Spring perennial flowers that deer don’t eat were our focus in “Deer Country 11.” This “Deer Country” and the next will feature perennial flowers that bloom in summer and were listed by Howard County Master Gardeners in a survey as plants their local deer don’t eat.
Plant breeders must be having fun with blanket flower (Gaillardia spp.). Spring catalogs show a new cultivar or two each year with new color combinations. You can buy blanket flower seed packets, but generally you will not get blooms until the second year. It’s a favorite of butterflies but not deer.
If you like blue flowers, salvia (Salvia spp.) will make you happy and leave the deer looking for snacks elsewhere. Over the last 10 years I’ve planted ‘May Night,’ ‘Purple Rain,’ and ‘Rhapsody in Blue Sage.’ Since I have planted them on the east side of our house where they don’t get the full sun they prefer, they don’t grow as tall (up to 2’) as they should, but they still bloom profusely in early summer. My current salvia, ‘Rhapsody,’ has a tendency to collapse in July thunder- and windstorms, which disappointed me at first, but it soon puts up new stems from the center of the plant for a second, late-summer round of blooms.
If you want to grow orchids in your garden without having a greenhouse, plant hardy orchid (Bletilla striata). I hadn’t the slightest idea that such plants existed until I saw them growing in the garden of a Master Gardener, Irene M. I ordered up tubers (underground stems with buds) of two colors—white and pink—from a mail-order catalog. I planted them in a small garden on the east side of our home, where they get only a couple of hours of direct morning sun. They grew slowly for the first couple of years but soon began growing vigorously.
You may like to eat onions, but deer don’t. Feel confident then to plant members of the onion genus, Allium, which is Latin for “garlic.” But if you don’t want to plant onions, shallots, leeks, scallions, garlic, or chives in your flower garden, plant ornamental alliums instead. Bulb catalogs often list a score or more varieties with blooms ranging from “sparkler” and “hairy” types to those with various sizes of ball-like blue and purple blooms. In the photo are my ‘Drumstick’ alliums.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is another butterfly favorite. Years ago I planted ‘Cerise Queen,” which had deep-red blooms. However, over the years the color of the blooms gradually has reverted to a more natural white. Bright yellow is now a popular color. Yarrow multiplies both by seed and rhizomes (underground stems), so I restrict mine to an area between a sidewalk and concrete patio-stone pavers. Yarrow has been used for centuries for many purposes around the world, so it has many common names, such as gordaldo, nosebleed plant, old man’s pepper, devil’s nettle, sanguinary, milfoil, soldier’s woundwort, and thousand-leaf (which is the meaning of its binomial name, millefolium.
I grow veggies because I love to eat them. I grow garden pinks (Dianthus spp.) because I love to be engulfed in their fragrance when I walk nearby and deer don’t eat them. Current varieties include ‘Cheddar Pink’ and ‘Spangled Star.’
Deer love to browse daylilies except one: Stella d’Oro (Hemerocallis ‘Stella d’Oro’). Though its golden-yellow flowers may be less dramatic than newer daylily hybrids, what gardener in Deer Country will complain when deer pass it by to chow down on other daylilies and the taller Asiatic and Oriental lilies? Daylilies, of course, get their name from the fact that each bloom lasts only one day, unlike the Asiatic and Oriental lily blooms that often last for a week or more. Mine grow about a foot tall. They grow best in sunny locations but will tolerate some shade. If you cut out the stems after all the blooms are spent, you will encourage Stellas to rebloom, often into the fall. Every few years I look at my Stellas and say, “Hey, they need to be divided.” I get out my spade and cut off large parts of each plant, often dividing those parts again, and then giving the divisions as starter plants to friends looking for deer-resistant plants.
Note: Remember there are no guarantees that deer in your neighborhood won’t eat perennials listed here. There is no “deer-proof” plant. Browsing depends on many things, including number of deer, availability of other foods, and preferences of individual deer. If you’re serious about finding perennials that deer won’t eat, remember to check the lists in the brochure and the books I recommended in “Deer Country 3” and in lists available online. Research your favorite candidates and give them a try.
Next week’s “Deer Country” posting: more summer perennial flowers.