in my yard, they are rarely bothered–the deer much prefer these other things like the masses of jewelweed I grow for the hummingbirds, but that they rarely get to see because the deer mow them down at regular intervals before they flower.
Some years, I rarely get to see a hydrangea bloom from my “old-fashioned” types of hydrangeas (the ones that bloom on old wood only) because the deer have come through in the winter and eaten all the canes. Luckily this wasn’t one of those years.
And my nutty deer even like my roses! Why would you eat thorny things when you could snack on nice leafy hostas? But I digress.
Here are some violets that have been shorn by the deer. Violets? That’s not a preferred deer food. I’d say that the rabbits were after them but we haven’t had a rabbit in the yard all season–and the much taller asters next to them were also eaten (also not a known deer food, by the way). I have some weird deer.
Once again, the most reliable way to keep deer out is by fencing–but most gardeners, including me, won’t resort to that. The “ranters” at Garden Rant had a post a week or two ago about creating “fortresses” in the garden while trying to keep deer out and the photos weren’t pretty!
To avoid the “plant wrapped in deer netting” look, there is always the resort to the numerous repellents on the market. Many are organic. This, of course, depends on what they call the “deer load” (which is the fancy way of saying just how many deer are tromping through your yard at any one time). The heavier the “deer load,” the less effective repellents will be.
And of course for repellents to be completely effective (or as effective as they can be–none are perfect!), they should be rotated every couple of weeks or so. After awhile deer develop a tolerance for certain ones.
If all of this sounds like a tremendous amount of work–and it can be depending on the size of your property (I garden on an acre, for example) you can resort to attempting to plant “deer resistant” plants. Again, notice the use of the word “resistant” because a starving animal will eat just about anything. In my yard, I’ve had them eat English holly–the spiky kind–when that’s all they could get at through the snow.
And other so-called “resistant” plants like astilbe and heuchera–they didn’t read the lists, apparently. But that’s fine. I’ve got so many a few nibbles–or wholesale scarfing down, if they must–if going to be fine.
For a list of deer resistant plants for the Northeast, I can recommend this list from Rutgers University which rates plants by category of rarely damaged, seldom damaged, and so forth. There are other lists out there for other parts of the country, but since I don’t garden there, I’m not sure how good they are!