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Deer, Our Four-Legged Friends

By Ed Ball | Published on November 16, 2021 | 2 min read

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There’s often a love-hate relationship with deer wandering through home landscapes. On the one hand, they are beautiful, graceful creatures whose ancestors roamed free before the advent of the suburb. On the other hand, deer can cause quite a bit of damage to your yard and make a snack out of fresh blooms.

That said, there are ways to live in harmony with your meandering four-legged friends by choosing deer-resistant plantings and adding a few deterrents. Like most animals, deer are opportunistic and will move on to your neighbor’s yard if food is more accessible there.

Deer-resistant plants

While deer can seemingly wipe out a garden overnight, they prefer plants and shrubs that are both easy to get to and free of fuzzy textures, strong scents, bitter taste, or thorny.

For instance, French Marigolds are too strongly scented and can be planted as a companion to deter deer. Rosemary is also fragrant, and its texture is not attractive to deer. Deer do not like mint’s strong scent so it too can be planted as a companion so long as it’s kept in check.

Fountain grass is too fuzzy for deer, and the texture of Hens and Chicks, Heather and Yucca will be avoided as well. In general, stick to annuals and perennials that have strong scents and unique textures to avoid tempting the neighborhood deer. Other resistant plants include; Catmint, Sea Holly and Sweet Woodruff, which attract butterflies and pollinators. 

Shrubs like Crepe Myrtle are typically safe from deer, and they come in many colors with a long blooming season. Wisteria’s strong fragrance deters nibbling, and Russian Sage’s texture usually keeps it safe. Other deer-resistant shrubs include Pieris, Juniper, Butterfly Bush, Shrub Roses and Bayberry – all because they contain characteristics deer generally avoid in favor of more appetizing – and readily available – eats elsewhere.

Of course, this does not mean that you can only have resistant plants. There are also many more varieties to choose from, ensuring a beautiful solution for cohabitating with deer. Work with your landscape designer to come up with a balanced design to accomplish all of your goals.

To that end, your designer may also suggest fencing, wind chimes, or motion-detecting lights or sprinklers to keep deer from hanging out in your yard. You will want to protect vegetable gardens with fencing and be sure to harvest ripe produce promptly. 

Deer can be good neighbors with the right mix of proper plantings and physical deterrents no matter where you live. Be sure to share as many details about your four-legged visitors with your designer as you begin to co-create your gardens and outdoor living spaces.