September is prime time to order fall bulbs. The bulb grower that I like, Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, actually begins taking fall orders in July, but I’m not quite that organized.
Since springtime, I’ve taken notes (okay, mental notes) of the bulbs that I’d like, considering the dictates of my garden.
When we first moved to our present home twenty years ago, I didn’t have such considerations. Save a few scraggly grape hyacinth, there were no bulbs. There also were significantly less deer than there are today.
I achieved great results with a big bag of daffodil bulbs (mixed and unidentified) from the garden center. My husband planted peonies around the back deck.
The following year, I bought another discount bag of 50 ‘Carlton’ daffodils to plant around the perimeter of the garden.
Then, some ‘Thalia’ bulbs (Narcissus) went into the front tree bed.
The daffodils (Narcissus) were resistant to all creatures great and small. So were the peonies. Anything else I tried (tulips, especially) got eaten.
Finally, a light bulb went on, and I decided to research what it was about narcissus that repelled the deer and rabbits.
I learned that the foliage of these plants contain high levels of oxalic acid, which causes severe stomach irritation.
There are other characteristic that repel deer, too. Strong scents and hairy foliage, for example.
Certain scents do seem to be effective. Sulfur content in onion species (Allium) for example, repels deer. So do many herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, and mint.
Hairy foliage has been hit-or-miss in my suburban yard. Deer don’t eat Artemsia species (though I believe that the rabbits do). But, they have eaten Viburnum.
So, chemical content, scent, and texture all play a part in repelling foragers. And their effectiveness follows in that order.
That’s how I developed this year’s bulb list.
Here are my six picks for fall planting in deer country.
Allium have a sci-fi look, with their big purple pompoms on long, straight stems. They need a skirt of some other mounding plant to avoid looking undressed. That led me to my next pick.
I know from experience that deer and rabbits don’t touch Corydalis. A bit of research revealed that these plants contain high levels of oxalic acid.
I love the mounding habit and continual bloom of these plants. They make a perfect frame for those Allium drumsticks. I have the yellow cultivar, Corydalis lutea. Now, I’m adding a white (Corydalis solida ‘White Knight’).
Baptisia is another plant in the high oxalic acid category, meaning that it is highly deer-resistant.
I’ve been growing the purple variety for years. Now, I’ll add a yellow cultivar, Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight.’
I should note here that deer have eaten my Baptisia, but only once. Deer will try plants that are new to the landscape, even if they later avoid those same plants. Baptisia was in that category for me, as was lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis).
This choice is distinctive for many reasons. First, it will bloom in late summer/early fall, second, it has strappy, leathery foliage, and third, as a member of the Amaryllis family, it is chemically repugnant to our foragers.
The real trick here will be to remember where I planted it!
Another plant that is poisonous and, thus, deer resistant is helleborus. It can cause irritation to the skin of people who are sensitive, so I need to remember that when planting and weeding around this beauty.
Narcissus ‘British Gamble’
No bulb order would be complete without trying a new daffodil variety. I really enjoyed the large trumpet white-flowered varieties last year, so I thought I’d “gamble” on this one!
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