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Landscaping Challenges: Designing Around the Deer

Landscaping Challenges: Designing Around the Deer

What does your landscape have to offer? Whatever its challenges, the opportunity is there to design something radically wonderful, and far beyond the typical limited vision that tends an established lawn and puts a few seasonal annuals in a square around the mailbox. First, know your land. Second, imagine how you want the landscape to make you feel and understand how you want to use it. Third, begin to integrate your vision for the landscape with the realities of the site and solve for various problems in the landscape. Only then can you begin to design the space, from its large features down to the grouping of plants in newly created beds.

One challenge that many sites have, including places in cities that would not have seen such a thing a few decades ago, is a large deer population. They can devastate your landscape by using it their dining room. While there are a number of chemical or natural repellants on the market and some municipalities are even allowing limited deer hunting to curb the population, you can help rid your yard and garden of a deer problem by working that challenge into your landscape design.

One element of landscape design involves partitioning the space, creating outdoor chambers within your garden with a variety of landscape and soft cape features. So while you might not want to enclose your entire garden with a deer fence over seven feet tall, there is some potential for smaller-scale work within the space. As deer can jump very high but seem less likely to jump a low, wide barrier, you could use a short double fence (about 3 feet wide and four feet tall) around an area in which your plantings will still be tall enough to be seen. Just leave enough margins that the deer cannot stand outside your fence and graze freely.

You might want to use such an option to protect plantings that are very likely to attract deer. But such fencing would not give at all the right impression if it were used widely within the garden. To promote a feel of openness and beauty without sacrificing plantings to the deer, consider constructing areas of deer-resistant plants. You might begin by creating your bed spreading from the corner created by a two-sided decorative fence panel. The fence won’t keep out the deer, of course, but it gives you the opportunity to create a good focal point and develop some lovely texture by placing taller plants behind the shorter ones, finishing with some deer-resistant ground covers at the front of the bed.

There are a number of lists of deer-resistant plants, and any good nursery or garden center can help you select some good options for your land given the amount of sun and water it receives. If you would like to include a beautiful, low-maintenance hedge as part of your planting, consider the Golden Ticket Ligustrum Privet, which is non-invasive and offers deer-resistance as well as foliage tinged with shades of yellow and fragrant white flowers in spring. It grows only 4-6 feet tall with an equal spread. Further forward in your bed, consider the Yuki Cherry Blossom Deutzia, which is a deer-resistant deciduous shrub only 1-2 feet high with beautiful small pink flowers in spring and amazing purple burgundy foliage in autumn.

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