March 23, 2016

Deer Resistant Shrubs for Spokane - Zone 5

A friend recently asked me about deer resistant plants, so here is a list of some shrubs for Spokane landscapes that are purported to be deer resistant.  I don't suffer from deer in my garden, so I can't say for sure.  No plant is deer proof, as deer will eat almost anything when they're hungry enough . . . and some of my friends say the moose trample whatever the deer don't eat in their landscapes.  But generally these shrubs are good bets for yards where deer have a presence.
Above is a beautiful specimen of contorted filbert (Corylus avellana 'Contorta', hardy in zones 3-9, sun or part shade) in an Oregon garden during late winter.  Around here this shrub stays smaller at about 6 feet tall and wide.  I have two younger plants in my yard and adore the beauty of their twisted branches in winter.  In summer the branches are buried in green leaves and are less striking.  I love using the stems in vases.

There are also red leafed versions of contorted filbert like 'Red Dragon,' shown above at center.  The leaves are more red in spring and darken to maroon by summer when this photo was taken.  It does not like intense afternoon heat, so don't place it against a south or west wall.  After planting this shrub last year, I was pleasantly surprised this spring to find that the catkins are also reddish.  I highly recommend this plant for its year round interest.
At the bottom of this shot is a row of 'Blue Chip' butterfly bushes (Buddleia, hardy in zones 5-9, full sun), which are also deer resistant.  'Blue Chip' is a dwarf at about 2 feet tall and wide, but there are various sizes and colors of this shrub.  They really do attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bumble bees like magnets.  I am also quite fond of my 'Miss Molly' butterfly bushes, which are larger at 4-5 feet tall and wide with dark reddish pink flowers.  I prune all my butterfly bushes back hard each spring, and I only plant sterile types that aren't invasive.

The contorted filberts are great for winter interest, and spruce shrubs are also nice for deer resistant beauty during our long Spokane winters.  Above is a dwarf globe blue spruce (Picea pungens 'Globosa', hardy in zones 2-8, full sun).  The needles are an especially bright sky blue in spring and they remain a nice grayish blue all winter.  This shrub grows slowly to 3-5 feet tall and 5-6 feet wide.  Another good spruce shrub is the dwarf Norway spruce (Picea abies 'Pumila', hardy in zones 2-8, sun), which is dark green and grows slowly to 3-4 feet tall and 3-6 feet wide.

Evergreen boxwoods are deer resistant and are available in many shapes and sizes.  Above are several 'Green Tower' columnar boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens 'Monrue', hardy in zones 5-9, sun or shade) which grow to 9 feet tall and 2 feet wide.  I also grow oval-shaped 'Green Mountain' (5' tall/3' wide), rounded 'Green Velvet' (2-3' tall/wide) and tiny 'Wee Willie' (2' tall/wide).  Some boxwoods turn bronze (brown) in winter, but all of those listed here stay green all year if they aren't dried out too much by wind.

Spokane is known as the Lilac City, and lilacs of all types are fairly deer resistant.  Above is 'Katherine Havemeyer' (Syringa vulgaris, hardy in zones 3-7, 12' tall/10' wide, sun or part shade), which is a large old-fashioned type.  Compact 'Miss Kim' lilacs remain in the 6-8 foot range while offering fragrant lilac flowers and lovely maroon fall coloring.  There are many dwarf lilacs available now for smaller spaces.

Spireas are deer resistant, but many of them seem boring to me.  I am very fond of 'Mellow Yellow' above (Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon', hardy in zones 4-8, 3-5' tall/wide, sun or part shade). whose chartreuse leaves appear early and stay remarkably late in fall.  This shrub gets unruly after several years of growth and needs to be pruned back hard in late winter to restore its nice shape.  I also love 'Snowmound' spirea (Spiraea nipponica 'Snowmound') which grows to a similar size but with dark green leaves on arcing stems.  Both of these shrubs are covered with white flowers in spring.

The red twig dogwoods above are plain green shrubs in summer but their red stems are pretty in winter and the deer don't bother them too much.  The full size versions can reach 9 feet tall, but in the photo above you see a wave of dwarf Kelsey dogwoods (Cornus sericea 'Kelseyi', hardy in zones 2-8, sun or shade) that stay at 2.5-3 feet tall and wide.  Young stems growing in full sun have the brightest color, and they respond well to hard pruning.  Other versions of this shrub boast yellow twigs and variegated or chartreuse leaves.

'Blue Mist' fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii 'Blue Mist', hardy in zones 5-9, 2-3' tall/wide, sun or part shade) is a new addition to my garden.  After hearing the employees at my local nursery rave about this plant for several years, I finally found a spot for one.  Last year I loved the waxy blue leaves in summer and the kaleidoscope of yellow, orange and red leaves in fall. In spring it boasts fragrant white bottle-brush flowers and it is listed as deer resistant.

Columnar 'Fine Line' buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula 'Ron Williams', hardy in zones 2-7, shown above at back left, sun or part shade) grows vigorously to 5-7' tall and 2-3' wide at maturity.  Some buckthorns are invasive, but this type produces fewer seeds and most of the seeds are sterile.  Again, the deer don't bother this one too much.  It makes a nice accent or a row of them will create a narrow hedge.

This last photo includes two other deer resistant shrubs:  lavender (the one shown is Thumbelina Leigh, hardy in zones 5-9, 1' tall/wide, sun) and a 'Royal Purple' smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple', hardy in zones 4-8, sun).  This type of lavender is dwarf and sends out two flushes of bloom if I shear it back after the first flush.  This type of smoke bush can grow quite large - 15 feet tall and 10-12 feet wide - but I plan to cut it back almost to the ground each year to keep it more compact.  In the photo you can see the lovely burgundy coloring of its leaves, and there are also chartreuse and smoky green versions.  
This list is just a start, and more information about deer resistant plants for Spokane can be found using Monrovia's Plant Search HERE.  Select the Zone 5 Hardiness Zone (supposedly Spokane is a zone 6 but I stick with zone 5 to be safe) and the other attributes you want, including Deer Resistant at the bottom under Problem/Solution.  
My friends with deer problems have highly recommended Deer Fortress, which I have seen at my local nursery and on Amazon.  This small black canister contains dried deer blood to signal danger and keep deer away (we can't smell it).  You only have to set it out once a year, unlike sprays that have to be reapplied after rain.  
Good luck to Anya and all the rest of you who are afflicted with hungry deer!