You love spring bulbs but have a huge deer and squirrel problem? Yes, this fall you can plant a number of bulbs that they will pass up! Most people know that daffodils are always ignored by deer and rodents, but don’t limit yourself to daffodils. There are many other deer/rodent resistant bulb varieties.
Deer and Rodents
Deer are a huge problem here in the mid-Atlantic and as a designer, I recommend planting bulbs that deer won’t devour-leucojum, hyacinths, alliums, snowdrops, crocus, daffodils, scilla, iris reticulata, chiondoxa, fritillaria, winter aconites, and grape hyacinths. So, don’t think your deer problem is going to stop you from planting bulbs and enjoying spring color. For deer resistant perennials, go to Fuzzy, Fragrant, and Ferny; Deer Proof Plants for the Garden.
Be careful about tulips even in protected areas. Deer love them and will jump fences to get at them!!
Crocus are deer resistant but the bulbs are cold weather delicacies to rodents. You could protect the bulbs by laying a piece of hardware cloth on top of the newly planted bulbs and fastening it down with soil staples. I do that for my lily bulbs which deer love but I grow anyway.
Hardware cloth is a metal mesh, much like chicken wire, except that it uses a smaller grid pattern, usually about 1/2 inch square. Alternatively you can cage the bulbs in hardware cloth before planting, but I find that laying cut pieces of it on top of the bulbs is much easier. Fasten down with soil staples or rocks. Just remove it in the early spring.
Be sure to avoid using smelly fertilizers while planting bulbs, like bone meal, blood meal, or fish emulsion. Attracting every animal in the neighborhood, your bulbs will definitely be dug up. I once placed a sealed bag of blood meal in my open car port and neighbor dogs came and devoured it!
Alliums-The King of Deer Resistance (And Rodents)
Alliums are one of the best bulbs for deer avoidance. They actually repel deer as they are in the onion family, and have an onion odor. Chase away garden nibblers with these bulbs! The combination of sulfides that make a great tomato sauce also repels deer and rodents. If you time it right, you can have alliums blooming all season long. Go to Longfield Gardens to see the large variety available.
Easy to grow and multiplying in number, I am sure to include alliums in my garden in ever greater numbers. Here is a brief listing of some varieties:
- Allium christophii Christophii has a round flower head composed of 50 or so star-shaped lavender flowers with a silvery sheen. The leaves die back as the flowers fade; the remaining brown stems and seed heads can be snipped, but that dried look is becoming very chic in gardening circles and can be spray painted any color you choose.
- Allium karataviense This is a low-growing plant, good for a rock garden or beside steps. Pleated foliage makes this a to-die-for plant and the flower is as large as a tennis ball.
- Allium moly Probably the easiest of the small alliums, this one has a spray of bright yellow flowers and does well in the shade.
- Allium sphaerocephalon Also known as “Drumstick” allium, this plant’s long name just means it has a round head. A tight little purple knob that never quite opens, this is one of my favorites.
- Allium schubertii The Tumbleweed Onion. An heirloom that looks like spidery fireworks that has incredibly huge, airy, 12″-wide umbels of up to 100 purple florets extended on stems atop a straight, thick and sturdy stalk. When the bud first emerges from its papery sheath, A. schubertii looks like an upright, thick green paint brush. This one is my favorite alliums and the large dried seed heads come loose and roll around my garden-Fun!
Other Critter Resistant Bulbs
Winter Aconites are one of the first bulbs that appear for me. Go to Winter Aconite-The Bulb That Keeps on Giving for more information about this incredible harbinger of spring.
For an unusual choice of spring color, try Fritillarias which make an incredible statement in the garden. For a great article on Pineapple Lilies, Fritillarias, go to Time to Plant Pineapple Lilies.
Daffodils, like alliums, are distasteful to rodents and deer. Containing alkaloids, the family of compounds that includes nicotine and morphine, daffodils are the king of bulbs!!
Longfield Gardens is my go-to source for quality bulbs. They have a huge selection and are a great information source. They have a deer resistant collection that would be perfect for your deer ravaged yard!