Tag Archives: Deer resistant plants

Great Plant Pairings Series

Brunnera 'Dawson's White and Louisiana Iris 'Red Velvet'

Brunnera ‘Dawson’s White and Louisiana Iris ‘Red Velvet’

This combination stopped me on my tracks a couple of days ago.  They are planted next to a Darmera peltatum, with its gigantic leaves that make quite a statement.

 Darmera peltatum, and Equisetum

Darmera peltatum, and Equisetum

Here is Darnera, or Umbrella Plant, today. An exotic plant on its own, but paired with Equisetum or Horsetail, well, I love the effect.  The photo does not do it justice. I love how Darnera awakens in the spring setting out an elegant sphere that opens into a single compounded flower:

 Darmera peltatum, blooms

Darmera peltatum, blooms

The leaves in the background are not part of this plant.  It is Alchemilla mollis or Lady’s Mantle. Darnera does not put out any foliage until the flower turns into a beautiful bunch of red berries.  This photo was taken May 2.

Both plants are in a fairly wet area of the garden and they have made it through some pretty harsh winters. Deer resistant too, has not been bothered at all since planted  three years ago.

“There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.”
–  Francis Bacon 


Striking and Deer Proof


A friend shared a  few seeds of Datura stramonium, also known as Angel’s Trumpet and yes, Devils Trumpet and Jimsonweed.  I planted a few in front of the vegetable garden in May.  This photo was taken in August.   In three months,  in the right conditions, it became a respectable three foot by six around plant. I was charmed by the large openly serrated grayish leaves and the magnificent abundant flowers 5-6 inches across.  It will reseed each year if you don’t remove the seed pods as they form.

Deer will not touch this plant. The main reason is its strong odor and foul taste.  It is also a highly toxic plant, in small quantities, this plant is said to have hallucinogenic properties.  As striking and beautiful as this plant is however, considering its high toxicity, even in the face of the unlikelihood of a person ingesting  any part of the plant, if you have small children I would not plant it in the property.  I came across this anecdote in the Cornell site of Agricultural sciences under plants that are poisonous to livestock:

Jimsonweed – Jamestown Story

Captain John Smith, founder of Jamestown

In 1676, British soldiers were sent to stop the Rebellion of Bacon. Jamestown weed (Jimsonweed) was boiled for inclusion in a salad, which the soldiers readily ate. The hallucinogenic properties of jimsonweed took affect.

As told by Robert Beverly in The History and Present State of Virginia (1705): The soldiers presented “a very pleasant comedy, for they turned natural fools upon it for several days: one would blow up a feather in the air; another would dart straws at it with much fury; and another, stark naked, was sitting up in a corner like a monkey, grinning and making mows at them; a fourth would fondly kiss and paw his companions, and sneer in their faces with a countenance more antic than any in a Dutch droll.

“In this frantic condition they were confined, lest they should, in their folly, destroy themselves – though it was observed that all their actions were full of innocence and good nature. Indeed they were not very cleanly; for they would have wallowed in their own excrements, if they had not been prevented. A thousand such simple tricks they played, and after 11 days returned themselves again, not remembering anything that had passed.”

Well, I am not willing to try it!  But like the saying goes, “The right plant in the right place”  If you have a problem spot with adequate sun, deer problems, and no small children around, this annual will fill the void and remain undisturbed all summer.  Do you have a favorite deer resistant plant?  To find out about more plants follow my links bellow.



Pulmonaria sp. or Lunworts are a lovely group of ground cover perennials for shade or part sun.  What I love about them the most, is that they are totally deer resistant.  I have yet to see any of them being eaten or even nipped by deer.They form tight colonies that look great all year and are covered with striking bicolor blooms in the spring!  What else could you want from a plant?  There are about 10 or 12 different cultivars in the market today.

Pulmonaria 21I am enjoying the blooms of the only two varieties I own but I keep thinking this is a plant that I need to collect as many different cultivars as possible!  I want ‘Roy Davidson’ with deeply marbled leaves and ‘Redstart’ which sports deep pink flowers or ‘Azurea’ which has the bluest blooms I have ever seen.  If you live in my area, let me know if you have any of those varieties and we can swap divisions.

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.” 
― Leo TolstoyAnna Karenina


  • lungwort (gardenflowerhistories.wordpress.com)

Oh Deer!

Flowers of the Purple Foxglove (Digitalis purp...

Digitalis purpurea

By popular demand, I am expanding my writings on deer resistant plants at least those that my local herds are not now eating.  It is said if a deer is hungry enough it will go after anything, unless they had have a very bad experience with a toxic plant.  If you do not have pets or very small children that are known to experiment by eating plants,  here are some suggestions:

Aconitum or Monkshood.  This is a wonderfully ornamental plant with deeply lobed leaves and deep blue blooms borne on very tall spikes in the summer. Highly toxic however, the use of gloves is recommended when working around this plant, specially Aconitum Nepellus a European native, known to contain some of the most potent poisons of any garden plant.  I must add that despite all the literature in the subject, I have handled this plant quite a few times with no adverse effects.  Deer or  rabbits have never touch it.

Digitalis or Foxglove.  Represented by many species, some biennial and some perennial forming semi-evergreen rosettes.  Flowers are showy but short lived in the perennial species.  The popular biennial, Digitalis purpurea,  generally dies after one season, but reseeds in different parts of the garden.  Unfortunately the offspring may be of unpredictable color.  It is best to buy fresh plants or seeds every year.   Plant leaves are a source of the drug digitalis and are highly poisonous.

Actea and Cimicifuga or Baneberry, Bugbane. Rather tall herbaceous perennials with large ferny attractive leaves.  The flowering stems are tall, upright, slender spikes with many small flower heads that bear dry pods but in some species now known as Actaea Racemosa, produce fleshy white berries. Most species are harmful if eaten and are known to cause skin irritations.  for more deer resistant plants click here.



March is Finally Here

A germinated seedling (Eranthis hyemalis) emer...

Image via Wikipedia

And with the arrival of March, snow finally melted, and the ground reasonably dry, it is time to start stepping out into the garden.  As I look outside on this glorious sunny day, my mind runs down a long list of chores that need to be attended to and at the very least today, a walk thru the garden, armed with paper and pencil, will be a big step to assess winter damage and what needs my immediate attention.

I  have spent many hours this winter pouring thru catalogues (haven’t we all?), reading, planning and dreaming of all the improvements and new plants to add to the garden this year.  But the most important decision was to start laying the ground for a vegetable patch.  In my area, first thing that needs to be taken into consideration is a deer fence.  Oh deer, ever present on the thoughts of a gardener.  I have become accustomed to looking up every plant I covet for its deer resistance. See the complete list here.

Without even going outside, I know that top on my list for March chores are to put down a seed germination inhibitor, check my viburnums for Viburnum Leaf Beetle eggs before they hatch in spring,  these tiny caterpillars will defoliate the new buds of the shrub and stunt its growth.  Look for little bumps in between leaf nods on the tips of the branches.  I cut those and dispose of them in the garbage not the compost pile.  I also like to cut  some branches from Forsythia and Japanese cherry for forcing and do some of my shrub pruning before they leaf out,  this is when you can more easily see the overall structure of the shrub, taking into consideration those early spring bloomers, I want to make sure not to cut off my spring blooms!

Well, I am off to the garden, more of spring, chores and plants later.

“Springtime is the land awakening.  The March winds are the morning yawn.” ~Quoted by Lewis Grizzard inKathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You



More Deer Proof Favorites

We have had an impressive amount of snow in Western Pennsylvania.  I heard in the news that we had snow everyday since December 28th until just a couple of days ago.  Everything is covered with a thick blanket, which allows us to see deer tracks coming to the bird feeders from all points of the yard.  I have been thinking of how important is to make careful selections in what plants to add to the garden this coming spring.  Based on plants that remained untouched in the past season,  my search continues.  My quest now is to add some of the same species but in different varieties.

Ligularia sp. or ‘Bigleaf Goldenray’.  There are about 10 species of Ligularia that are commonly cultivated.  In our area of Western Pennsylvania, I have come across only four different varieties.  This is a striking plant, with huge kidney, triangular or elliptical leaves that form an attractive clump sometimes two or three feet in diameter.  Give this plant plenty of space and fertile moist conditions in part shade.  Most bloom in late summer with showy yellow daisylike  flowers held high in sprays or spikes.  Propagation by division in spring.

Brunnera sp. or ‘Siberian Bugloss’. This is an elegant spring-flowering shade loving perennial with beautiful foliage.  Leaves are broad and heart shaped, available in many variegated combinations of white and gold as well as the rich silver with green veins of  ‘Jack Frost’. Generally pest free, it thrives in sun as long as it is not dry.  Its typical forget-me-not sprays of blue flowers open in mid to late spring.

Pulmonaria sp. or ‘Lungwort’.   Another favorite in my shade garden.  I am still searching for more varieties.  Popular ground cover plant.  Very striking foliage, usually covered with spots, and lance like leaves that form a thick covering.  Blooms in early spring in a profusion of of upright stems with shades of violet, pink and purple.

All of these shade loving perennials have proven to be pest resistant in my garden.  My strategy now is to collect as many varieties as I can fit into my shady beds.  Since all of these plants sport bold large leaves and clumping habit, I find them companions such as Ferns, Astilbes, and Irises to offset their shape and create an interesting overall design.

“A garden is never so good as it will be next year” Thomas Cooper

Deer Resistant Plants

As we face our first week of  frigid temperatures, I have been thinking about those plants in the garden that survived the season without major deer damage.  Often they are the truly faithful that we see often in so many gardens, for the obvious reason that they are not browsed by deer.  Some of my favorites are herbaceous perennials that, for the most part, come back bigger and stronger every year.  Alchemilla mollis, or Lady’s mantle, was one of my best performers this year, perhaps a bit overused, in the right location and planted en masse can make a strong statement.  Its large, chartreuse leaves collect rain drops that sit on their surface like jewels. From summer to early fall the foliage is almost hidden by clouds of tiny yellow blooms.

Alchemilla mollis

There are many different varieties of this plant in the market today, from ground covers to specimens that reach two feet tall. It thrives in any soil and likes part shade.

One of  our best defenses against deer browsing is to find different varieties of plants that they do not like.  Salvia sp. or Sage for example,  a great plant for bees and butterflies, is now available in various forms and colors so that they almost look like a completely  different plant.  This past summer I purchased two specimens of Salvia ramerosa, Sensation white and Sensation pink, and both bloomed for the entire summer in a compact clump of upright spikes of flowers.

Salvia ramerosa, 'Sensation white'

Salvia grows in full sun and tolerates dry soil.

I have come across many sites that give you a good overall list of deer resistant plants – a must have when shopping for those new additions for our garden.
“Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.” ~Henry David Thoreau, “Chesuncook,” The Maine Woods, 1848