Horticulturist and garden writer extraordinaire Ruth Rogers Clausen made her first visit to Homestead recently for our book and authors weekend, and shared with customers tips for gardening in deer-infested places. She offered the photo above as proof of her credentials to write on the subject of gardening with deer - that's her garden, and with a stream running through it, deer from far and near make it a regular stop.
Ruth has tried multitudes of plants in gardens around the U.S. and kept careful notes about just how deer-resistant (because nothing is deer-proof) each is, and awarded them a rating of 1 to 10. So while no plant received a 10, we know that 9-rated plants are pretty darn deer-proof, and 2-rated plants are likely to be short-lived around deer. Readers might choose a 5-rated plant but wisely site it close to the house, where only the bravest or hungriest deer dares to venture.
With the deer population in Maryland increasing every year, gardeners really need a reliable source on the subject of deer-resistance, and Ruth's 50 beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants is the one! In addition to the 50 plants indicated in the title, there are dozens more shown as companions and design tips for pulling it all together.
Other Deer Strategies
With a large enough budget (and a far smaller than than Ruth's), many gardeners choose fencing, which at 8 feet or taller really works. But animal-lover Ruth didn't want to deprive deer of the use of her stream, so that option was a nonstarter.
Besides, what serious gardener wouldn't rather spend their money on plants than on fencing?
Deer sprays are another option and they work reasonably well - if used frequently enough, and varied enough so that deer don't get used to any one product. However, they're a less appealing choice for really large gardens filled with vulnerable plants - plants like daylilies, impatiens, hostas and roses that Ruth gives a rating of 1, plants she calls "welcome mats" for deer.
One deer spray that's available any time and at no cost whatsoever is human urine, and Ruth recommends it highly. She told of having her son's football team over for barbeques and asking them to help out, a request they were happy to oblige.
Another excellent solution to deer in the garden is to employ the labor of dogs, who love to chase after deer.
Photos by Ruth Rogers Clausen, from her garden.