Gardening: When “Deer-Resistant” Plants Aren’t
Nancy Szerlag, Special to The Detroit News
There’s nothing worse than coming home from vacation to find your garden ravaged by deer and wilting from lack of water.
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and other taller members of the Stonecrop clan are on many deer- resistant lists. Their foliage offers attractive interest in season and they come into their own with a colorful show of flowers in fall. Left intact, the seed heads provide an attractive winter display.
Because of their easy care, these Stonecrops were a staple in the OPC Stone House Garden when it was first planted. As we began to redo the beds, we moved these “work horses” to what I call “The Wild Garden – A Work in Progress.” Located in the back of a brick wall and generally out of sight, it makes a great holding area.
In late spring it fills out with ox-eye daisies and is quite charming. When the flowers die we pull most of the withered plants, as they reseed like crazy, but the mounds of sedum left behind provide interest.
Well, they were there when I left on vacation. I returned to find a collection of ugly green stalks, and a few leaves. Every one of plants looked like someone stuck a running weed whacker in the middle of them. While some plants put out a fresh flush of growth and cover the carnage left after having been fed upon, like hostas, these sedum won’t have time to recover, so the damage will show for the rest of the growing season and there will be no decorative seed heads in winter.
The deer that visit my garden in the dark of night have also taken a liking to the fibrous begonia ‘Bigs’, another plant on the deer resistant list. My sense is they are attracted to the succulent water-filled leaves that also make the stonecrops attractive fodder in this hot-dry weather.
Fortunately, Bambi doesn’t seem to relish the ground hugging sedum we use as a groundcover.
I’ve had success using the deer and rabbit repellant PlantSkydd on those plants I know the deer love, including hydrangeas and the shrub Diervilla ‘Kodiac Orange’. To prevent plant stain I spray the bottom of leaves and flower clusters. If it doesn’t rain a lot the product persists for several weeks, but new growth is vulnerable so “touch ups” are necessary. Also, we took all the hostas out of the garden, as the deer can smell these plants a block away. Next spring the tall sedum may also be on the chopping block.
Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to Yardener.com and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnews.com/homestyle.