Saturday, March 24, 2012


           The talk Tim and I gave to the local DAR chapter went well, thanks for asking. Ever the wag, Tim prefaced our remarks with “I’ve never spoken to the Daughters of the American Revolution before. I must say you’ve all held up extremely well.”

           The ladies tittered appreciatively, which was very nice of them. Honestly, I can’t take Tim anywhere. You should have heard what he came out with yesterday during a discussion of the capacity for good and evil in all people (in the larger context of spirituality versus religiosity). “Take Hitler,” he said earnestly. “I’ve heard he was very good at barbecuing.”

           Talk about a conversation stopper.

          Anyway. I brought up the DAR thing because, as usual, our presentation included a plug for this blog and my email address for any questions listeners may have after we’ve packed up our miles of cables and gone home. A few days later, Miss Nadine wrote to ask what post contained the pictures of the deer-resistant containers we’d shown. I explained that I haven’t used those photos in the blog yet, and sent her copies. And then the light-bulb over my head flashed on—how about a post about drop-dead-gorgeous summer containers?

Delphinium plants from Christine
            Later that week, Tim and I drove out to our grower extraordinaire Miss Christine’s establishment, Another Place in Thyme (APIT). Ostensibly, we went to get delphiniums, an early-spring blue-flowering treat for our clients. This is how typical delphinium negotiations go: “How many do you want?” asks Christine. “How many did you grow?” I counter. “Thirty,” she replies. “I want 30,” I say. “But I wanted a couple for my yard,” she says. “How many?” I ask. “Three.” “Okay, then, I need 27.” “Okay, load ’em up,” she says.

             I love Christine.

Sempervivum assortment from Christine
Tim and I change out about 70 containers and design 12 in-ground plantings for summer color every year. Going out to Christine’s always feels like I’m Alice fallen down the rabbit hole to Wonderland—so many beautiful plants, and always a few new-to-me surprises. The ol’ brain starts churning double-time, juggling colors, fragrances, annual vs. perennial, deer-resistance, moisture needs, sun exposures, what plants I have to have for myself today. (Scored 15 four-inch Sempervivum—hens-and-chicks—representing seven or eight cultivars on the delphinium trip.) After an hour or so wandering the greenhouses and outdoor tables at APIT, I’m incapable of coherent conversation for several hours. Tim reports I ride home with a loopy grin on my face and bright, vacant eyes.

White vinca & raspberry supertunias

    The simple secret to killer containers is to pack in the plants. We jammed this 42” hayrack with 18 3” white vinca and 8 4” ‘Raspberry Blast' petunias in May. I snapped the picture in July.

Where's the pot?

            You can’t even see the 16” pot holding this lush planting of a one-gallon red fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum var. rubrum), 12 3” mixed-color vincas and a 4” fanflower (Scaevola aemula ‘Blue Wonder’) planted in May and photographed in July.

  Restraining my inclination toward horticultural experimentation, I stick with tried-and-true plant combinations for clients. Hanging in full sun, a set of stacked hayracks—36” long on top, 42” below—are stuffed with as many vinca and petunias as I could cram in, about three full flats to fill the pair. For a same-sized hayrack duo in full shade, I used an equal number of impatiens.

Stacked hayracks for sun

Stacked hayracks for shade

Heat-loving petunias

            Consider the conditions around your containers. These petunias can take all the reflected heat the bricks radiate without wilting or singeing. Many other plants—wishbone flower (Torenia fournieri), for example—can’t.  

            To make life easier on yourself, combine plants with similar watering needs. A full-sun, deer-resistant vignette of one 12” and two 10” pots, photographed at the time of planting, includes red pentas, fanflower, vinca, ‘Diamond Frost’ euphorbia, ‘Black Prince’ ornamental pepper, marigolds and various tender sedums, all of which share moderate-to-low moisture requirements. Succulents offer a veritable cornucopia of shapes, sizes and colors for low-to-no-water containers. Here's a pinky-grey Echeveria anchoring an assortment of sedums. (Be sure to look for my article on designing with succulents in the May issue of Carolina Gardener magazine, sold in fine garden centers, available soon.)
A heat-, drought & sun-tolerant combination

Combine pots to create vignettes


Be careful in your choice of

perennials to mix with annuals

       Mixing perennials with annuals can be tricky, as the former have more extensive root systems and will commandeer more below-the-surface space. Ornamental grasses, for example, can easily take over the lion’s share of a container’s water and available nutrients to the detriment of their neighbors. Still, some plants play well with others, as demonstrated by this perennial blue-flowered mealycup sage (Salvia farinacea ‘Evolution’) blending nicely in a 12” terracotta pot with the annuals ‘Alabama Sunset’ coleus and ‘Raspberry Blast’ petunia.

Mangers following the recipe
      Conventional gardening magazine, website, and television-show wisdom dictates the “thriller, filler, spiller” recipe for container plantings. Personally, I think it’s overdone. But here’s a subtle version, with pentas and ‘Sedona’ coleus as thrillers, wax begonias as filler, and fanflower as spiller. Moderation in all things works best in horticulture, as in life.

                Pushing the container envelope may be an attractive notion to those whose motto is “Think Big.” Here are some before-and-after photos of a pair of small raised beds cum really big containers Tim and I designed and built for one of our favorite clients to unclutter and unify her backyard.

Building bigger containers...
... and filling them

Plain & simple

                Sometimes, simplest is best. Here are three orphan petunias I tossed in a spare pot late last summer. They didn’t do much at the time, but stayed green through our mild winter: they started blooming last week. I’m looking forward to a long season of this single-species flowering powerhouse decorating the corner of our sidewalk. Nothing fancy, but an attention-grabber just the same.

 Big, small, or in-between, containers with punch have packed-in plants. You won’t be sorry you spent the money.

Thanks for dropping by.


Saturday, March 17, 2012


Agastache aurantiaca, A. rupestris (hummingbird mint)
Alcea rosea (hollyhock)
Antirrhinum majus (snapdragon)
Catharanthus rosea (annual vinca)
Cuphea hyssopifolia (Mexican heather)
Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William)
Digitalis purpurea (foxglove)
Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’
Evolvulus ‘Blue Daze’
Lobularia species & hybrids (alyssum)
Nicotiana alata (flowering tobacco)
Penstemon hybrids
Pentas lanceolata
Petunia species & hybrids
Plectranthus species & hybrids
Portulaca grandiflora
Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan)
Salvia coccinea, S. splendens
Scaevola (fan flower)
Senecio cineraria (dusty miller)
Solanum quitoense (bed-of-nails)
Solanum species
Tagetes species & hybrids (marigolds)

Allium species & hybrids (ornamental onion)
Crinum species & hybrids
Crocosmia x crocosmifolia (montbretia)
Habranthus species (rain lily)
Hippeastrum species & hybrids (amaryllis)
Ipheion uniflorum (star flower)
Iris cristata, I. histriodes, I. hollandia, I. reticulata
Lycoris radiata, L. sprengeri, L. squamigera
Muscari species & hybrids (grape hyacinth)
Narcissus (daffodils)
Zephyranthes species (rain lily)

Acorus gramineus (sweet flag)
Carex species & hybrids (sedge)
Leymus arenarius (blue dune grass)
Liriope muscari, L. spicata (but rabbits will eat)
Miscanthus species & hybrids
Muhlenbergia capillaris (muhly grass)
Panicum species & hybrids (switchgrass)
Pennisetum species & hybrids (fountain grass)
Stipa tenuissima (Mexican ponytail grass)
Most other ornamental grasses

Ajuga reptans (bugleweed)
Delosperma cooperii, Dorotheanthus bellidiformis, Drosanthemum floribundum (ice plant)
Hedera species & hybrids (ivy)
Juniperus conferta ‘Blue Pacific’
Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ (‘Blue Rug’ juniper)
Lamium maculatum (dead nettle, false nettle)

Allium schoenoprasum (chives)
Allium tuberosum (garlic chives)
Anethum graveolens (dill)
Cymbopogon citratus (lemon grass)
Lavendula stoechas (Spanish lavender)
Mentha species (mint)
Ocimum basilicum (basil)
Origanum onites (Greek oregano)
Origanum vulgare (oregano)
Petroselinum crispum (parsley)
Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary)
Salvia officinalis (sage)
Thymus species (thyme)

PALMS: all

Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop)
Artemisia species & hybrids
Asclepias species & hybrids (butterfly weed)
Canna x generalis
Chrysanthemum x morifolium (garden mum)
Cynara cardunculus (cardoon)
Dianthus species & hybrids
Echinacea species & hybrids (coneflower)
Eupatorium fistulosum, maculatum, purpureum (Joe Pye weed)
Euryops pectinatus (bush daisy)
Gaillardia species & hybrids (blanket flower)
Gaura lindheimeri
Helichrysum italicum (curry plant)
Helleborus species & hybrids (Lenten rose)
Iris ensata (Japanese iris)
Iris fulva (Louisiana iris)
Iris germanica (bearded iris)
Iris sibirica (Siberian iris)
Lantana species & hybrids
Leucanthemun species & hybrids (Shasta daisy)
Liatris species & hybrids (blazing star)
Manfreda virginica (Eastern false aloe)
Nepeta x faassenii (catmint)
Penstemon digitalis (beardtongue)
Platycodon grandiflora (balloon flower)
Rudbeckia species & hybrids
Ruellia species & hybrids (Mexican petunia)
Salvia species & hybrids
Santolina species (lavender cotton)
Sedum species & hybrids (stonecrop)
Sempervivum species (hens-and-chicks)
Solidago species & hybrids (goldenrod)
Stachys byzantina (lambs-ears)
Stokesia laevis (Stokes aster)
Symphyotrichum species & hybrids (aster)
Tagetes lucida (perennial marigold)
Tulbaghia violacea (society garlic)
Veronica species & hybrids

Agave species & hybrids (century plant)
Berberis species & hybrids (barberry)
Buxus species & hybrids (boxwood)
Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush)
Chamaecyparis species (false cypress)
Erica x darleyensis (heather)
Ilex cornuta ‘Carissa,’ ‘Rotunda’
Ilex vomitoria (yaupon holly)
Juniperus species & hybrids (juniper)
Lespedeza thunbergii (bush clover)
Ligustrum species & hybrids
Loropetalum species
Morella cerifera (wax myrtle)
Nandina domestica
Nerium oleander (oleander)
Opuntia humifusa (prickly pear cactus)
Paeonia (peony)
Pyracantha species
Rosa pimpinellifolia
Rosa rugosa
Thuja species (arborvitae)
Viburnum species
Yucca species

Bignonia capreolata (crossvine)
Campsis radicans (trumpet vine)
Gelsemium sempervirens (Carolina jessamine)
Passiflora incarnata (passionflower, may-pop)
Thunbergia alata (black-eyed Susan vine)
Trachelospermum jasminoides (Confederate jasmine)
Wisteria species

Check out

Transplanted Garden, 16th and Church Streets
Zone 8 Gardens, 3802 South College Road (on the west side just north of the Rt.17/South College intersection, tucked in behind Walgreen)


            Well, you’ve surprised me again. The page-view statistics on the deer posts—despite all the pictures—are depressingly low. So I’m going to give you the fast take on the rest of the plants deer eat only if desperate, and move on. If the clamor for more illustrated deer-resistant plants becomes unbearable, I may oblige. I'm not, however, holding my breath.

            But first, some breaking news for St. Paddy's Day.

     ·         If you’ve been on an extended trip to Outer Mongolia or the Falkland Islands, you may not have heard that the USDA published its revised cold-hardiness zone map last month. To view it, click on the highlighted text. Take heart, global-warming catastrophists: the US isn’t really all that warmer—this go-round, the boys at Agriculture just crunched twice as many years of temperature data than the mere 15 they used to develop the original map. They included readings from lots more reporting stations as well, resulting in a more accurate picture of average winter temperatures. The map is just a tool anyway, advisory in nature. No one knows better than you what winter is like in your yard.

·      Attention, citizen-astronomers! Globe at Night is running its third observation period of 2012 from March 13th to the 22nd. This time, Northern Hemisphere viewers can opt for either Leo or Orion: Sky-Guy recommends looking at Leo for people in dark-sky areas. Bright red star Regulus makes him easy to locate. Making the great lion even easier to spot, Mars is cruising through the constellation this month. So get out there and do your bit to help map global light pollution.

·       The vernal equinox occurs on Tuesday, March 20th, as the sun passes over the celestial equator from south to north at 1:14 am EDT.

    ·       The World Wildlife Federation is holding its sixth annual Earth Hour, a climate-change awareness vigil, on March 31 beginning at 8:30 pm local time. Originating in Australia in 2006, the idea is shut off your lights and other electricity-sucking devices for at least an hour “…in a collective display of commitment to a better future for the planet,” says the website (linked above). Many places turn the evening into an outdoor, candle-lit social event, to spread awareness of sustainability issues. Personally, I’m dubious about the prospects of people coming together to save the planet; but what harm to savor an almost-April evening outside in the dark?


               Okay, let’s wrap up Bambi.

(Click on these photos to make them larger)
            Deer don’t eat grass. Any grass. This is one characteristic that makes them not-cows. Here’s a picture of an ornamental grasses garden Tim and I designed on the edge of a swamp. It’s full of Leymus, various Miscanthus, Acorus, and Panicum: so full, in fact, that we were able to slip in a few Knock Out roses that the deer, discouraged by all that yucky grass, never ventured in to find. That’s one for our side.

               Following the same path of deception, here’s a planting that surrounds a deer-candy daylily with less-tasty perennials: (clockwise from bottom left) ‘Icicles’ veronica; ‘Blue Midnight’ penstemon, Siberian iris, seashore mallow, butterfly weed, stokes asters, and ‘Pretoria’ canna lily. It’s pretty, and the daylily blooms are shielded from depredations.
            Non-starving deer also give palm trees a pass. I have to say I agree with them here: most palms are notoriously difficult to site in non-tropical landscapes so that they don’t jar with everything else. I find most of them rather ugly and/or ungainly, but that’s a topic for another day.

            In fact, most trees hold little attraction as forage for Bambi. Bucks in rut, however, can damage bark or uproot young deciduous specimens as they rub the velvet off their antlers.

Veg garden temptation
            The bad news is that, with rare exceptions (rhubarb, for example, or grassy crops like wheat), anything we grow to eat ourselves also pleases deer. Vegetable gardens in areas under pressure from local herds require sturdy fencing and/or continual patrol by large dogs. Another option is to grow edibles in containers in places deer can be excluded from—like hanging baskets or on gated decks.


            As my list of deer-resistant plants kept (keeps) growing, I realized that deer-browsed landscapes result from a) a herd that’s out-populated its habitat; and/or b) a serious lack of imagination on the part of the gardener. There’s not much you can do about a), but b) is entirely within your control.

The garden in March
      By way of example, consider the evolution of the property of our friends, Gen and Ed. Gen believes wholeheartedly in co-existing peaceably with nature. Ed believes wholeheartedly in co-existing peaceably with Gen. Their park-like yard includes several deer trails, to which their gnawed original ornamental plantings bore witness. Over the years, however, we’ve worked together to gently encourage Bambi to dine elsewhere. Here is a picture of the garden at one terminus of the trail in March, full of poisonous daffodils, prickly foliaged ‘Baths Pink’ dianthus and other plants safely off deer menus.

Same garden in August
    And here is the same garden in August, home to ornamental grasses, ‘Goldsturm’ black-eyed Susans, Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), coleus, and pentas. The deer just walk on by.

Rock garden

       Here’s the periphery of the same property. The tricky footing caused by the granite rip-rap strewn throughout the garden works with a lovely and low-maintenance planting of ‘Blue Pacific’ juniper, more ‘Baths Pink’ dianthus, coleus, society garlic and yaupon holly to make browsing uncommon.

    We even found a way for Ed to have some of the roses he loves, even though the flowers act like deer magnets: planting standards in pots did the trick.

'New Dawn' rose, unchewed

          If you find you can’t live without deer-candy, get around Bambi by growing his favorite noshes out of his reach. I’m training a ‘Z├ęphrine Drouhin’ rose to swag across our front porch, and jury-rigged a fantastically ugly chicken-wire arch for ‘New Dawn’ to grow over.

'Majestic Beauty' Indian hawthorn

       Plants trained or top-grafted into tree-forms (called “standards” in the trade) are another way to have your deer-cake and Bambi not eat it too. Here is a standardized ‘Majestic Beauty’ Indian hawthorn…

'Tardiva' standard hydrangea

…and a pee-gee ‘Tardiva’ hydrangea growing above the chewing-level of our scrubby little coast deer.

Take that, Bambi!

              Also consider containers hung out of reach, or kept in deer-proof enclosures.

A group of azaleas protected 
by nearly invisible fishing line
         If your yard’s full of hawthorns, pittosporums, euonymus, daylilies, roses, hostas, tulips and Oriental lilies, you can try the standard repellent methods—stinky sprays, grated Irish Spring soap, netting, bags of human hair or garlic-oil "pens" tied to susceptible shrubs, predator-urine stakes and fencing. Tim and I know some folks who mounted motion-activated dog-whistle-like devices in strategic spots around their yard one spring to good initial effect. Alas, the deer took to wearing earplugs or something, because by midsummer the devastation had resumed. You can keep deer out by stringing fishing line from tree to tree—or stake to stake—at chest height (theirs, not yours) around susceptible vignettes. The ultimate deterrent is, of course, a large dog.

"Cool Cola" defending the yard
(thanks to Labrador Retriever Pictures)
All these things work, but each has its trade-offs. Sprays can be expensive and must be reapplied regularly; soap’s cheaper, but you still have to be out there, grating away. Plants grow up through netting, failing to protect the tender new growth deer like best. Bushes festooned with bags of hair are soooo unattractive. Garlic pens and predator-urine stakes need replacing, although you probably won’t notice until the morning after the deer return. Fences work great but are a) expensive, b) ugly, or c) both. The sound devices, powered by four C-cell batteries, need frequent battery checks and replacements, and then the deer become accustomed to the sound anyway. Nearly invisible fishing line can cause tripping, and, in our litigious society, possible lawsuits. For those not inclined toward pet ownership, deer depredations may seem less harrowing than the rigors of life with Fido. 

In the March 2008 issue of The Avant Gardener, editor Thomas Powell wrote of experiments conducted by the USDA National Wildlife Research Center using hydrolyzed milk protein, called casein, to render plants unpalatable to Bambi. Apparently, casein is a common component of baby powder. The down side of this economical deer repellant (there’s always a down side) lies in how it’s applied. You have to mix the powder with some kind of adherent to make it stick to the leaves before spraying it on your plants. The article mentions commercial agricultural latex or—I’m not kidding—Elmer’s Glue-All. The mental picture I get of what baby powder, glue and water look like when applied to foliage is not pretty.
          The main goal of all repellents is to induce Bambi to change restaurants. Do keep in mind that hungry deer will eat anything. They also become inured to any one deterrent technique after a while. That’s why Tim and I advocate for planting things deer don’t particularly like in the first place. In the long run, it’s easier. 
        Don’t let the bastards get you down. And thanks for dropping by.


P.S.—For the seven readers who found the plants lists mildly interesting, there’s a supplemental post of the entire thing (sans pictures) following this one.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


            This deer-resistant plant list is growing like Topsy. (You’ve read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, right? Dreadful book, and a slog of a read, demonstrating that the history of publishers choosing politics over good writing goes ’way back.)

But I digress. Yesterday I stumbled onto a whole new category of plants Bambi avoids, silver-foliaged plants. I’m learning that deer-ravaged landscapes are more a failure of the gardener’s imagination than anything else. So today we showcase bulbs, silver-foliaged plants, and succulents.

Regular readers already know what a huge fan of all plants bulbous I am. Here is a sampling of genera that I know from personal experience will fend off unwanted deer attention.

AMARYLLIS (Hippeastrum—pronounced hip-pee-A-strum—and intergeneric hybrids such as Amarcrinum) Everyone’s favorite bulb for forcing at Christmas, amaryllis is also surprisingly hardy outside in my neighborhood. The Hippeastrum pictured here is ‘Jaguar,’ a pass-along from a friend that I kept alive for years as a houseplant (if you can believe that).

Hippeastrum 'Jaguar'
Amarcrinum 'Dorothy Hannibal'

CRINUM (Crinum species and intergeneric hybrids like Crinodonna) Just to give you an idea of their staying power: Frank Galloway, reclusive local plantsman extraordinaire, has been collecting these low-maintenance lily relatives from around abandoned homesteads for years. Any plant that thrives without human intervention is my kind of plant.

x Crinodonna
Crinum x powellii


DAFFODILS (Narcissus spp and cultivars) Daffodils are poisonous in all their parts, as I’ve warned many times before. They probably wouldn’t kill you, but I’m guessing you’d be pretty miserable before you managed to expel them from your system. Deer have enough trouble surviving without making themselves sick, so they give daffs a wide berth.

GRAPE HYACINTH (Muscari spp.) Deer don’t graze the clumps of M. armeniacum, M. aucheri, M. latifolium and M. comosum we’ve planted in St. James. Maybe it’s the grass-like foliage that discourages them.

M. aucheri  (with Tulipa sylvestris)
M. armeniacum

IRIS—The bulbous iris I refer to here include the miniature, early-blooming I. histriodes, I. reticulata and I. cristata; and the larger and later Dutch iris, I. hollandia. We’ll get to the bearded, Siberian, Japanese, and Louisiana ones under the rubric of perennials.
I. hollandia

I. reticulata


MONTBRETIA (Crocosmia x crocosmifolia) These late-summer, hot-colored bloomers look like a cross between lilies and species gladiolas. But they must not taste very good.

A. schubertii

ORNAMENTAL ONIONS (Allium spp.) With flowers ranging in size from golf-ball (A. moly) to beach-ball (A. schubertii) and in colors from pink, purple and burgundy through yellow, blue and white, these nasty-tasting beauties give Bambi the brush-off.

Zephyranthes candida
RAIN LILIES (Habranthus & Zephyranthes spp.) Crocus-like—only larger—flowers in white, yellow or pink bloom above mounds of bright green grassy foliage after a rain or deep watering, allegedly: in my yard, the appearance of the flowers seem less predictable that that. Not that it matters.

SPECIES GLADIOLI (Gladiolus communis var. byzantina) This cheerfully prolific mid-spring bloomer is not as flashy as its gigantic hybrid cousins, but you can leave it in the ground and it’s not as likely to have its buds nipped off.

 SPIDER LILIES (Lycoris spp.) Neither the winter-appearing foliage nor the leafless late-summer blooms of the so-called “naked lady” lilies tempt deer palates. The two species pictured here are L. radiata and L. sprengeri ‘Tie Dye.’

L. radiata
L. sprengeri 'Tie Dye'

 STAR FLOWER (Ipheion uniflorum) Low-growing mounds of mid-green foliage producing star-shaped blooms in all shades of blue (not purple) beginning in late February and continuing into May have naturalized all over my yard.

      Silver is a useful color in the garden. Like white, it can either dominate or recede, depending on its placement and companions. Most silvers are native to dry environments, and tend to melt in the face of unremitting high humidity. You can ameliorate the likelihood of this happening by planting high (or in pots); assuring excellent drainage by amending heavier soils with sand or gravel; mulching with grit, glass pebbles or small stones; and never watering from above. A caveat: the flowers of almost all the silvers are little dull-yellow buttons: I keep them cut off, letting the silver shine without distraction. In fact, I think the ugly flowers may repel the deer as much as the fuzzy or scaly foliage. But that’s just my opinion.

A. 'Powis Castle'
ARTEMISIA—For this genus, the Latin name is also one of the common names, and sounds a whole lot nicer than “mugwort” and “wormwood.” While some cultivars form neat mounds (‘Silver Mound’), others may assume shrub-like proportions (‘Powis Castle’). Regardless, deer give them a wide berth.

A. schmidtiana 'Silver Mound'

A stelleriana 'Silver Brocade'

CURRY PLANT (Helichrysum italicum) Curry plant lands a one-two defensive punch on browsing deer: it has a strong scent (reminiscent of curry; hence the common name) as well as unpalatable foliage. It is not the source of curry as we know it: the Brits invented that from an olio of Indian spices.


DUSTY MILLER (Senecio cineraria, sometimes labeled as Cineraria maritima) Good ol’ dusty miller, that work-horse of summer vignettes and containers. Planting it among your more deer-favored annuals—such as begonias and petunias—may be enough to make Bambi look elsewhere for a snack.

 LAMBS-EARS (Stachys byzantina, pronounced, for whatever reason, STACK-iss bye-zan-TIE-nah) Nothing says “pet me” so much as a healthy stand of Stachys. Nothing says “get lost” to deer like a healthy stand of Stachys. It’s a win-win sort of plant.

 LAVENDER COTTON (Santolina chamaecyparissus: don’t be scared—say kam-may-sip-arr-ISS-us) When small, lavender cotton looks a lot like curry plant, and shares its deer-deterrence characteristics. When grown up, lavender cotton looks a lot like a shrub, so site yours carefully.

            Succulents’ foliage is either tough and fibrous, or squishy and full of foul-tasting sap. Often, the challenge for Bambi in ingesting this class of plants is complicated by thorns and spines, on leaf tips, leaf margins, and/or leaf surfaces. For places under heavy deer pressure, hardy succulents—like the ones profiled below—may be the way to go. Cultivation requirements are similar to those for silver-foliaged plants.

AGAVE—Although usually associated with Southwestern and desert areas, powder-blue Agave americana is only one of many hardy century plants, many of them variegated. The common name “century plant” is a misnomer, by the way—agaves usually bloom between ages 10 and 15. Interesting factoid: agaves and sempervivums (see below) are monocarps, Latin for “one seed” or “one harvest.” Monocarpic plants die after flowering, but leave behind numerous off-shoots, or “pups,” to take their places.

HENS-AND-CHICKS (Sempervivum spp.) Cold-hardy to Zone 3, hens-and-chicks run a gamut of colors, textures, forms and size. Their rosettes range from a mere half-inch to eight inches across, with smooth or pubescent leaves whorled tightly or loosely, and spider-web-like filaments present or absent. With over 4000 named cultivars to choose from, you may find yourself a collector before you realize it. Don’t ask me how I know.

Delosperma cooperi
ICE PLANT—So-called because some species’ foliage appears coated with ice crystals, South African native ice plants comprise several genera. Cultivars of Delosperma cooperi are most common in the trade, but you may soon find Drosanthemum floribundum selections and the tender Dorotheanthus bellidiformis ‘Mezoo Trailing Red’ taking up a share of table space in garden centers.


MANFREDA (Manfreda virginica) Native to the East Coast, Eastern false aloe is under-appreciated by gardeners. It’s a great plant to play “Quiz the Wizard” with when visitors come to call.


PORTULACA (P. grandiflora) Not a personal favorite of mine—I think it looks weedier than many weeds. Still, for hot and dry deer-resistant applications, it certainly fills the bill. It has the distinction of being among the few true annuals of the succulent world, and is popular because of its jewel-toned flowers, long bloom period, and low maintenance requirements.

Prickly pear pairs well with agave

PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS (Opuntia humifusa) Another East Coast native, prickly pear makes no secret of how it deters deer. I’ve had its barbed spines disappear into in my fingers… through gloves. I certainly wouldn’t want one in my mouth.

A collection of tender sedums in a pot
 SEDUM—Over the past decade or so, sedums have inspired a frenzy among breeders. With more than 300 species to play with, “new” forms and colors appear every season. From tender trailers to hardy groundcovers to upright garden stalwarts, there’s a sedum for every taste, use and pocketbook. And Bambi hates them all.

S. rupestris 'Angelina'

S. telephium 'Herbesfreude'

From left: Agave americana, Opuntia
humifusa,  & Dasylirion texanum

SOTOL (Dasylirion texanum: day-see-LEER-ree-on) I was surprised to learn this desert denizen would survive in southeastern North Carolina, but it does. One look at that giant globe of saw-edged foliage could discourage more than deer.

Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard'

YUCCA—Aptly named East Coast natives Spanish bayonet (Y. aloifolia) and slightly kinder and gentler Adam’s needle (Y. filamentosa) have hard-to-digest, fibrous leaves that make Bambi walk on by. 

            That’s it for today. Next time it's grasses, groundcovers and herbs.

            Thanks for dropping by.