Try these plants that are beautiful and deer- resistant |
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Try these plants that are beautiful and deer- resistant

Doug Oster | Tribune-Review
Peonies are deer resistant and beautiful, and many have a wonderful sweet fragrance.
Doug Oster | Tribune-Review
This is a favorite mountain laurel called ‘Nipmuck.’ Even though it’s technically poisonous to the deer, the pests nibbled on the buds.
Doug Oster | Tribune-Review
A bench filled with many different heuchera plants at Trax Farms in Finleyville. They are tough, deer resistant and a beautiful perennial.
Doug Oster | Tribune-Review
Foxglove is a deer-resistant plant that starts blooming in May and continues through much of the early summer.
Doug Oster | Tribune-Review
Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ is a shade-loving perennial that is deer resistant.

In May, the deer finally have something to eat in the forest, hopefully keeping them busy and out of the garden.

Any gardener that lives in deer country, though, knows that the allure of hostas and tulips draws the four-legged marauders to the garden.

Here are some plants that I grow in my garden that bloom during May and June that are deer-resistant. Even though they are, you just never know when a young deer might come by to give them a try.

That’s what happened to my favorite mountain laurel, “Nipmuck.” It’s technically poisonous to deer, but they came through and nibbled on some of the buds. It only happened once during the winter, and I sprayed the plant with Bobbex to make sure it didn’t happen again. I can only imagine that deer had quite a stomachache.

Siberian iris is something they’ve never touched in my garden. The plants can produce blue, white and yellow flowers in different shades. This perennial is a tough one and will grow anywhere from part shade to full sun. I love “Caesar’s Brother,” but there are also many other wonderful varieties on the market.

I can’t imagine a garden without foxglove. Most are technically a biennial, meaning they grow foliage the first year, flowers the second year and then die. Since it throws seeds everywhere, though, once it gets started, the plant shows up annually wherever it’s happy.

I’ve never seen the deer touch it, as it’s another poisonous plant. Foxglove enjoys part shade to full sun and comes in a wide range of colors. There’s a related annual plant called digiplexis that needs full sun and will bloom from first frost to last. It’s a relatively new introduction. It’s been in nurseries for only a few years. It’s a cross between foxglove (digitalis) and a tropical relative called isoplexis. I saw it planted in an unprotected bed at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, where the deer pressure is intense.

Deer will sometimes munch on the flowers of heuchera, tiarella and heucherella, but the foliage is astringent and usually unmolested. These perennials are long lived when planted right. Never sink them lower in the soil, as they are prone to crown rot. Leave the center of the plant up high, growing in good compost.

There are endless varieties of heuchera and heucherella. The plant likes shade but can take some sun, especially in the morning and early afternoon hours.

Ornamental grasses can be annual or perennial. They grow anywhere from a foot tall to more than 20 feet tall, depending on the variety. They add texture and, in some cases, a vertical element in the garden.

Every few years, the perennials need to be split. When the centers die out, dig out the clumps and divide them in half or quarters. They can be replanted, and extras can be planted elsewhere or given to friends.

Ligularia is a shade-loving perennial that the deer have never looked at twice in my garden. There are lots of different shapes and sizes of the plant. I grow “Britt Marie Crawford” and “Rocket.” Once established, they will grow for decades and don’t need to be babied by the gardener.

Salvias can be perennials or annuals. Since they are from the sage family, the deer aren’t interested in them.

I talk a lot about perennial salvia “May Night,” as it’s beautiful, tough and long-blooming.

I tested a new annual variety from Proven Winners called “Playin’ The Blues” that I loved. It bloomed like crazy all year and didn’t ask for much from me.

“Patio Deep Blue” is part of the Summer Flower Show at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and the color makes me swoon. I hope I can find some locally.

Peonies are one of the queens of the late-spring, early-summer garden and are almost deer-proof. The sky is the limit on different colored blooms, and, even though they aren’t around long, the foliage will persist until a hard freeze. Many have intense fragrance, too.

There are many more plants that can be grown out in the garden that deer will turn their collective noses up at. Check with your local nursery to see what else works in the landscape.

Article by Doug Oster,
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