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Not so Deer-licious Bulbs

There’s a reoccurring theme at the garden centre in Parksville.  The question most asked, the number one requirement when picking out plants…“What can I plant that the deer don’t like???”

As cute as Bambi and his family is, deer are not always a welcome addition to the garden.  While I enjoy watching them as much as anyone I have also felt the pain of many dollars lost and my inspiration uninspired when my prized, newly planted, latest and greatest has been mowed down to nothing in one night’s feeding.

Bulbs are no exception although there are quite a few in the fall collection that are less likely to be on Bambi’s menu.  If you have a big fence then you can go to town in the bulb racks and happily fill your shopping basket without a care in the world.  If you are on the deer path then read on.

The old standby has always been daffodils.  Generally not eaten by deer, rabbits or squirrels however I can’t promise they won’t get stepped on.  Sometimes deer new to your garden will try just about anything but the nasty taste of a daffodil will not encourage them to sample more than one.  Also, the babies have to try it all otherwise how do they learn?  Isn’t that what we teach our kids?  “You won’t know until you try…”

So, daffs are usually a good bet.  Try some miniature ones like ‘Sun Disc’, ‘Spring Beat’ or ‘Tresamble.’  For the larger flowering varieties I like split coronas ‘Lemon Beauty’ or the cool pale yellow with white cup of ‘Avalon’.  And there’s always the popular pure yellow King Alfred or Dutch Master.

We won’t mention tulips here because that will start a Las Vegas smorgasbord line up of deer at your garden gate.  Instead, for a shot of colour, why not try hyacinths.  Because of the strong fragrance they shouldn’t be bothered much by deer.  As with everything it depends on your deer and what else is around to munch on.  I’ve never had a problem with hyacinths getting eaten and I had a lot of them even before the fence went up.  Bright pinks, pale pinks, true blues, yellow, apricot and lavender make a huge impact of colour.

Of the smaller bulbs the Chiondoxa are great performers.  White, pink, lavender and blue these gems are best planted in groups.  At six inches tall they should be at the front of the garden or tucked in planters.  Chiondoxa naturalize well, coming back in bigger and better clumps each year.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m in love with Muscari and this year is no exception.  Muscari ‘Pink Sunrise’ stands out for me as its soft pink instead of the usual blues and whites.  A definite must for my new garden, deer or no deer.  All muscari seem to be deer resistant and are great at naturalizing.

For the adventurous gardener have I got something for you.  Dracunculus or Dragon Arum is one of the most unique flowers I’ve even seen in a bulb or anywhere else for that matter.  Standing tall at 32” this one will have people stopping and asking what in the world is that?  The long burgundy flower sports an even longer tongue similar to a dragon…not that I’ve seen a dragon before but it certainly plays to that image.  I can just imagine fiery breath coming from the centre but don’t worry; no flames will scorch you with the Dracunculus but don’t tell the deer that.  They seem to be scared of it.

Like I’ve said before, nothing is entirely deer proof but there are certainly choices in bulbs that are less likely to be on the deer menu and it’s usually related to taste and fragrance.  Come in to Cultivate for a great selection of bulbs now, deer resistant and otherwise.

Shirley Eppler

September 2010