s
s
Sections
Search
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Login

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

LoginSubscribe

It’s the North Bay gardener’s lament — gophers eat everything up to ground level, and the deer eat everything down to ground level.

We have wire cages to protect plant roots from the gophers, but what do we have for the deer? Lots of fencing would work, but it would also ruin the look of a pretty yard and landscape. Fencing the entire property works, but that’s expensive. A dog will keep deer away, but Sonoma County has a leash law, dogs can’t run free and it’s cruel to permanently tie up a dog outside.

One sensible answer to deer control is to landscape your garden with deer-resistant plantings. That’s deer-resistant, not deer-proof. For most of the year, when other browse is available, deer will avoid these plants. But come August through October, when it’s dry and pickings are slim, they may take a nibble, although they are very unlikely to wreak wholesale destruction on these plants the way they do to abutilons and roses.

Before detailing our 10 deer-resistant choices, first think about using the pine family evergreens as major players: for screens, wind barriers and strong visual statements. Junipers, pines, cedars and spruces look good in all seasons, and the resins in their sap keep deer away.

Prime among our chosen 10 landscape superstars that deer find distasteful is the Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), a native of our region that tolerates sun or shade and delivers delicious huckleberries for pies and jams in late summer. They grow 8 to 10 feet tall with dark green, lustrous leaves and pair well with rhododendrons.

California Laurel (Umbellularia californica) is another native that deer avoid. It tends to grow to 25 feet in landscape settings, although it can grow much bigger in the wild. Don’t plant it if you have oaks on your property or nearby, as it can host the sudden oak death fungus.

There are many species and varieties of Wild Lilac (Ceanothus spp.), but it’s the ones with small evergreen leaves that are deer resistant. Check with your local nursery to make sure you’re getting a shrub with the spring flower color you like (from white through powder blue to deep violet) and that they are a small-leaved variety. Growth habit varies with species, but most grow just a few feet tall and prefer dry, rocky spots. They are native to our region.

Daphnes (Daphne odora and Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’) are evergreen with a beautiful bonus. Their late winter flowers are among the most enticingly fragrant in the plant world and can perfume the air for up to 100 feet around themselves. Deer hate them. But the daphnes hate wet feet, so plant them where drainage is good.

California Flannel Bush (Fremontodendron californicum) is native to our area, so it needs no irrigation. It’s an evergreen that grows 15-20 feet tall and makes a brilliant show of big, buttery-yellow flowers that appear all over the plant at once in spring. Wet feet in winter will kill it, so plant it on a well-drained slope. For the couple of weeks it’s in bloom, it will be the dominant visual display in your landscape.

If you plant a New Zealand Tea Tree (Leptospermum scoparium), it will not only resist deer damage, it will become a favorite plant in your landscape. It’s trouble-free, needs little or no water in summer, makes a casual shrub about 6 to 8 feet tall, and covers itself in profuse, half-inch rose-like flowers all over its stems and branches from spring to summer. The cultivar ‘Helene Strybing’ is particularly beautiful.

If you love sky-blue flowers, think about planting Cape Plumbago (Plumbago auriculate, aka P. capensis). It’s an evergreen shrub native to South Africa that grows 6 to 8 feet tall and blooms spring through summer in our area with 1-inch wide flowers in puffy heads. True blue cultivars include “Royal Cape” and “Imperial Blue.” If hard frosts threaten, throw an old sheet over it, or its shoot tips might be blackened. If it does catch frost damage, prune out black tips after frosts are over for the year. Recovery will be swift.

Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) offer many charms in the landscape, most notably their resistance to deer damage. Besides that, they are graceful, feathery, deciduous standouts. Some varieties stay low and well behaved, and others grow into full 30-foot trees. All are exquisitely ornamental.

Among vines, deer don’t like jasmines or wisteria. The jasmine you want (for its sensual fragrance) is Poet’s Jasmine (Jasminum officinale). It’s evergreen and blooms spring into summer with a delicious scent. Arabian Jasmine (Jasminum sambac) has an even more powerful scent, but is harder to find, although it’s worth looking for. Both jasmines grow well here, although they may need some protection on the coldest nights. I find covering them with an old sheet is plenty of protection if temperatures dip into the 20s.

Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis and W. floribunda) is perfectly cold-hardy in our region. W. sinensis (Chinese Wisteria) is the most commonly seen deciduous species here, and hangs gorgeous, fragrant panicles of lavender flowers from its vines in spring. W. floribunda (Japanese Wisteria), also deciduous, produces 2-foot-long panicles of white, purple or lavender flowers that are very decorative. If only wisteria blossoms lasted more than a week to 10 days (at most), this plant would be the perfect perennial. Both species are distasteful to our deer friends.

Jeff Cox is a Kenwood-based garden and food writer. He can be reached at jeffcox@sonic.net.

Show Comment