Monday, March 5, 2012


            I keep remembering things that need to go on my list of plants deer find less palatable than others. Since pictureless plant references are all but useless, I’ve been pawing through my boxes and boxes of unscanned photographs, looking for decent shots. Then it’s time to scan the pictures into the computer, caption them, copy them to this folder, move them to that folder. Specimens I don’t have photos of my own to use drive me to Google, where I scroll through thousands more images. I have to filter out those with copyrights, because I hate lawyers (long story) and have no wish to become embroiled with any via lawsuits. Nor do I want to give the Internet Nazis reason to shut down the blog as an infringing site.

            When the pictures are finally vetted and assembled and cropped and straightened, they need to be categorized, alphabetized and cross-referenced. Who knew this deer thing would turn into such a major freakin’ project? As the icing on the cake, the damn pine trees have started releasing their pollen, causing my eyes to itch and water and burn. Tim has been hiding out in his studio a lot lately, venturing out only to kiss me lightly on the head and ask if there’s anything he can get or do for me. (Boy, I really hit the jackpot when he said yes when I asked him to marry me. Him, not so much, although he swears that’s not true.)

            Anyway, it’s three o’clock Monday afternoon and I’m finally—probably—almost—ready to roll. I’ve broken down my 131 (and counting) photographs into 13 categories, just to impose a little order on this obstreperous gang. Alphabetically, we’ll address annuals, bulbs, grasses, ground covers, herbs, perennials, shrubs and trees, succulents, and vines; move on to suggestions for containers as well as in-ground vignettes, and mechanical methods of deer deterrence; and list guaranteed deer magnets as the grand finale. I’m guessing the annuals are all I’ll manage for today, but stay tuned! There’s lots more to come.


 ANGELONIA (Angelonia angustifolia) is a true annual, producing stalks of purple, blue, pink or white blooms continuously from April into November in these parts; equally good massed in the ground or adding height to containers.

AGASTACHE (A. aurantiaca, A. rupestris, pronounced ag-uh-STAK-ee) goes by the common name of hummingbird mint. Often sold as a perennial, I personally have never had one come back. The two species pictured here are southwestern natives and cold-hardy to Zone 5: maybe they don’t care for our hot nights.

A. aurantiaca 'Raspberry Daiquiri'
A. rupestris

BED-OF-NAILS (Solanum quitoense), just one of my favorite tender solanums, is a big-time attention-grabber. It has large fuzzy leaves spiked with wicked purple thorns, dainty white-and-purple flowers and finishes with jaw-breaker-sized, round, fuzzy, orange fruits.

'Indian Summer'

BLACK-EYED SUSAN (Rudbeckia hirta) is the flashy-flowered annual cousin of the less-showy perennial Rudbeckias. The good news is, if they’re happy where you put them, they will reseed themselves for years.

CALADIUM (Caladium bicolor) turning out to be deer-resistant came as a surprise, but it is. Technically a tuber, I include it with the annuals because I never had any success resprouting ones I’ve lifted. Newer cultivars tolerate more sun than you’d think, too: selections with “Florida” in their names will pretty much take anything you dish out.

'Belle of Lyon'

 COLEUS (Solenostemon scutellariodes—no wonder we call ’em “coleus”) is an old-fashioned plant that’s made a big comeback in the past decade, with hundreds of named cultivars. Many are bred to take full sun, even on the western exposure of my front porch.

DIANTHUS & SNAPDRAGONS (Dianthus barbatus, Antirrhinum majus) actually fall into the perennials camp: here in southeastern North Carolina, however, they are most often used as cool-weather plantings. We cavalierly toss them out when May or June rolls around.


EUPHORBIA (E. tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’) All the euphorbias put deer off because of their latex-like saps. This tropical gem is not easy to find outside of Southern California, but it is soooo worth the effort. Picture one of these screaming “Look at me!” in a prominently placed pot.

'Foxy' hybrids

 FOXGLOVE (Digitalis purpurea) is poisonous, making deer reluctant to nibble it more than once. Although technically a biennial, if you buy a budded or blooming specimen, you might as well call it an annual.

HOLLYHOCK (Alcea rosea) is another biennial that acts like an annual if you buy one budded or blooming. Their seeds are easy to collect and grow on, though hybrid cultivars won’t come true from seed. Just remember they don’t flower until their second season.

MEXICAN HEATHER (Cuphea hyssopifolia), also called false heather, falls into that grey area between tender perennial and annual. My friend Charlotte’s plants come back spring after spring. The ones I plant in my yard don’t. Ever. Nature moves in mysterious ways, her wonders to perform.

'Blue Midnight'

 PENSTEMON (P. barbatus hybrids) sit on the annual/perennial fence too. I love them, the deer don’t, but this species refuses to return for me. Still, the hybrids produce spring-into-summer jewel-toned spikes of flowers. That’s enough, don't you think?


PENTAS (P. lanceolata) go by the high-falutin’ name of “Egyptian star clusters” in catalogs, but you can just call them pentas. Another true annual, these flower powerhouses delight bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds in shades of red, pink and white.


SALVIA (S. splendens, S. coccinea) These single-season bloom machines just go and go and go. If you’re not into the somewhat garish colors of run-of-the-mill S. splendens, look for less common S. coccinea, with its more subtle pinks, corals, apricots and whites.
Salvia splendens

Salvia coccinea

VINCA (Catharanthus rosea) Don’t know why Bambi leaves these floriferous super-reseeders alone, but he does. Coming in every color except yellow and blue, there’s bound to be room for patch in your yard.

            It's now almost six o'clock Monday. While typing this, I thought of eight more plants I need to find pictures for. Will it ever end? Next time—bulbs and grasses.

            Thanks for dropping by.