Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Deer Country: Rutgers Online List of Resistant Plants

Part of a page of the Rutgers
online list of deer-resistant landscape plants

Has your spring fever reached the level that you’re tempted to drive to the nearest nursery and load your car with plants to fill your landscape—but you’re holding back just a bit because you know the local deer will get more nourishment from eating those plants than you will get enjoyment from viewing them?

I have some great news for you. The Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) Cooperative Extension—yes, that’s really the name—has an online publication, “Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance,” that I think you’re going to value.

This is not the typical deer-resistant plant list that you have to page back and forth through different categories and resistance levels.   For each plant, the Rutgers list gives Common Name, Latin Name, Type (such as Annuals, Perennials, Shrubs, or Trees) and Rating (A, B, C, or D).  For easy reference, the ratings are color coded.  Green A means “Rarely Damaged.”  Yellow B indicates “Seldom Severely Damaged.”  Orange C means “Occasionally Severely Damaged.”  Red D all but shouts, “Frequently Severely Damaged,” don’t plant!

The color coding makes the list easy to use.  You can skim down the list and spot “red” plants if you want to fatten up your local deer herd or “green” ones if you want to slim them down.

After the Common Name of some of the plants appears a small icon of a camera.  Click on the camera and you’ll see a photo of that plant.  If you want to go from there back to the list of plants, click on the white X in the small circle at the top right-hand corner of the photo.  If you click on your return arrow, you’ll likely go back to where you were before you surfed to this site.

And there’s more.  This site lets you “Browse” or “Search.”

Let’s do “Search,” the simpler one, first.  Just type in a common or Latin name and click “Search,” and presto, there’s a list in glowing colors.  For example, I typed in “holly” and a list appeared with 16 holly varieties.  First was a green line with “American Holly,” “Ilex opaca,” “Trees,” “Rating A” (“Rarely Damaged”).  Last was a yellow line with Wintergreen Holly, Ilex verticillata, Shrubs, Rating B” (“Seldom Severely Damaged”).  And mid-list appeared an orange line with “Hollyhock,” “Alcea sp.,” “Perennials,” “Rating C” (“Occasionally Severely Damaged”).

I suppose most gardeners thinking “landscape” and “holly” are fantasizing about a tree or shrub, but the reality is that a computer runs this list and when you enter “holly,” the computer lists any plant on the list that contains h-o-l-l-y.

The “Browse” function adds to the excitement.  You can select any Rating category (All, or A, B, C, or D), any plant type (All, Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs, Ferns, Groundcovers, Ornamental Grasses, Shrubs, Trees, or Vines), and Sort them for delivery by “Common Name” or “Latin Name.”

Interested in common names of shrubs that deer “Frequently Severely Damage” so you replace your landscape every year?  Here’s your list: Evergreen Azaleas, Pinxterbloom Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Wintercreeper, and Yews.

Is the Rutgers list perfect?  Nothing in Deer Country is perfect, not even the Ancient Gardener.  Deer don’t read lists of resistant plants so just might ignore a red-coded plant or chow down on a green-coded plant.  Arrowwood viburnum is green-coded on the list but bambits here at Meadow Glenn browse our two specimens so heavily that I have caged them so we can enjoy more than leafless branches.  And then there’s the misspelled “Pampus Grass,” which I hope does not refer to “Pampas Grass” with an infected cell.

Minor imperfections aside, I recommend you add “Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance” to your Favorite sites for future reference—and for sharing when a neighbor asks you about plants that deer don’t eat.

To go to the Rutgers site, CLICK HERE.

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