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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Turn chive blossoms into chive vinegar

Chives are in bloom in my Connecticut garden (zone 6a) which means it’s time to turn chive blossoms into chive vinegar.

Making chive vinegar is an annual ritual in my kitchen. I’ve saved a good collection of attractive glass jars to hold this homemade concoction. Chive vinegar preserves the delicate onion flavor and stunning lavender-pink color of chive flowers. 

Chive blossoms

Chive blossoms

In early morning as the dew dries, snap close-to-fully-open chive blossoms from their stems. When you have enough to nearly fill your chosen container, simply drop the flowers into your clean glass jar, cover them with white vinegar, and set them on the kitchen counter out of direct sun. Yes, it’s that easy.

Choose containers with an opening wide enough for the chive flowers. My favorite glass containers are re-purposed Patron bottles.

Chive flowers infusing into vinegar

Chive flowers infusing into vinegar

In a few hours the color of the blossoms will infuse into the vinegar. The color of the vinegar depends on the shade of the blossoms - the more lavender blooms infuse a darker shade, the more pink flowers a lighter shade. The longer the blossoms soak, the stronger the flavor of the vinegar. But the chive flavor never becomes overpowering.

 

I’d give the blossoms at least two weeks to infuse before using the vinegar. Before use, strain the vinegar into a separate jar, then add the spent chive blossoms to the compost pile. I use the flavored vinegar in salad dressings, to baste chicken and other roasted meats (the vinegar helps keep meats tender and moist), and in many recipes calling for regular vinegar.

This vinegar infusion method works with garlic chive blossoms as well as leaves of rosemary, basil, thyme, sage and other herbs. But no other herb flower I’ve used imparts a more lovely color to the vinegar than chive flowers.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Joene Hendry

May 2014 Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day in Connecticut

Spring brings lots of blooms to Connecticut gardens, and May always brings bountiful blooms for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. The spring of 2014 had a slow start and has remained generally chilly – giving us a long and lovely daffodil bloom time – but, during the warmer temperatures of the last week or so, other spring bloomers have begun to shine.

Lilacs, the common purple variety, 5/15/2014 in CT

Lilacs, the common purple variety, 5/15/2014 in CT

Lilacs – the common purple variety – fully opened yesterday in my garden, though the flowers are a bit scant this year.  Late season extreme cold likely damaged the forming buds, resulting in few purple and no white lilac flowers this spring.

Mimicking the lilac color is early-blooming nepeta (aka catmint). planted nearby.

Nepeta blossom

Nepeta blossom

 

 

 

 

Rivaling the lilacs in fragrance are Lily-of-the-Valley flowers. A vase of these dainty beauties sit on the corner of my desk, keeping me company as I write this post.

Lily-of-the-Valley

Lily-of-the-Valley

 

 

 

Two flowering quince (Chaenomeles sp. Texas Scarlet), planted in the transition area between lawn and woods, managed to survive the winter and put out a few flowers.

Flowering quince 'Texas Scarlet'

Flowering quince ‘Texas Scarlet’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Azalea and dogwood blossoms add pink tones.

Azalea

Azalea

Dogwood

Dogwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alpine strawberries and blueberry bushes promise yummy treats if I get to the fruit before the birds.

Alpine strawberry

Alpine strawberry

Low bush blueberry blooms

Low bush blueberry blooms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And two viburnum shrubs hold blossoms nearly ready to pop.

Leatherleaf (Viburnum rhytidophyllum)

Leatherleaf (Viburnum rhytidophyllum)

Viburnum plicatum 'Mariessii'

Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariessii’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The remaining daffodils round out the show of blooms.

Narcissus Fragrant Rose

Narcissus Fragrant Rose 

May blooming narcissi

May blooming narcissi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

unknown variety of May blooming narcissus

unknown variety of May blooming narcissus 

Likely Poet's daffodil

Likely Poet’s daffodil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Head over there now to enjoy the May blooms in gardens all over the U.S. and beyond.