Monday, May 23, 2011

Deer Country: Mid-May Beauty


Mid-May in this cool, wet spring is a beautiful time, even in Deer Country, as perennial flowers, shrubs, and trees almost demand that we stop to admire their blooms, to take a photograph or two, to savor the occasional fragrance.

Here are photos of plants that have been blooming at Meadow Glenn during the last four days, along with a short comment about each and their “deer resistance.”

Peony: Every home that I can remember living in has had a garden with peonies. My dad used to cut them in New Jersey to take as remembrances to the graves of his and my mother’s parents. Peonies (Paeonia spp.) are deer resistant.

Dianthus (front) and orchid (back)
Dianthus and Hardy Ground Orchid: When I sit and read the Post on the glider on the front porch, the fragrance of the dianthus (Dianthus ‘Firewitch’) fills the morning air. Our pink orchids (Bletilla striata) are growing much more vigorously than the white ones. Both dianthus and hardy orchids are deer-resistant.

'Double Knock Out'
Rose: I love roses, but most take a lot of care and nearly all are “deer candy.” But I insist on having one, a red Knock Out that takes little care and which, as you can see in the photo, blooms wonderfully in its cage of welded wire. Eat your hearts out, deer—but not my Knock Out. This specimen is Rosa arbustiva ‘Double Knock Out.’

Chives: I’ll confess that I grow chives (Allium schoenoprasum) more for their lavender blooms than their flavor. A member of the allium family, as are onions and garlic, they’re deer resistant. Perhaps deer don’t like bad breath. Their black seeds will mean new plants will spring up this fall or next year.

Bleeding heart
Bleeding Heart: Bleeding hearts (Dicentra spp.) have been blooming for several weeks, but their flowers are now in decline. Still, they’re beautiful in the morning dew. They’re deer-resistant.

'Blue hill' salvia
Salvia: I love this deer-resistant perennial that looks great, takes little care, and adds to the beauty of our garden year after year. Salvia pratensis ‘Blue Hill” sometimes flops in mid-summer wind gusts, but then it puts up a new crop of stems from its crown and reblooms.

Bearded iris (front) and
Siberian iris (back)
Iris: Last week was peak bloom for our yellow bearded (Iris spp.) and our blue Siberian iris (Iris sibirica), both gifts from Cindy S., a fellow Master Gardener. I like the Siberian iris because it’s carefree. The flowers of the bearded iris are stunning, but the plant attracts insect pests which sometimes cause whole parts of the plant to collapse. I’m a low-care gardener, so I think the Siberian iris will be a part of our landscape long after the bearded iris has died out. Deer occasionally nip the top of a new leaf or two of the bearded iris in early spring, but they never browse the Siberian iris just a foot away.

Pansy: Ellen picked out a market pack of pansies (Viola tricolor) when we visited a local nursery in March. I remember when we first moved to Meadow Glenn and planted our first pansies. We were amazed at how vigorously they grew along our front sidewalk, until one morning we discovered they had all disappeared—eaten to the ground by deer. Our pansies now are growing in the shade of a redbud tree in our backyard and are protected from the deer by a fence—hopefully. Pansies often are called “deer candy.”

Arrowwood viburnum
Viburnum: Deer browse lightly on new growth of our doublefile viburnum (Viburnum tomentosum) but seriously chow down on leaves of our arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum), a native shrub. Arrowwood is one of the plants I’m spraying with “Deer Out” as an experiment this year, as I mentioned in an earlier posting.

Kousa dogwood
Dogwood: Deer browse heavily on the leaves of our native dogwood (Cornus florida) but only lightly on its Asian cousin, Cornus kousa. We were amazed to discover, however, that deer will even spar over the ripened drupes (large, fleshy seeds) of the kousa in the fall. While vacuuming the drupes, the deer often pause to sample leaves. Over the last two years, I’ve pruned low, leaf-bearing branches, so deer now ignore our kousa’s foliage.

'Wolf Eyes" kousa dogwood
Just 50 feet away from our large Cornus kousa is a quite different kousa cultivar, Wolf Eyes, with variegated leaves and hardly noticeable blooms that are more light-green than they are white. Even though Wolf Eyes is small and bushy with lots of leaves deer could browse easily, deer have only nibbled a leaf or two since I planted it four years ago. I often wonder whether deer ignore the tree because of its variegated leaves, but I think not because they heavily browse the variegated hostas just six feet away. Let’s call Wolf Eyes’s deer resistance a happy mystery.

Bottom line: ten of the 13 flowering plants shown in photos in this posting are deer resistant and grow in Deer Country without sprays or cages. The other three, however, are deer candy—and must be protected in some way.

That’s life in Deer Country, where plants sometimes are caged and deer always run free.

1 comment:

  1. My wolf eyes kousa dogwood has been in the ground for two weeks. She is a pretty little thing! Despite the lush greenery in the vicinity, deer decided to chomp on my beloved tree last night! It couldn't be because they are has to be that they are greedy! Orange County, NY...60 miles northwest of New York City.