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Hey Santa! Leave your deer at the gate! By Troy McGregor

Nov 27, 2016 10:40AM ● By Troy McGregor

Gardening during the drought is tough. Adding deer, with their insatiable appetites, to the equation can demoralize even the hardiest of gardeners. Forget about the fences, motion activated water cannons, and scary animal pee (gross), and move the deer along with smart plant choices instead.

Deer detest smell, spike or texture. Pokey succulents are a natural choice. One bop on the nose and they’ll soon get the message. Not into spikes? Try non-edible members of the mint family. They are the unsung work horses of the garden. They are non-spreading evergreens, hardy to both cold and heat, and require only occasional water during the warmer months. Some of our favorites originated in Australia. Let’s explore some options.

Westringia, or Coastal Rosemary, is a tough option for full sun gardens, with hardiness down to the low 20s and season-long flowers. Westringia fruticosa 'Smokey' works well as a living fence that can be pruned or left alone. It grows to 4-6’ high. Westringia 'Wynyabbie Highlight' only reaches 4’ and looks quite dapper with its variegated foliage. Westringia ‘Low Horizon’ forms a low and wide carpet of foliage that softens up rock walls if allowed to spill over.

For morning sun or filtered light areas, try Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata.' It is also cold hardy to the low 20s and has a super minty fragrance. In late winter and early spring, the soft variegated leaves are almost obscured by masses of purple bell flowers.

If shade is your only option, try Plectranthus argentatus. It has thrived for years under our big trees at the garden with very limited summer watering. The fuzzy silver leaves really lighten up dark areas. This is a fast growing plant out to 5-6’ but can be kept smaller by pinching out the growing tips every now and again.

Stop by the Ruth Bancroft Garden and Nursery and say hello to new options for saying goodbye to deer.