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Mr. Smarty Plants - How to protect roses from deer browsing

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Wednesday - July 04, 2012

From: Fairfield, CT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Deer Resistant
Title: How to protect roses from deer browsing
Answered by: Anne Ruggles

QUESTION:

I would like to plant knock out roses but I am concerned the deer will eat them? Advice?

ANSWER:

This is a very difficult problem, unless you are willing to plant something other than roses. Deer view roses as the equivalent of chocolates. That being said, there are some measures that you can take.

For starters, it will help to understand a little bit about deer natural history if you wish to develop an effective strategy to deter them. They live in herds (usually segregated by gender and by age). Aggregating in herds affords them some protection from predators (when there were predators that actively hunted them and not just vehicles) as they have many pairs of eyes and ears as well as noses constantly on the alert for predators. Each deer eats, on average, 5-15 pounds of browse (plant material taken from trees and shrubs) each day. If the deer herd where you live is large enough and food is scarce enough the deer will eat just about anything they can get to.

Actions that you can take to dissuade deer from browsing on your roses can be broken into 4 general categories.

  1. Mechanical (ex. scaring them away with sprinklers timed to come on randomly, horns or sirens - again timed to sound at random times, or physically separating the deer that you don’t want them to browse). This can include fencing sufficient to preclude them from jumping into the entire garden; cages for the roses; or planting the roses adjacent to your house and fencing that area securely. Keep in mind that deer do habituate to activities so if you choose to try mechanical deterrents other than fencing, you will need to mix them up.
  2. chemical (using chemical deterrents. This paper also has directions for electrical fencing to exclude deer;
  3. cultural practices (changing how you manage your garden, ex. growing deer-resistant species in combination with species that deer do not like). You could also consider growing native roses. Since these species and deer coevolved, they seem to be more resistant to deer browsing than non-native species. These are also quite beautiful and many are also fragrant.
    1. Swamp rose (Rosa palustris) with large single rose flowers in a bright pink, followed by large brilliant red hips.   
    2. Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana) a fragrant native of Connecticut, producing single pink flowers 2-2.5” across http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/r/rosvir/rosvir1.html is found on lists of plants resistant to roses in a number of states.
    3. Pasture rose (Rosa carolina), another native rose is also on several lists as deer resistant.
    4. There is some evidence that deer avoid some plants. You could try plan ting a dense border of these around your roses. Deer seem to avoid plants with a strong scent such as members of the mint family, lavender, oregano, thyme and wormwood. and
  4. a combination of the above.

Oregon State University has a publication, Reduce deer damage in your yard,” that may also give you some ideas to consider.  

Another possibility is a dog in your yard. Deer will avoid areas where they are likely to encounter potential predators. A barking dog, actively chasing the deer will soon dissuade them from feeding in your yard. However, as with mechanical deterrents, if the dog is in the yard in a predictable pattern, and you have a large hungry herd of deer, the deer will habituate to the presence of the dog and enter the yard at times they have learned that the dog is not present.

A local source of information and help is Fairfield County Extension Center.

The University of Connecticut IPM (Integrated Pest Management) program web site also has a number of excellent suggestions. The most cogent piece of advice they may have is:

"The size of the deer population in a particular season, the availability of alternative food sources, the system chosen for keeping deer away and the location can all affect your success at keeping deer out of the garden. It may be best to alternate with different garden protection methods until you find what works in your particular location."

 

From the Image Gallery


Swamp rose
Rosa palustris

Swamp rose
Rosa palustris

Virginia rose
Rosa virginiana

Carolina rose
Rosa carolina

Carolina rose
Rosa carolina

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