We all know that deer are lovely creatures that inhabit wooded areas and feast on wild vegetation. That is, unless they make it into your garden. Then, they can become an absolute hassle and can be quite destructive.
They will eat every last shoot, every piece of new growth and every leaf, if given the chance. While there are many strategies to discourage deer, including high fences and loud dogs, often what you plant can affect how the deer treat your yard.
One strategy is to avoid planting the plants that deer love the most in the garden. Plants with lots of succulent, juicy leaves, like hosta (Hosta sp.), are a favorite for deer. They love to eat flowers as well, particularly roses (Rosa sp.) and pansies (Viols biocolor). Fruit trees are also quite likely to attract deer, especially if the fruit is within their reach. If your yard is particularly deer-prone, it may be wise to either avoid these plants or plant them very close to your house, where it is easier to keep an eye on them.
Another strategy is to populate your yard with plants the deer will not eat. Deer prefer plants that do not have a strong taste. They also will not eat toxic or particularly strong-smelling plants. Therefore, it may be well worth including some strong plants in your garden, to keep them at bay. For example, yarrow (Achillia algeratifolia) is a deer-resistant perennial, due to its strong smell. It produces lovely yellow or orangey-red blooms and feathery leaf fronds that can make it a lovely addition. Chives (Allium odorum), mustard (Brassica rapa), calamint (Calamintia sylvatica) and most herbs are also odiferous plants that the deer will avoid. Some plants, like lamb’s ear (Stachys bizantina) and comfrey (Symphytum sp), have fuzzy foliage that does not bode well on a deer’s tongue. Deer will also avoid trees and shrubs with evergreen needles and sharp thorns and edges, like juniper (Citharexyulm sp.)There are a few flowering plants that deer hate, because they are quite toxic, such as foxglove (Digitalis sp.), monkshood (Aconitum sp.) and ornamental rhubarb (Rheum palmatum). Be careful with these plants, however. They are not only toxic to deer: ingestion is harmful to most animals, including humans. People with pets and children may want to avoid planting those.
The best strategy may be to plant the aromatic, toxic deer-resistant plants in amongst the ones they love to feast on. The hope, then, is that the deer may steer clear of your entire yard. There is no guarantee for a deer-free yard, unless you have the 10 foot fence, but making your yard unappealing is the best way to encourage the deer back into the woods, where they belong.