50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants The Prettiest Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs, and Shrubs that Deer Don’t Eat
Written by Ruth Rogers Clausen
Photography by Alan L. Detrick (Timberpress)
I usually don’t review many books, but when a title comes up that I deal with on a daily basis I’ll make an exception! Deer are one of the ‘challenges’ (and I use this term loosely) I face most often when designing gardens here in Northern California. Most of my clients live in the hills neighboring Santa Cruz Mountains (Los Altos, Portola Valley, Woodside and Palo Alto) and deer are an all-to-familiar visitor in their gardens.
One of my favorite chapters was the first, aimed at helping the reader to not only understand deer but also their behavior. The premise is that if you understand their habits, you can better arm yourself against them. For example, deer need a safe place to hide, sleep, rest and eat in order for them to feel comfortable. The takeaway tip? Don’t make them feel comfortable! Remove standing groves of anything that they can hang out in and they’ll be forced to move on down the road to the next pit stop!
This chapter is also full of general information, such as the different ‘deer away’ solutions (both commercially available and home-made) as well as gardening tricks that are effective in discouraging deer. For example, consider changing the terrain of your property by adding different levels, steps and slopes. Deer dislike the unsure footing, especially when running. Another tidbit is not to over-fertilize, which encourages lots of yummy tender new growth. Or, one of my favorite personal planting tricks, which is to surround a ‘deer candy’ plant by those that deer dislike. When a client of mine just has to have roses, for example, I might surround the roses with berberis, salvia or euphorbia.
And finally, time for the heart of the book – the 50 recommended deer-resistant plants! I thought I might find one more (yawn) list of an author’s favorites, which is all fine and good albeit a bit boring. I was so pleased to see a carefully thought through write-up of each plant, not too long, not too short. Each suggested plant follows the same format: first is a thorough description, followed by detailed instructions on how best to grow it, and ending with an entire paragraph titled ‘Design Tips’ filled with creative ways to use the plant in the garden. As a designer, you know this is my favorite part! Under ‘Design Tips’ the author lists several different varieties of the plant as well as creative plant combinations to try.
The plants are broken down into the following categories: Annuals, Perennials, Shrubs, Ferns, Bulbs, Herbs and Grasses. My only complaint is that the categories end here. I wish the book was titled ‘75 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants‘ instead, and included recommendations on groundcovers and small trees (since those seem to always suffer greatly from hungry deer). Oh well, maybe in her second book?
I wondered if I would see many of my favorites included in this somewhat brief list, as she undoubtedly had to include plants within a wide range of USDA zones. I fully expected to see the majority of plants be those that we cannot grow (ie: water thirsty). I was thrilled to see many of my favorite stand-bys, such as licorice plant, euphorbia, thyme, Lenten rose, lavender, ostrich fern, and many of the grasses. And I was even more thrilled to see a few plants that I haven’t tried before, and that seem to thrive in my area as well. The author chose an excellent selection of plants suited for most USDA zones.
This book is clearly written with manageable ‘bytes’ of information, making it an easy read accompanied by gorgeous photographs to boot. Overall, I’d highly recommend this book to all deer-plagued gardeners, from those who are just beginning to those who are advanced. Anyone tired of the never-ending battle with the deer needs to have this book by their side!
Oh, and one last thing. If you’d like to read a little more about some super successful deer-resistant plants that do really well on the West coast, head on over to my friend Gen’s blog at North Coast Gardening – between this book and Gen’s post you’re definitely set!
*As a full disclosure I’d like to mention that the book being reviewed was my sole compensation for reviewing the product. I wouldn’t recommend it to you if I didn’t think you’d love it. Honest!