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Friday - May 06, 2011

From: Parsippany, NJ
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Deer Resistant
Title: Deer resistant plants for a bioswale in NJ
Answered by: Anne Bossart


We live in Morris County, New Jersey, on the edge of a nature preserve, i.e., deer are a bane to everything we plant. We recently had to have a swale dug on the west end of our house to deal alleviate water issues with our basement. The swale works great, but because our soil has such a high clay content the drainage rate is extremely poor and we have substantial pooling than can take at least a day or two to drain after a good rain (and can remain boggy for another day or two afterward). Are there any highly deer resistant, thirsty shrubs that we could plant either on the bank of the swale or in it to help abate the water issue? The area is pretty much in the sun all day. Thanks for your help.


Well ... you have two fairly significant challenges here.

I think you probably already know that there is no such thing as a highly deer resistant shrub.  When they are hungry enough they will eat whatever is there, whether it is fuzzy, thorny or even poisonous.  Once that is all gone, they ring your doorbell and ask for lettuce!  I shouldn't joke about them ... they are a huge problem all over North America ... this Green Guru has battled them in gardens in NJ, Pennsylvania, Texas and Ontario.  The damage they do to the cultivated landscape is enormous, but the damage they are doing to the understory and forest floor of the woodland ecosystem in the northeast now will affect the future of that ecosystem in ways that it is hard to imagine at this point.

You may find these links helpful.  One is an article by Horticulture magazine and the other a list for your area put together by Rutgers.

Your second challenge is the swale.  As you say, you are looking for plants that are adapted to the dry conditions that persist most of the time but can handle periods of extreme wetness.  It so happens that planting a bioswale or rain garden is a very effective way to slow down stormwater run-off so that the water will infiltrate the soil instead of washing soil and pollutants into sewers and ultimately streams and lakes. 

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has published a very informative article about rain gardens and how to construct them as well as a plant list you will find helpful. Hopefully, you will find some plants on both lists!

You can find more information about rain gardens and sustainable gardening at the Landscape for Life website.

Good luck!








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