Deer have a preference when it comes to what they eat, and in their minds the perennial flower bed is a smorgasbord of delicious treats. There are several ways to prevent damage to a garden. The first is to plant the deer a garden of their own, filled with their favorite plants. This probably will deter them from coming into your garden. The second is to grow perennial plants that the deer prefer not to eat.
There are a number of flowering perennials that deer avoid because they do not like the way they taste. These plants include yarrow, coneflower (Echinacea), monkshood (Aconitum), columbine (Aquilegia), poppies, larkspur (Consolida), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) and bleeding heart (Dicentra). In years where there has been a lack of food or the deer population is unusually high, the deer may eat some of these plants anyway. A perennial is a plant that comes back year after year in the garden.
It's easy to create a bulb garden that deer will avoid by using some of the most popular flowering perennial bulbs. Hyacinth, daylilies, scilla, colchicum, Fritillaria, cyclamen, members of the Allium family and daffodils are a few of the choices. Creating a border in the garden using these bulbs may deter them from going deeper into the garden and eating other plants. Deer, like any other wild animal, will select the food that is the easiest for them to get to first.
Clematis and climbing roses are vines that deer tend to avoid. Consider planting these on a fence line at the edge of the garden. Although most deer fences are at least 8 feet tall, the addition of these vines may prevent them from going over lower fences. Roses and clematis look good when they are grown in combination with one another. Plant them both in the same hole so the rose can help shade the clematis roots.
Everyone knows that deer eat grass, but there are a few ornamental grasses that they don't like. Use them to create a border in the garden along the property line where deer enter or plant them at the back of the perennial flower border. Many ornamental grasses are quite tall and will work better than a fence if grown close enough together. Good choices are Moor Grass (Molinia), Maiden Grass (Miscanthus), Blue Fescue (Festuca) and Switch Grass (Panicum).
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