Tag Archives: Deer Resistant Plants

Beautiful Deer Resistant Plants

It’s coming. You can feel it. When school starts, Indian Summer usually starts, too, and it won’t be long before we’ll be basking in lots of sunshine.

Fall is just around the corner and most flowering perennials and annuals will continue to bloom until Halloween and maybe into November if the weather cooperates. My garden is mostly blue, pink and lavender but I like to add warm colored flowers and foliage plants to the garden now to enjoy for the next several months.

Living in mostly shade I’m excited to see a new impatien in a peach color. Envoy peach butterfly sport a profusion  flowers with dark coral centers. This series also comes in bicolor rose and lavender shades which are equally showy. They really light up the shade garden.

There are many flowering plants that ease us into fall. Whether they bloom with red, orange, yellow, bronze or rust flowers, the colors seem appropriate at this time of year. Some of my favorites are kangaroo paw, erysimum ‘Fragrant Sunshine’, mimulus, strawflowers, asteriscus, lantana, coreopsis, mums and zinnia. Orange clock vines are one of the showiest around. They need protection here to survive the winter but the huge 3" long, bright orange flowers are worth the risk.

Gloriosa daisy or rudbeckia now come in so many new colors. Cherry Brandy produces beautiful masses of cherry red flowers to add to your traditional rusty colors. All are tough and easy to grow and they make a good cut flower for bouquets.

Don’t forget warm foliage colors like coprosma, Golden Delicious pineapple sage and red fountain grass to play off the bold colors of your fall flowers. By mixing in a liberal doses of grasses and shrubs you’ll have a garden that won’t quit until it gets cold.

Remember the color wheel to add additional colors to your warm autumn garden. Blue is the complementary color of orange and purple or lavender goes with yellow and gold. Cool down hot colors with blue flowering perennials like blue plumbago, Aster frikartii Monch, Russian sage, blue ground morning glory and scabiosa. Lilac or purple flowers include lavatera bicolor, Midnight penstemon, verbena, princess flowers, salvia and annuals like torenia and lobelia.

Deer Resistant and Beautiful,too

I’m standing just inside my screen door watching a young doe and her fawn browse on plants that are suppose to be "deer resistant". They are only about 5 ft from me and not really doing much damage yet. I see deer all the time but I confess, I am mesmerized. The fawn is so cute and still covered with spots. Then the doe reaches up and takes a bite from my variegated hanging fuchsia. I have been meaning to spray it with deer repellent but just haven’t gotten around to it. I quietly say "Don’t eat that" from behind the screen door. She looks all around- up, down, sideways- but can’t figure out where the voice is coming from. Deciding she wants no more of the talking fuchsia she rambles on followed by her little one.

It’s frustrating living in deer country. Fencing is expensive and deer repellent sprays need to be applied on a regular basis to be effective. What is safe from browsing in one yard is breakfast in another. Don’t be discouraged. Plants like lavender, sage, canna and calla lily, erysimum, euryops, lysimachia and grasses are top performers around deer. But if you’re itching to add something new to your garden try one of these.

Agastache is a long-blooming perennial with leaves that smell like licorice, sprearmint or lemon depending on the species. Also called Orange Hummingbird Mint, Anise or Lemon Hyssop, the leaves can be used in teas and the flowers are a hummingbird favorite.Their strong odor and flavor repel deer. Most grow 2-3 ft tall in sun or partial shade, are drought tolerant, long-lived, insect and disease resistant, non-invasive and need no staking. They also thrive with little deadheading or dividing. What’s not to love about agastache?

Need a vigorous groundcover that can compete with tree roots? Ceratostigma plumbagiodes or Dwarf Plumbago grows in sun or shade. Being drought tolerant it’s a good choice under native oaks. Electric blue flowers are showy in summer and fall and are set off by rich scarlet autumn foliage as the weather cools. They look great in front of golden foliage plants like coleonema ‘Sunset Gold’.  A light pruning in spring makes them look their best.s Easy to grow, spreading but not invasive, deer, pest and disease resistant they are true workhorses in the garden.

My last suggestion for a high-impact, low-care, deer resistant plant is Brilliance Autumn Fern. This is no ordinary looking fern. Striking as a specimen on it’s own or massed as a groundcover to create a glowing display, the fronds of this classy fern start out a shiny red-orange and hold the color long into the season before maturing to a glossy green. Combine these coppery new fronds with hellebore and ligularia to add zest to a container or shady garden. Another plus- they are pest free and not troubled by thrips that may infest other ferns like the western sword fern.

Add one of these new plants to your garden and welcome Bambi. We can all get along.

Rhododendrons for the Santa Cruz Mountains

Spring officially kicks off March 20th and if you’re like me every tree, shrub and perennial that starts to flower is an event. The subtle colors of winter are behind us. Bring on the colors of the rainbow.

Rhododendrons are one of spring’s show stoppers. Huge, rounded clusters of stunning blossoms in lavender, red, purple, white, pink and even yellow and gold clothe these shrubs with color. You can have flowers from February to late May by choosing different varieties. And rhododendrons are easy to grow if you give them what they need.

Because rhododendrons like air in the root zone, amend your soil liberally with organic matter.  50-60% is not too much. If you garden in clay, just plant them in raised beds or berms 1-2 ft above the original soil level. Rhododendrons like moist soil so top dress around your plants with several inches of mulch over the root zone, making sure the stem is not get buried. Pine needles, oak leaves or wood chips are good choices. around the plants as this would injure the surface roots. Finally, most rhodies thrive in partial shade or morning sun. The hot afternoon sun that we get during the summer would burn even those varieties that tolerate some sun. Since their leaves remain on the plant for several years you’d have to live with burnt leaf centers and edges for a long time if they got too much sun.

There are thousands of rhododendron varieties. By planting early, mid-season and late blooming types you can enjoy those huge, gorgeous flowers for months.

Cheer is one of the showy early bloomers. Large, pink flower trusses cover the 5×5 ft plant. It can take some sun and would be a good candidate if you have one of those gardens that receives and hour or so of afternoon sun.

For April blooms consider Edith Bosley. Similar to Purple Splendor it grows upright to 6 ft.tall but only 4 ft wide. Perfect for narrow spaces. Other mid-season bloomers that would make a splash in the garden include Golden Gate, a 3 ft compact orange hybrid and easy-to-grow, red-flowering Jean Marie de Montegue.

To extend your season add some late season varieties like Lee’s Dark Purple. Growing with a spreading habit to 4 x 5 ft wide, you’ll love its blue-purple trusses. Anah Kruschke also blooms late in spring with lavender pink flowers on a dense 5 x 5 ft shrub. A tough undemanding larger variety is English Roseum. This one grows 6 ft tall with lavender pink flower trusses and blooms in May.

Rhododendrons really contribute to the woodland or shade garden. They are long-lived and deer resistant. I’ve only heard two gardeners tell me that deer ate some of their flower buds last fall for the moisture content. Most likely those deer couldn’t read well enough to read the deer resistant list!

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the Night Before Christmas
                 A poem for Gardeners
                    by Jan Nelson "The Mountain Gardener"

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the garden,
All the creatures were stirring,  the deer got a pardon.
The hummingbird feeders were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that the Anna’s soon would be there.

The flowering cherries were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of spring glory danced in their heads.
The summer vegetables were harvested and beds put to nap,
The compost’s a brewing so next year’s a snap.

When out on the native grass lawn there arose such a clatter,
I ran into the garden to see what was the matter.
And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a big flock of chickadees and eight black-tailed deer.

They spoke not a word, but went straight to their work,
The chickadees devouring aphids with amazing teamwork.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the deck,
Prancing and pawing, the deer making a wreck.


A hydrangea here, an abutilon there, this garden’s a feast,
Fruit, vegetables and color:  it must belong to an artiste.
We love this garden, they whispered to themselves,
With any luck,  they’ll think we’re the elves !

Beautiful flowers and nectar and fragrance abounds,
We’ll include this forever on one of our rounds.
The birds can sing and fly in the skies
But we have the charm with huge brown doe-eyes.

We get a bad rap, it’s not all our fault,
Our old feeding grounds are now covered with asphalt.
Just give us a sleigh and we’ll make you proud,
We’re good for more than just eating roses they vowed.

Call us Dasher and Dancer and Comet and Vixen,
Or Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen,
Then maybe you’ll forgive us for our past mistakes,
We can’t help that we eat plants, we just don’t eat steaks.

Now if you’ve been good this year,  go ahead and make a wish,
And each time you see one of us,   think welcome,  not banish.
And all of us creatures will give you our best shot,
To feed and nourish your garden with nary a thought.

So everybody listen carefully on Christmas Eve,
And maybe you’ll hear us and then you’ll believe.
You may even hear us exclaim as we prance out of sight,
" Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night ! "

My thanks to Clement Clark Moore who wrote this poem in 1822 in New York.  I’d like to believe that he would enjoy my version for gardeners everywhere.



Echinacea Need more late summer perennials to extend your season?  Purple coneflowers will continue to bloom until frost then go dormant for the winter.  Showy 4" rosy purple daisies are lightly fragrant and make good cut flowers for bouquets.  The clumps spread slowly and can be carefully divided after 3 or 4 years.  There is also a beautiful white variety called White Swan.  If faded flowers are left in place, the bristly seed heads provide food for finches in winter.  

The herb echinacea is derived from varieties of this flower.  E. angustifolia is used nowadays as a fortifier of the immune system, mainly to prevent flu and minor respiratory diseases by increasing the body’s production of interferon.  The roots are the part of this plant used for medicinal purposes.   Echinacea was used by Native Americans more than any other plant in the plains states.  It’s antiseptic properties were used to treat snake and insect bites, to bathe burns and to help cure the “sweats.”  They chewed the plants roots to ease the pain of toothache.  It was also used by the Native Americans for purification.  The leaves and the flowers can be used in teas as well.