Remember the day you first saw a deer through your kitchen window? Thoughts of beauty and peaceful country living probably echoed through your head, re-affirming your decision to dwell out of the city center. Compare that to the last time you saw a deer delicately nibbling a blossom off your favorite flowering plant - chances are, all those warm and fuzzy thoughts about them are gone. How do you keep deer away from your favorite plants, you ask? The answer is not fool-proof, as it turns out that deer have varied tastes; there’s always going to be a chance that the deer in your area do, in fact, like the plant that the expert assured you was abhorrent to all deer.
It seems the trick is to attack the problem from the other angle - what we know the deer like to eat - and then do the opposite. Deer favorites include: soft, lush flowers without a lot of fragrance; moist grasses, and non-thorny plants (with the exception of roses, because, well who doesn’t like roses). They eat for both nutrition and water, so filling your flower bed with fuchsias, roses, or other moisture-rich plants is like hosting a party in their honor.
Deer do not like strong smelling food, so interspersing thyme, rosemary, sage, and other fragrant herbs throughout your flower beds will deter deer while simultaneously attracting bees and butterflies. They also can’t stand to have excessive noise while eating; choose plants with leaves that squeak when rubbed together, such as the delicate pink Bergenia, commonly known as Pigsqueak.
Native plants may not be the most exciting or eye-catching, but the deer are less likely to come and disturb the blooms in your yard with all it’s human and pet smells when they can just as easily access it down the road, away from human nuisance.
Here are some suggestions of local, readily available, dry, and pungent plants. Ornamental grasses, heather, fragrant herbs, ferns, rhododendrons and azaleas, english boxwood, black-eyed susan, foxglove, wild iris, and butterfly bushes.
Even though that may sound like a short list, there are so many varieties of these plants that your yard is sure to look and smell nice to you, while pulling a Jedi mind-trick on the deer: these aren’t the plants they’re looking for.