Last year we created an experimental garden using the plants we sell that we know are deer resistant to a certain degree. We wanted to see what the deer would browse, how they would treat different species and which plants were the most deer resistant (notice I’m not saying ‘deer-proof’!) The garden is outside of our nursery in a fairly high deer traffic area.
As we assumed the deer, especially the curious fawns, began walking through the garden exploring and checking out the goodies we had put in front of them. Soon the Bitterroots were nubs, the Blue-eyed Grass bit the dust, and the Penstemons were nowhere to be found. Sigh…
The Blanket Flower looked like it was going to make it through the summer, but succumbed by the end of September. The Milkweed took several hits that only served to make it branch out and grow thicker. The Tri-lobed Sumac was down to half it’s size by fall and the Silver Buffaloberry was looking rather pathetic.
But, there were some very notable winners. The grasses all were fine. These included Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Prairie Junegrass, Little Bluestem, Idaho Fescue, Indian Ricegrass and Blue Grama. Rocky Mountain Beeplant (as always) was gorgeous and virtually untouched by the deer. The Sage species (Mountain Big Sage, Big Sage, and Fringed Sage) all did fine. Hairy Golden Aster took a few minor hits but did great. Yarrow was fine.
But the outstanding plant that the deer consistently avoided was Oregon Sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum.) It was right in the front of the garden so it was easily accessible to all passing deer and while it was walked on a few times as deer passed over it, it grew full, produced a mass of blooms and was awarded our Outstanding Deer Resistant Plant of the Year Award.
This species has beautiful grey-green hairy foliage that is attractive even when the plant is not blooming. While it is a short-lived species acting more like a biennial than a perennial, it blooms continually from July to September. The flowers are a golden yellow ray flower with yellow centers, sometimes with a bright yellow-orange ring around the center of the flower.
Consider trying this one this year!