“Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world.” Ada Louise Huxtable.
“Many public-school children seem to know only two dates: 1492 and 4th of July; and as a rule they don’t know what happened on either occasion.” Mark Twain.
Summer is here! As we address our landscape and lawn needs this month, there are members of the wildlife family that most definitely like to hang out in our spaces. Now, these spaces used to be their spaces, and we invaded their neighborhoods and “developed” them. There are the birds, the squirrels, the rabbits, among others that we enjoy observing while they are frolicking about the grounds. And, the deer are pretty to observe. However, these same deer may practice a pruning pattern to most plants while we sleep which will annoy us and possibly destroy every effort we make to improve the landscape. Pruning by deer is a problem in many of our landscapes leaving our plants battered and beaten up. However, we are actually the guilty party for continuing to invade their spaces through construction and development, thus minimizing natural areas where they have been free to roam and survive.
Damage to ornamental plants caused by deer has increased significantly during the last few years. And this damage is both an urban and a rural problem due to increasing deer populations and suburban development strategies into natural woodlands. Deer are selective feeders that usually move slowly through the landscape and eat leaves and twigs from different trees, shrubs, and plants by jerking and tearing leaves, stems, and twigs. Signs of deer damage include jagged edges on parts left intact, and annual and perennial plants which are partially or completely pulled out of the ground. Deer damage to larger trees is to the lower limbs (up to about 5 or 6 feet off the ground which is about the limitation of their reach).
Deer may feed on certain plants is some landscapes and not others. Such feeding patterns may be due to the availability of natural food sources between landscapes and to the taste preferences of the individual deer. However, deer will eat almost any plant rather than face starvation. Deer favorites include narrow-leaf evergreens, daylilies, English ivy, hosta, and about any plant that has been fertilized.
Deer typically avoid prickly, poisonous or strong-scented plants. While many plants are deer tolerant, very few are deer-proof. Thus, careful plant selection should be a high priority where heavy deer populations thrive. Plants that offer good deer tolerance and distract deer with their aromatic (scented) foliage are listed as follows.
Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed): Reaching a height of 2 to 4 feet and a spread of 2 to 3 feet, this tough perennial offers clusters of orange flowers in the summer. It prefers placements in full sun (beds and borders) in a well-drained soil and tolerates heat and drought. It attracts many kinds of butterflies and works well in dried arrangements. Monarch butterfly larvae feed on its leaves but seldom harm this native plant. It is slow to emerge in the spring and deadhead faded blooms after flowering before seed development to limit spread. Works well with catmint, coreopsis and fountaingrass.
Chrysanthemum spp. (mums): Reaching a height and width of 3 feet, this renowned fall-blooming perennial offers a wide range of colors from purples and pinks to the fall tones of red, rust, orange, and yellow, and scented foliage. It prefers placement in full sun (containers, beds and borders) in a well-drained soil. They also do well as cut flowers. Works well with sedum, asters, and miscanthus.
Dianthus spp. (dianthus or pinks): Reaching a height of 30-inches and a width of 18-inches, this enchanting, drought-tolerant perennial offers spicily fragrant flowers of pink, red, white, rose, and lavender in the spring, summer and fall and grass-like blue-green foliage. It prefers placement in full sun (containers, beds, borders and slopes) in a well-drained soil. It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, and looks great as a cut flower and in dried arrangements. Works well with perennial geranium, coralbells, and iris.
Kniphofia spp. (red-hot poker): Reaching a height of 5-feet and a spread of 2-feet, this drought-tolerant perennial offers brilliantly colored tubular flowers (yellow, orange or red) above clumps of grassy foliage. It prefers placement in full sun (containers, beds, and borders) in a moist, well-drained soil. Its vivid red-hot pokers create architectural impact in sunny landscapes. It attracts birds, hummingbirds and butterflies. Works well with helenium, artemisia, and salvia.
Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary): Reaching a height of 5-feet and a width of 3-feet, this drought-tolerant, evergreen, herbal shrub offers flowers with shades of pink or blue and leathery leaves with a scent of the Mediterranean. Leaves also add fresh herbal flavor in the kitchen preparations. It prefers placement in full sun (containers, beds, borders and slopes) in a well-drained soil with a gravel mulch. It is known as a symbol of remembrance and friendship, and fills the landscape with aroma, flavor, and activity (pollinating bees are attracted to the blooms). It attracts birds and butterflies.
Solidago spp. (goldenrod): Reaching a height of 6-feet and a width of 3-feet, this perennial plant offers golden flowers (late summer and early fall) with attractive foliage and drought tolerance. It prefers placement in full sun (containers, beds, borders, and slopes) in a well-drained soil. Also, an excellent vase plant and ideal filler plant for fall arrangements. Goldenrod does not aggravate allergies. Its pollen is too heavy to move in the wind and instead sticks to the legs of the insects and butterflies that feed on its nectar. Works well with aster, Russian sage and helenium.
Also, Acanthus mollis (Bear’s Breeches), Buxus sempervirens (English boxwood), Caryopteris spp. (bluebeard), Crocosmia spp. (Crocosmia), Epimedium spp. (barrenwort or bishop’s cap), Eupatorium purpureum (Joe Pye Weed), Juniperus spp. (Juniper), Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage), and Phormium spp. (New Zealand flax). And mint, thyme, French tarragon, lavender, chives, sage and rosemary.
Deer are often frightened away by loud noises and sudden movement. Also, hang wind chimes from the branches of trees and shrubs, place wind spinners throughout your garden, or install a motion-activated sprinkler that will startle them with a sudden spray of water. Deer love the tender new leaves and shoots of groundcovers in the spring. As a distraction, treat area with deer repellent, blood meal, or fish emulsion.
Think in terms of native and sustainable plants in the landscape. May this bit of awareness ignite your desire to learn and ask questions, encourage you to further apply your gained knowledge, and bring you to further realize that environmental stewardship and sustainability should be at the foundation of all your home landscape activities.
Keep your hanging baskets and potted plants refreshed with water and food. Remember to feed and water the songbirds, and give your pets the care they need. Also, be on lookout for children playing and bicyclists riding along the streets and roadways throughout our communities. And remember to safely share the road with motorcycles. Look three times before entering the highway. Drive alert and arrive alive. Don’t drive distracted or impaired, and don’t text while driving. Click it or ticket! Help the homeless every chance you get. Share your blessings with those less fortunate. Let’s keep everyone safe and secure while enjoying the great outdoors. Thank you for your prayers and support for our mission teams while in Peru and Bethlehem last week. These are awesome missions! In His Mission and Grip!
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10. “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” Psalm 34:11. “We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:12.
Seagle is a Sustainability Associate, Golf Environment Organization (Scotland), Agronomist and Horticulturalist, CSI: Seagle (Consulting Services International), Professor Emeritus and Honorary Alumnus (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College), Distinguished Professor for Teaching and Learning (University System of Georgia) and Short Term Missionary (Heritage Church, Moultrie). Direct inquiries to csi_seagle @yahoo.com.