Einstein’s Garden Tips

July 15, 2012

Einstein’s definition  of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

For several  years now, I’ve listened to the complaints of gardeners around Bloomington bemoaning  the loss of plants to deer and rabbits  who they say are  devastating their gardens. Every year , they sigh, they watch their hostas nibbled away.   Hostas?  Sure,  I love hostas, too, and have some wonderful varieties in my shade garden, but . . . .

At first I was sympathetic.  After all, I’m a gardener, too, and I do everything  myself,  planting, weeding, tending, trimming, etc., and therefore have not only mucho mega-$$$$ involved in the plants I buy and fertilize, but a lot of “sweat equity,”  and I do mean, SWEAT.  So, yes, it’s disheartening to watch your favorite plant gone in the flash of a second.

But  then  I realized that every year I was hearing the same complaints, and I began to wonder why.  Not why the deer were eating the plants, as predicted, but why gardeners kept planting and tending the same thing over and over! (See Einstein’s definition again above.)

So here’s what one gardener did. Upon discovering  the  massive plantings of  my prize day lilies were being chomped out front, I decided to try something else.  First, I read that deer like the buds, not the blossoms, and I had a choice to cover the buds. Nah, too much work. So  I just dug them all up  and put them around back behind a small fence where the deer don’t seem to visit.  Day lilies were replaced with other plants that I selected from extensive lists of deer-resistant plants, and so far, so good.  

Yup, it’s really as easy as that. I went to the local co-op and began researching native and deer-resistant plants. Quick aside:  the bunnies are also active chewers.  And my tomatoes suffer from  assaults by chipmunks, birds, and squirrels, though there’s plenty to go around, and until I put a small fence around my greens, Bugs and his pals had a field day out there eating salad.

Rethinking a garden is necessary every so often, anyway, because of changes in weather, shifts in shade patterns, etc. So last year I decided to learn more about  native plants, as well as deer-resistant plants  So what do I grow, you say? Just about everything.This  year  both my gardens (back and front) are  flourishing. There are even  ome of my hostas tucked out back away from Bambi. But out front where a small deer family roams, they are leaving everything alone.  Here is a partial list to help you get started:


1)      Monarda (bee balm) in regal red, pastels like lavender, white, and pink, etc.

2)      Yarrow (gorgeous blooms in all sorts of colors float above feathery stems)

3)      Iris  (all colors)

4)      Peonies (all colors)

5)       Echineaccea (and now you can move beyond the traditional pink to gorgeous salmons, reds, whites,  yellows, and even greens!)

6)      Liatris (colors galore)

7)      Gladiola (right now the reds are blindingly beautiful)

8)      Astilbe

9)      Swamp milkweed

10)   Eutrochium(commonly called  Joe Pye-weed), flowering, herbaceous plant

11)   Lavender

12)   Anise hyssop (so many colors to choose from, it’s a veritable smorgasbord)

13)   Coreopsis (gorgeous, floaty)

14)   Butterfly bush and butterfly weed (and you’ll have butterflies and hummingbirds everywhere!)

15)   Salvia (wonderful purple/blue flowers on long stalks)

16)   Russian sage (smells super good and looks a look like lavender)

17)   Rose campion (beautiful colors)

18)   Helleborus (gorgeous shade plants)

19)   Foxglove (all colors, tall stalks, bell-shaped flowers)

20)   Hardy geranium

21)   Bleeding heart

22)   Rose of Sharon

23)   Black-eyed Susan

24)   Daisies (tall shastas are some of my favorites)

25)   Cardinal flower (bright red)

26)   Hydrangea

Bushes like yews, boxwoods,  evergreens, etc., thrive like crazy.  It’s also fun to organize plantings in ways that deer are less likely to pester. I still grow things deer love, but close to the front of my house where my comings and goings keep them at bay, and I hide plants behind things they don’t like.   So actually  I do have day lilies that bloom out front, but they’re in the middle of plantings and just too much trouble to get to.

Like most wildlife, deer are opportunistic feeders.  It’s not personal!  


Put together by Alyce Miller


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