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Deer-Proof Gardening in the South

As a nursery owner, I'm often asked how I keep deer from eating the plants. Well, actually I use a number of methods, none of them expensive. Deer fencing is not an option for us, since a fence must surround the whole garden and be 10 feet tall to keep out deer. And it would be impossible for us to spray our whole garden with deer repellent after every rain or watering. Our large black lab Shadow used to keep the deer away from everything, but now that she's getting older, she seems to have befriended some of them, lying down with them as they eat. The best thing to do, since as gardeners, you'll be planting anyway, is to choose plants deer won't eat. A good plant type to use are those with prickly leaves or thorny branches, but deer do have the ability to pick berries and roses in spite of the thorns. I've even found where they've tasted of my holly shrubs and pyracantha, if you can believe it! And although it's true that deer seem to know what is poisonous to them, some plants that are poisonous to us are not so to deer, such as rhododendron and azaleas, for instance. I hope to share with you some of our experience with this short list of plants that have proved to be not quite so tasty to the deer in our garden:
  • Acuba
  • Aspidistra
  • Barberry
  • Boxwood
  • Daffodil
  • Daphne odora
  • Dusty Miller
  • Fatsia Japanica
  • Hellebore, Helleborus
  • Loropetalum
  • Oleander
  • Osmanthus
  • Rohdea
  • Viburnum
  • Yaupon Holly
Also, all aromatic herbs, with the exception of basil, are detested by deer. And the fragrance of rosemary, which is very pleasing to us, seems to have a repellant effect on deer, causing them to go elsewhere in their search of food. For a list of native plants that aren't usually food for deer, please visit our other site, Plant Native.

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