Steele: Lawn alternative fends off deer

Many gardeners in the Okanagan have visits from deer, often with distressing results when prize plants become tasty forage.

Ornamental grasses are easy-care

To avoid those problems, choose deer-resistant plants for your landscape. Many are also water-wise. There’s an abundance to choose from.

The plant database at okanaganxeriscape.org has a deer-resistant category under special features.

My lawnless front yard is planted with many species of xeriscape plants. Deer pass through frequently, fertilizing as they go.

New shoots of Sedum Autumn Joy are the only thing eaten. The plant recovers to be more compact when it blooms in fall.

Most of my plants have aromatic foliage which deer don’t like.

These include perennials like salvias, Russian sage, anthemis (perennial Marguerites), hyssops, nepetas (catnip), artemesias, geraniums and three well-behaved (non-spreading, non-seeding) yarrow varieties: Achillea ‘Moonshine’, A. ‘Paprika’ and A. ‘Terra Cotta.’

Euphorbia polychroma (cushion spurge) has sticky sap in its stems that deer don’t like.

Fragrant culinary herbs: thyme, sage, oregano, chives, dill and lavender have interesting variations in foliage and flowers.

Spring bulbs provide a welcome splash of colour after winter. Now is the time to buy and plant them.

Animal/deer-proof bulbs include narcissus (daffodils) and alliums (ornamental onions). Look for early, mid and late season varieties.

Ornamental grasses are deer-proof and a very low maintenance option, just needing to be cut down to about six inches once a year, usually early in the spring.

There are many ornamental grasses to choose from in a variety of sizes. Be sure to choose clump forming varieties unless you want spreaders (running) for erosion control.

So far the deer have not touched my forsythia, viburnum, ninebark, sumac, rabbitbrush or Oregon grape.

Marigolds and calendula are annuals with aromatic leaves so are deer-proof.

Annual sunflowers reseed plentifully every year. They are great for pollinators and their seeds are loved by songbirds.

The deer ignore them until fall when the bucks appear and rub their antlers on the tall stalks.

I always know when they have visited because my sunflowers and everything nearby look like a battleground with stalks knocked over or broken and all the ground stirred up.

This year I plan to pull them all up before the bucks come and will tie any stalks with uneaten seed to a fence so the birds can still feast.

I need to put wire cages around some new trees to prevent them being rubbed and snapped off.

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Celebrate International Rivers Day by attending WaterVoices, a free event at the Kelowna Art Gallery 1315 Water St., on Saturday, 7 to 9 p.m.

For more information email christine@watercycles.org or phone 778-821-0766.

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The Kelowna Garden Club’s next meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m., at the First Lutheran Church, 4091 Lakeshore Rd.

The guest speaker will be Gunther Eberhaster, owner of Dogwood Nursery.

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There are still some spaces in my ‘Introduction to Xeriscape Gardening’ class on Monday, Sept. 26 and Oct. 3, from 7 to 9 p.m., at St Michael and All Angels Cathedral Hall, 608 Sutherland Ave., in Kelowna.

For more details or to register, go to okanaganxeriscape.org.