Deer and rabbits can be quite the burden when it comes to gardens and landscapes. There is a long list of plants that they love to eat and this should be considered when choosing plants for your home. If you live in an area that has any kind of deer or rabbit population, especially along wooded areas, it is best to steer clear of plants that will surely be damaged.
While choosing plants that these critters will stay away from, you should also make sure that you are choosing plants that are suitable for your climate. For example, here in Central New York, the Hardiness Zone ranges from 4a to 5b. That means, depending where you live, you should choose plants that can tolerate low temperatures anywhere from -10º F to -30º F. (http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/weather/zones.html) If the plant cannot withstand the winters in your area, there will not be anything for the deer and rabbits to eat anyway.
Once you learn what Zone you live in, then you can choose deer and rabbit resistant plants. However, no plant is 100% deer or rabbit proof; if they are hungry enough, especially in the winter months, they will eat just about anything. You can better your chances by choosing appropriate plants and taking measures to ensure that they stay away from your investments. Here is a list, for the above mentioned Zones, of plants that these animals should stay away from;
Anemone, Columbine, Butterfly Bush, Shasta Daisy, Coreopsis,
Coneflower, Helleborus, Lavender, Lupine, Bee Balm,
Catmint, Oriental Poppy, Clematis, Honeysuckle & Wisteria
(Trees & Shrubs)
Maples, Barberry, Birch, Boxwood, Dogwood,
Smokebush, Forsythia, Honeylocust, Rose of Sharon, Hydrangeas,
Holly, Inkberry, Juniper, Privet, Magnolia,
Spruce, Pieris, Potentilla, Roses, Willow,
Spirea, Lilac, Linden & Weigela
Here is a list of plants that should be omitted from any garden or landscape if there are deer around;
Fir, Cypress, Euonymus, Apples, White Pine,
Cherry, Plum, Pear, Rhododendron, Yews,
Arborvitae, Hemlock, Hollyhock, Daylily & Hosta
Once you have an idea of what plants you would like, talk with your landscape designer about how to lay them out. As long as your list includes deer and rabbit resistant plants, the layout possibilities are endless. The designer will help you determine which areas are best for the selected plants; usually larger ones behind smaller ones, clumps of similar plants, or even staggered rows of different colors and textures.
After your plantings are done, with your carefully selected plants, just remember that you can’t be too careful when it comes to the protection of your plants. Even if you picked all the right plants, it doesn’t hurt to give them extra protection, especially during the winter months.
Food shortages in winter force animals to feed on bark, twigs, flower buds, and foliage. Deer, rabbits, mice, and voles are the usual culprits. Using tree guards or 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth can protect tree trunks. The cylinder should extend 2 to 3 inches below the ground line for mice and 18 to 24 inches above the anticipated snow line for rabbits. This will prevent, especially rabbits, from “girdling” your trees; this is when they eat the bark all the way around the trunk. For deer, a fence at least 8-feet high or utility netting wrapped around the head of the tree is the best defense. Repellents will work better on drier days and they will eventually wear off with wet weather and need to be re-applied throughout the season.
Taking preventative measures and researching appropriate plants when planning your gardens and landscapes will almost guarantee that your plants will not only survive, but thrive in their new homes. For the best advice and results, visit your local independent garden center for information from professionals.