Tag: deer damage

Blue Star Juniper–More Deer Candy

Last autumn I treated myself to an adorable little Blue Star juniper (Juniperis squamata ‘Blue Star’). I planted it in one of my many garden beds not fenced to keep deer at bay. I had such high hopes it would eventually grow into the 2-3 foot tall, 3-4 foot wide mound its tag promised, particularly because it had sharp, prickly needles that suggested it might live up to the ‘deer resistant’ label it was given.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI need  real deer-resistant shrubs to fill the void left when tropical storm Irene toppled a hydrangea paniculata and a buddleia. These shrubs (center and right in the photo) had anchored a section of what I call the triangle bed. I had been playing with plant combinations in this spot for many seasons and, before Irene hit, had finally achieved a blend that looked good, not just during spring as is shown here, but all season.

Crocus and daffodils bloomed first,  them iris , Lamb’s ear, rose campion and lavender stepped in. The hydrangea and buddleia continued to grow as black-eyed Susan’s and a dark red yarrow joined yellow sedum blossoms. Then dark purple blooms of buddleia (I think it was ‘Black Knight”’) joined the long-blooming black-eyed Susan’s in attracting many butterflies. The hydrangea grabbed the show as its huge flowers matured from their creamy shade of late summer to their mauve shades of autumn.  The only sparse season was winter. Even before Irene took the buddleia, I had decided to replace it with another blue-grey evergreen to balance the existing blue spruce.

With both the hydrangea and the buddleia gone the bed was all out of scale.  I considered planting another hydrangea paniculata but active voles were one reason the original hydrangea toppled; they had feasted on the hydrangea’s roots. Besides, I wanted shrubs that did not need to be fenced from the deer’s damaging teeth.

I settled on a Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ where the buddleia once stood as it should grow from 4-8 feet tall. The Blue Star juniper was to eventually form a 2-3 foot tall mound of blue-gray color between the pieris and the bird bath. It would mirror the foliage of the spruce.

The juniper survived through autumn’s first frost.


It survived the first snow in early November. Notice the tracks left by deer passing by, showing the juniper no interest.



It survived through a January 2013 winter thaw.



It was buried by the snows of February and I gave it no thought until I was able to survey my plantings after the snow finally melted in late March. What I found is not pretty.

Juniper 'Blue Star' browsed 4-13-13The hoof tracks left behind, the condition of the browsed stem ends, and the lack of any broken branches left behind on the ground suggest deer are to blame. I’m sure the shrub is a goner but I decided to leave it in place to see how – or if – it responds as the weather warms.

Though it looks very sad in its blanket of new mulch. I’m pulling for it to fight back.

Right now it’s a reminder that many ‘deer resistant’ labels mean squat.

The only way to really know what local deer like is to plant it and hope for the best.

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Snow + solar panels + deer fencing = A Gardening Oops

Welcome to the first day of March 2013 – Gardening Oops (GOOPs) day here in Joene’s Garden. On the first of each month I share a gardening faux pas hoping you can learn from my experience, and give you the chance to share a faux pas – or GOOPs – of your own. My March 1, 2013 tale is the result of three, seemingly unrelated, objects. When combined the three became a gardening oops.

Study this photo to see if you can predict what happened.


This GOOPs tale begins with two rhododendron planted, about fifteen years ago, as small shrubs on either end of our front porch. With time they grew to over six feet tall and about 5 feet in diameter because each autumn I install chicken wire fencing around each shrub to prevent winter browsing by resident white-tale deer. Each spring I remove the fencing at about the time deer move deeper into the woods to fawn. Using this method, I’ve had no deer browsing on either shrub … until now.

A couple of years ago we had roof-top solar panels installed over the garage and along the roof-peak of the central section of the house. The panels were installed well after I planted the foundation shrubs.

During the first winter, when we had small snowfalls, we learned that snow slid – with considerable force – off the garage roof panels and landed on the boxwood shrubs planted below. Fortunately the shrubs incurred no damage from the sliding snow that first year. To prevent shrub damage from heavier snowfalls my husband built a-frame forms that I now place over the boxwood shrubs before the first predicted snow. Our observations also told us that most snowfalls would slide off the solar panels with enough force to miss the rhododendron and its protective winter fencing.

All was fine until the blizzard of 2013 hit our south-central Connecticut region. In less than 24-hours we received a period of powdery snow followed by a period of sleet and rain followed by another extended period of snow. Snowfall amounts totaled three feet, snowdrifts reached 5-6 feet.

We had one day to clean up as much snow as possible before leaving for a pre-planned vacation. We left home suspecting that snow falling off the solar panels might flatten the fencing meant to protect the rhododendron. We returned to find this,


and the previously fully-leaved rhododendron looking like this.


Here’s the deer-browsed rhododendron (left) compared to it’s sister shrub (right) still protected at the other end of the front porch – under the section of the house without solar panels.



During my younger, less seasoned, gardening life I would have been devastated at the sight of this rhododendron. My more seasoned self has learned to go with the punches. Rather than mourning this turn of events I see this as an opportunity to plant something more deer resistant and less likely to grow out into the solar panel avalanche zone.

What can we all learn from this GOOPs?

  • Roof-mounted solar panels present unique hazards to plants directly in the line of avalanching snow.
  • Deer will take advantage of any opportunity to munch on greenery during the winter. This is a lesson northern gardeners in deer territory learn again every year.
  • Instead of crying over munched leaves look at the bright side … the chance to try new plants that better suit the conditions.

I have a few rhododendron replacement ideas but would love to hear any you may have for my zone 6 garden. I’d also love to learn of any snow-related or deer-related GOOPs you’ve experienced in your gardens. Share your suggestions and/or your GOOPs in a comment below or share your GOOPs on your blog, leaving a teaser comment below.

Garden thoughtfully,


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