If they’re hungry enough, deer will eat anything.
Fairfax County has hungry deer. Understanding that deer will eat most plants is one of the first and most important rules to learn about gardening in Fairfax County. There are many lists swearing that deer will avoid certain species, but we’ve planted them, and deer have eaten them.
A physical barrier, like an eight-to-ten-foot fence, can be effective at thwarting deer. Note that if deer know about the garden before the fence goes up, they’ll try to get in again. Another possibility is a shorter, double fence, perhaps four feet high. That may confuse deer enough to keep them out.
Not all homeowners’ associations in Fairfax allow fences, and not all budgets can hold one, so that brings us to the question of which plants to use. You can find some choices in the library at Green Spring Gardens. Following are some we like for their garden attributes and because they are native species.
The trick with trees is to get them tall enough to avoid damage from grazing. Tree protectors can help. They’re miniature fences that fit around individual trees.
Common Names: beech, birch, black locust, maples and oaks
Scientific Names: Fagus grandifolia (Beech), Betula Nigra (River Birch), Robinia pseudoacacia (Black Locust), Acer rubrum (Red Maple – beware, many cultivars are hybrids with non-native maples), Acer saccharinum (Silver Maple), Quercus alba (White Oak), Quercus phellos (Willow Oak).
Common Names: American Bayberry, Beautyberry, Sweet-bay Magnolia, Red Buckeye, Summersweet, and some viburnums (make sure they are a native, like Arrowood or Maple-leaf)
Scientific Names: Myrica cerifera (American bayberry), Callicarpa americana (Beautyberry), Magnolia virginiana var. australis (Sweet-bay Magnolia), Aesculus parvia (Red buckeye), Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet), and some viburnums (make sure they are a native, like Viburnum dentatum (Arrowood) or Viburnum acerfolium (Maple-leaf)).
Common Names: Anenome, Astilbe, Beardtounge, Bee balm, Big-root Geranium, Blazing Star, Blue Star, Celandine Poppy, Columbine, Orange Coneflower, False Indigo, Ferns, Foamflower, Goldenrod, Ironweed, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Joe-pye Weed, Lobelia, Obedient Plant, Partridgeberry, Phlox, Shooting Star, Skullcap, Tickseed, Trout Lily, Wild Ginger
Scientific Names: Thalictrum thalictroides (Rue Anemone), Astilbe biternata (Astilbe), Penstemon angustifolius (Beardtounge), Monarda didyma (Bee Balm), Geranium macrorrhizum (Big-root Geranium), Liatris spicata (Blazing Star), Amsonia ciliate (Blue Star), Stylophorum disphyllym (Celandine Poppy), Aquilegia canadensis (Columbine), Rudbeckia fulgida (Orange Coneflower), Baptisia australis (False Indigo), Pteridium aquilinum (Bracken Fern), Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon Fern), Tiarella cordifolia (Foamflower), Solidago ssp. (Goldenrod), Vernonia noveboracensis (Ironweed), Arisaema triphyllum (Jack-in-the-pulpit), Eupatorium purpureum (Joe Pye Weed), Lobelia cardinalis (Lobelia), Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant), Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry), Phlox paniculata (Phlox), Dodecatheon meadia (Shooting Star), Scutellaria ovata ssp. virginiana (Skullcap), Coreopsis lanceolata (Tickseed), Erythronium americanum (Trout Lily), Asarum canadense (Wild Ginger)