Deer Proof Plants
Posted: Jan-13-2005 at 4:17pm
We are just moving back to Western Washington after leaving when Mt. St. Helens blew and are in the process of building on Camano Island. There are several friendly deer in the area and we would like to landscape as diverse as possible. What are good plants to start and maybe keep deer from some that may not be so deer proof?
Jerry on Camano
Posted: Jan-13-2005 at 6:42pm
Hi Jerry - Welcome to Rainyside! You will find that Camano Island is a dry spot on the rainyside of the state and you will love it there.
Ahhhh, deer. First of all - don't believe anything you read or anything anybody tells you about what they will or will not eat. Every deer in an individual and some are hungrier than others and there's just no way to know who you've got roving your neighborhood. And they will taste everything. This is how they taste - bite the plant, pull it out of the ground roots and all, take a tiny nibble, spit it out. Oh good - they don't like it! And they are too stupid to remember that they've already tasted that plant.
Having said that, you might try lots of native plants since *some* deer get kind of bored with natives. And natives will bring in lots of birds and be easy care for you (after their first summer of watering). Also, some people say that gray-leaved plants and fuzzy plants are less-liked by deer. That is true in my yard. I have especially good luck with Lavanders and it should grow really well in your rain shadow on the island. Let's see, natives might be Pacific Ninebark, Oregon Grape and Mock Orange. Try to encourage your neighbors to plant lots of roses so they will hang out at their house instead of yours (I'm so naughty!).
Another issue with deer is antler rubbing. If you have a special tree about 6' tall you might consider circling it with a wire fence until it is taller. Once they rub the bark off a tree it is usually a goner. The deer in my neighborhood like the short young trees that bend a little bit - maybe they provide good scratching since they are flexible.
Some people get good results from motion-activated sprinklers. Deer fencing is probably a good thing but it is expensive and not right for every yard.
Oh, and my deer LOVE the twigs of my pussy willow. I look at it as a sacrificial plant and hope they fill up on it. It recovers quickly and actually likes the trimming. Oh, one final word - if you are a veggie gardener or have fruit trees or berries, you will have an even harder time. I have no advice for you there except a really tall fence (the floppier the better - they don't like jumping over floppy fences).
So after all my bad-mouthing I really have to say that I like them. There is really nothing as cool as looking out over an early rising fog in the morning and seeing the deer walk by as if walking on air (their legs washed out in the mist). I just can't hate them.
Good luck and keep us posted.
Posted: Jan-13-2005 at 6:57pm
Welcome to Rainyside!
Lots of good info there, Wanda. I also have heard that deer do not like plants with a strong smell. Herbs and some bulbs such as narcissus and frittilaria are good candidates for some deer-proofing. I think deer fences need to be at least 8ft tall to keep them from jumping over the fence. Also, some people recommend putting down wire fencing on the ground, 6 feet in front of the fence or whatever you are trying to protect because they don't like walking over the uneven surface. Good luck!
Posted: Jan-22-2005 at 3:35pm
I went to a native/organic gardening symposium some years ago and in a slide show there the presenter made the comment: 'Well, there is only really one plant in the Pacific North West that is 100% deer proof.' I immediatly thought: 'Death Camus' and sure enough the next slide was a picture of Death Camus. But, I have seen claims of a myriad of other plants and flowers that are apparently deer proof. Just do a google search. But, for sure; if you plant Death Camus, the deer will not eat it. (At least if they do, you won't have deer problem for long).