In the area where I live there are many kinds of wildlife, but none are more destructive to the garden than deer. When they feed at night, they can destroy a beautiful flower garden easily.
The solution is to plant proven deer-resistant flowers, shrubs and trees. This is not always easy, as when they’re young or especially hungry, they’ll eat most anything.
The Sunset Western Gardenbook has a chapter on deer-resistant plants and it’s been very helpful to me. They indicate which plants are truly deer-resistant and which ones might get nibbled sometimes. If you don’t want to select from this list, one solution is to fence the whole yard and another is to use some of the sprays that make the plants inedible. The deer also don’t like strong odors, but you might not want the odor of these sprays near your front door. Wouldn’t be too pleasant for your guests. Another solution some people use is when you have your hair cut, ask the owner if you can have a bag of the hair from the floor. Put some hair in little mesh bags or old pantyhose and tie them around the garden. The deer don’t go near the human scent, but you need to replace these now and then, as the scent will fade. You can also hang bars of Irish Spring soap around. They don’t like that smell either. Jerry Baker has some home-made remedies for many of these marauding pests. These are solutions you can make in your kitchen.
We not only face the deer problem, but our city is mandating drought tolerant plants and low water use drip systems because some years have had very low rainfall. This, again, shortens the list of appropriate plants we can use. Our city water conservation department has a recommended list of trees, shrubs, and perennials that should be used in our gardens.
I recently spearheaded a project to convert a large area of turf to drought tolerant plants on a drip system. We are in an association of 41 homes with lots of open greenbelts where the deer are accustomed to roaming around and foraging for food. We also have many regulations to follow. The project turned out great, but the deer are very confused, as I also cross referenced the city’s list with the deer resistant list in Western Garden book. It was a lot of work, but rewarding to see it to fruition. We used dwarf plumbago on the slopes as a ground cover, and added three redbud trees. In the open areas we used groupings of phormium and achillia with some boulders for accent. We also covered another slope with low growing manzanita and planted a Mimosa tree for shade. Two of the homeowners also got involved because their homes bordered this project. They put in nerium (oleander) trees, leptospermum, english lavendar, rosemary, and cotoneaster. We covered all the bare ground with a nice path mulch. We’re hoping to do more of this in the future.