Garden Design

Eye-catching borders in spite of deer

In spite of deer. This is the main gardening theme I live with. If you have the same issue … deer browsing your perennial beds in spite of you planting supposedly deer-resistant plants and shrubs … read on.

The photos below represent 16 years of trial and error. I’ve planted and lost to deer more plants than I want to acknowledge. But I’ve still managed to eek out some eye-catching borders in the foundation and other mixed perennial and shrub beds on our property.

My friend refers to this as Darwinian gardening – survival of the fittest – but I’ve labeled it Deerwinian gardening – survival in spite of deer.

Perennial bed that survives in deer territory.

Perennial bed that survives in deer territory.

The major shrubs include boxwood, mounding inkberry (Ilex glabra ‘Compacta’), and azalea and rhododendron that I fence during winter months. In the corner near the downspout is caryopteris, a relatively new addition that, in its third season, is now beginning to obtain some size.

Perennials include common lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina) and, at the far end not seen in this photo the Helen von Stein variety that does not bloom; Salvia (I think it’s nemorosa ‘May Night’); lavender, Maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoides ‘Arctic Fire’); Rose campion (Lychnis coronaria); foxglove (Digitalis); and nepeta. A few years ago I added meadow rue (Thalictrum), planting it behind the center-most boxwood, but deer manage to find and top it every spring. It blooms occasionally in later summer, but never achieves the height I hoped for … sigh.

Farther along in this bed, but not clear in this photo, are Siberian and bearded iris, peonies, and more boxwood, lamb’s ear, foxglove, lavender, Pieris andromeda, a Rose of Sharon that sees deer browse of its lower leaves but manages to bloom above the deer-browse level, and clematis that grows up the end post of the porch

The perennials listed above are repeated in the opposite bed with the addition of common sage, Campanula poscharskyana, and various varieties of allium.

The opposite bed that blooms in spite of deer.

The opposite bed that blooms in spite of deer.

I deadhead the lamb’s ear blooms when they begin to fade or get knocked askew by rain. This maintains a neater border look.

Deer are fickle and have varied taste. Deer in your neck of the woods may like or shun a different group of plants from those listed above, but I’ve generally found they dislike most silver and gray plants and those with fuzzy leaves. Still, any newly purchased nursery plant is more likely to suffer deer-browse … the four-legged creatures seem attracted to highly-fertilized plants. I’ve even seen them munch on newly-purchased lamb’s ear.

Outside of installing a tall fence to prevent deer from reaching your gardens, trial and error is the only way to learn what local deer do and do not like. I’ve tried nearly every deer repellent on the market with limited success and now generally avoid the expense (though I do, at times, test new environmentally safe products).

The plants listed above are not the only ones deer avoid in my gardens – more on these in future posts – but, if deer are a major nemesis in your area, the list above gives you a few hints on how to have eye-catching perennial beds in spite of deer.

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End of a Long Journey

About three years ago I embarked on a new journey … that of becoming certified in landscape design. The journey took a full year longer than I had planned and hoped, due to work, family, and general life responsibilities, but that’s all in the past now. I finally reach the end of this long journey.

It involved teaching myself computer aided drafting, following twenty-five in-depth lessons on site and level surveying; developing concept, hardscape, and planting plans; designing all aspects of a residential property including fences, walls, steps, water features, garden structures, habitat gardens, vegetable gardens, border beds, lawns, low-maintenance plantings, and native plantings;  delving into landscape design history and, among other things, honing my knowledge of botanical terminology.

For one lesson I designed a garden as if I were a female settler at Plimoth Plantation. For another lesson I designed a butterfly and herb garden.

I became lax on blogging about the lessons simply because of time constraints, but the lessons marched on.

There was the border planting in front of a brick wall, with both summer (top drawing) and winter (bottom drawing assuming all perennials are cut back) views. (For unknown reasons when converting to a jpeg for posting here, the drawing lost its sharpness, but it still shows the general design ideas.)

border planting in front of brick wall-summer and winter views

 

The working drawings, both plan and elevation views) of a pergola.

pergola drawings

 

The fence lesson that gave me the chance to design a garden fence for espaliered fruit trees.

espalier style fence

 

Plus, there were many full property design lessons too large to show here in any meaningful detail. Living and working in a rural section of Connecticut means there are very few small properties to practice design skills upon. As my instructor noted in her assessment of my final project, “I think you have designed more acreage than any other student to date. Large properties are a lot more difficult than average-sized ones and this last assignment shows that you are very capable of handling the task. The design, presentation and documentation were all excellent.”

Am I an expert? Not by any means, but, I have a lot more knowledge and understanding of what it takes to design beautiful and functional landscapes, and … I fulfilled a long desired goal … and this makes me happy.

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Planting for Year-Round Interest

Late summer into autumn is a perfect time to plant shrubs with year-round interest. Evergreen shrubs of varying shapes anchor planting beds while providing structure and greenery to brighten the gray days of winter.

Here’s a planting plan that does just that. Two pyramidal holly bushes, or similar shaped evergreens, and three mounding hollies provide year-round structure. Spring brings purple blooms of iris and the first lavender blossoms of scabiosa along the front of the border, while climbing hydrangea leafs out along the center of the brick wall to show off its large white blooms.  A few bulbs could be tucked in here and there for really early spring color.

As summer approaches, pale yellow rose shrubs grab attention along with pale pink and magenta day lilies. Purple globe allium stand tall on either side of the center holly bush and annual gerbera in pale yellow and magenta line the front of the bed. Lavender blue scabiosa continue to bloom along either end of the front border in sharp contrast to the lime green foliage and magenta blossoms of low-growing spiraea shrubs, also at either end.

Mid-summer brings tall, showy phlox and lily flowers, as well as purple coneflowers peaking from behind the center holly. At the foot of the center holly, and behind the gerbera, rests a low-growing variety of catmint. The roses, spiraea, scabiosa, and gerbera continue to bloom until frost.

 

 

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Once cold weather hits, the annuals and herbaceous perennials die back, leaving the bones of the spiraea shrubs and the climbing hydrangea vine to keep company with the shapely evergreen holly, hopefully spotted with bright red berries.

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This particular design is for a bed that’s about 30 feet long and 10 feet wide, but the plan can be adjusted to other sizes. The perennials around the center mounded shrub could easily be replaced with prostrate golden-foliage evergreens. A couple of yellow-fruited winterberry shrubs would add additional height to either side of the center shrub.

Gardeners on a tight budget could add two shrubs one year and two or three more in subsequent years. Once your create your planting plan it can be implemented as time and funds allow.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry