While attending a marriage seminar on communication, Tom and his wife Peg listened to the instructor declare, "It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other." He asked Tom, "Can you describe your wife's favorite flower?" Tom leaned over, touched his wife's arm gently and whispered, "Pillsbury All-Purpose, isn't it?" The rest of the story is not pleasant. —Author unknown


Deer in the shade garden

At lunch this week my new pal, Courtney Tompkins, was bemoaning the fact that her shady suburban yard has become deer infested. Her hostas were Bambi’s salad bar, leaving behind stalks resembling healthy clumps of celery. That’s my own salad bar, above.

It’s a common problem. One remedy is to use repeated applications of deer repellents, including my favorite, Plantskydd. (The product in its native Swedish is actually pronounced “plont-sheed,” meaning “plant shield” but has been quickly Americanized to “plant-skid”!)


A helpful PDF about using deer repellents is published here by the University of Maryland Extension Service.

But an easier strategy is simply to plant the things deer don’t prefer. Now, it’s true that a deer that’s hungry enough will eat almost anything except the rocks. And there appear to be regional differences among deer: The ones in Denver don’t necessarily choose the same plants as the ones in Des Moines.

Who knew?

My best lists of deer-resistant plants include this pdf from Rutgers University; these resouces from Cornell University; native plant list from Delaware; and from the Cincinnati Zoo.

In my Zone 5 yard, I have found epimediums, pulmonarias, brunneras and these other perennials do well in shade:


For spring: Daffodils

Tiarella cordifolia blooms in spring, but the interesting leaves persist all season.

Lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina) has fuzzy leaves.

Ferns of all types do well in shaded areas where deer roam. This is Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’, the 2004 Perennial Plant of the Year.


Before the fence


Before the fence

But I now have the best deer deterrent in the world: An 8-foot fence around my back yard!

After the fence!

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