Sunday, February 6, 2011

Deer Country 9: Two Resistant Trees

'Sea Green' juniper

When I asked Howard County Master Gardeners what kinds of trees deer don’t eat in their landscapes, they listed two: junipers and spruces.

Those two broad categories, however, cover many varieties, some of which you might consider to be shrubs because of their small size. But you’re not alone. In his authoritative Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Michael Dirr points out that the term “junipers” covers a wide range of trees and shrubs and that “spruce” covers several short varieties that you might call shrubs or bushes.

Why do deer shun them? Their leaves tend to be prickly or needle like and often are strongly aromatic.

I have two kinds of junipers, Juniperus chinensis ‘Sea Green’ and Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star.’

Several years ago I planted a row of Sea Green junipers along the north side of our driveway to serve as a snow fence. They’ve grown to six-feet or more and are serving their purpose well. Deer on rare occasions nip an inch or two of new growth, but Sea Green obviously is not on their “must eat” list.

'Blue Star' juniper
I’ve planted several short Blue Star junipers in our flower gardens, where they serve as accent plants that add both color and texture, especially during winter months. After four years, the Blue Stars are still less than one-foot tall by one-foot wide. I don’t think the deer have taken even one nip of Blue Star’s prickly, aromatic leaves.

You might be wondering about one of the best-known native junipers, the Eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana. Seedlings frequently sprout under other trees here at Meadow Glenn from seeds dropped by birds. Twice I’ve moved seedlings to better growing locations, only to be met with disaster. My most successful transplant grew beautifully to about seven-feet tall and then over one year died of a rust disease. A second, smaller transplant became lunch one winter day when a neighbor’s Angus cattle got out and needed a strongly flavored snack. Even though red cedar has prickly, aromatic leaves, deer will browse on them when food is scarce. During Snowmageddon 2010, I watched deer rearing up to browse on the lower limbs of a neighbor’s red cedars.

Ellen's blue spruce
I also have two varieties of blue spruce, Picea pungens, both of which the deer don’t eat.

When we moved to Meadow Glenn, one of the first things Ellen asked that I plant was a blue spruce. That four-footer that I planted now towers near our driveway adding color year round.

I also planted two Montgomery spruces—also blue—in a small bed between our front sidewalk and the garage. Dirr calls this variety a “dwarf bush.” I’m counting on these “dwarfs” to stay small and to continue adding color and texture to the landscaping along the front of our house for many years.

'Montgomery' spruce
The two trees I’ve written about here are those that Howard County Master Gardeners say their local deer don’t eat. The books and brochure I mentioned in “Deer Country 3” list many others you may wish to consider. And remember that just because you find a tree listed as “deer resistant” doesn’t mean the deer in your neighborhood have read the list and agree not to eat it. “Deer Country 7” describes how you can cage young trees to help them survive browsing deer.

Next week’s “Deer Country” will begin a discussion of deer-resistant flowers.

If this is the first “Deer Country” posting that you’ve read, I suggest that you click on the “Deer” label at the end of this posting and read earlier “Deer Country” postings.


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    Deer Resistant Tree

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