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Mr. Smarty Plants - Deer-resistant plants for wildlife in Margaretville NY

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Sunday - April 18, 2010

From: Margaretville, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Deer Resistant
Title: Deer-resistant plants for wildlife in Margaretville NY
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a 60 degree bank behind a recently completed retaining wall that is mostly rocky with a light topsoil. We are going to put down grass just to keep the topsoil in place, but someone suggested planting creeping vines. There are deer in the surrounding woods, and lyme disease is a problem in the area as well. But there are also many birds in the area, and ones that are in transit through the year, including owls, hawks, ospreys, eagles, finches, nuthatches, robins and even blue herons. Can you suggest some flowering vines, creeping vines, berry bushes or flowers that will feed the birds--but not the deer? Thank you!

ANSWER:

We have a list of Deer-Resistant Plants in our Special Collections Section. We will sort it for plants native to New York, and see what pops up that satisfies some of your requests. Generally speaking, grasses are one of the best covers for slopes and deer are little interested in grasses. They provide food for nesting, sometimes attract the insects that are food for the birds, and their long fibrous roots hold the soil better than just about any other plant. We noted that many of the birds you listed - owls, hawks, ospreys and eagles - are raptors that generally don't eat berries, but do eat small mammals and birds. The heron is a carnivorous bird, mostly associated with wetlands, water-feeding on a variety of live aquatic prey, but we don't suppose they would object to coming out of the water for a quick snake snack.  Since your area borders on Catskill Park, we can understand why you have the herons and some of the other larger birds, with the wetlands nearby. 

So, we will look at our list of deer-resistant plants and see what is there that more or less fills your requirements, and that could be expected to grow in mid-New York State, USDA Hardiness Zones 4a to 5b, the wide variation no doubt caused by the presence of the Catskills Mountains. There are no berry bushes native to New York on the Deer-Resistant List; guess the deer like berries, too. All of these plants are native to New York, but not necessarily to Delaware Co., none are evergreen, and all are listed as being "highly" deer-resistant. Follow each plant link to our page on that individual plant and note especially the GROWING CONDITIONS, PLANT PROPAGATION AND BENEFITS portions of each.

Vines: We really are not fond of the idea of using vines as a ground cover. They are all deciduous, so they will be ugly brown stalks all winter, and most of them love to go up trees, cover them, and smother them.  While Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper) does attract butterflies and hummingbirds, it can be very invasive.

Shrubs: The three that passed all our tests are Amorpha fruticosa (desert false indigo), Ceanothus herbaceus (Jersey tea) and  Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac). 

Herbaceous Blooming Plants: Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed), Lobelia cardinalis (cardinalflower), Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot) and Tradescantia occidentalis (prairie spiderwort).

Grasses and Grass-Like Plants: Andropogon glomeratus (bushy bluestem), Carex texensis (Texas sedge), Muhlenbergia capillaris (hairawn muhly) and Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem).

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Campsis radicans

Amorpha fruticosa

Ceanothus herbaceus

Rhus aromatica

Asclepias incarnata

Lobelia cardinalis

Monarda fistulosa

Tradescantia occidentalis

Andropogon glomeratus

Carex texensis

Muhlenbergia capillaris

Schizachyrium scoparium

 

 

 

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