Here in Western Pennsylvania, gardeners face an enormous problem. It’s a problem that can easily kill or ruin plants that gardeners have put lots of time and money into. I have personal experience with this nuisance. One year I planted 75 tulip bulbs in the fall and the following spring only about 5 tulips showed up. There was another year where I had about 10 tomato plants and right when the tomatoes were about to turn ripe they showed up and left me with next to nothing. They eat ornamentals, veggies, and trample seedlings. They scrape the bark off of saplings and young trees. What is this problem that can be the bane of a gardener’s existence? White tail deer.
Well, Ruth Rogers Clausen and Gregory D. Tepper wrote a book about how to deal with deer in the garden, and the plants that they don’t prefer (a desperate deer in winter will eat just about anything, including poisonous plants). Deer-Resistant Native Plants for the Northeast is their informative work on both how to garden in a deer resistant manner and utilize varieties of plants that are the most deer resistant.
The introduction is filled with information on deer, their browsing habits, how to deter them, and what native plants are most susceptible to deer browsing or rubbing (when a buck uses antlers to mark territory). They list common features of deer-resistant plants (fuzzy leaves, tough, leathery, fibrous leaves, aromatic leaves, aromatic flowers, spines or bristles, and poisonous compounds). They also introduce a rating system later in the book for just how resistant each selection is to deer. The introduction then goes into different deterrents and their effectiveness, as well as other cultural practices to deter deer from feeding in your garden.
The books chapters list plants by classes such as annuals and biennials, perennials, ferns, grasses, sedges, and shrubs. Wonderful color photography accompanies the description of each deer-resistant plant, as well as other pertinent information about the plants. This additional information also includes the aesthetic value of the plants, and the value of these plants to other wildlife like birds and caterpillars. These are all native plants after all, so there is more benefit to planting them than just their resilience against deer! With the exception of trees, you can find native deer-resistant solutions to all of your landscaping needs in this book.
The last section is compilation of resources, including a list of nurseries where you can purchase native plants and useful websites. Meneely Farms wasn’t included on the list of nurseries, but you can always check here on our website for our availability of native plants. We will be getting our first spring shipment of native arborvitaes in very soon and will update the website with availability and prices. We’ll have other natives later in the season.
Overall, Deer-Resistant Native Plants for the Northeast is an informative, graphic, and useful guide for avoiding the pitfalls of having your hard work and money chomped away by deer. It is a great book to read right now, in the middle of winter, to increase your knowledge and help make more informed decisions for the coming gardening season!
PS In the future we will do a post on protecting deer sensitive plant using methods such as physical barriers, deterrents, and companion planting. While this book touched on these topics, the primary purpose of the book was to help in selecting deer-resistant plants.
PPS Do you have any experience trying to deer proof a garden? Have you had any success? Please let us know in the comments!