Category: Deer

Fothergilla Mt Airy

If I had to choose the most disappointing plant in my garden right now, it would be Fothergilla Mt Airy. I have had two of these shrubs in the ground for four years now and while their features in isolation are killer, they haven’t matured to a level I would have expected by now.

Issue #1 – While I see them marketed as “deer resistant”, both of mine are consistently nibbled throughout the seasons. They’ve never been hit hard, but the nibbling has prevented them from growing much taller than 30 inches tall.

Issue #2 – While I’m sure this is related to issue #1, I’ve had very sporadic blooming in spring. To the point that I barely even notice the white bottlebrush blooms. It’s a shame because the blooms are beautiful and fragrant (which of course is a relative term to this sufferer of a deviated septum).

Both of my Fothergilla Mt Airy are situated in a partially shaded location and I’m contemplating moving one in spring to a more full sun area that would also be (fingers crossed) protected from the deer.

It’s all about experimentation with gardening, but I’ve got all winter to plan the move.

Here is the foliage color somewhere around the end of September.

fothergilla mt airy

fothergilla mt airy

Fantastic but damn if it couldn’t have an even bigger impact at 4 to 5 feet tall and wide.

Here are two photos of Fothergilla Mt Airy current day. The foliage color is a more consistent orange but still a presence.



Late April/early May is when I’ve seen the first signs of bloom. The photos below, taken over the course of the past few springs, only show you the good. The bare branches have been successfully removed from sight.

Still, nice enough.

fothergilla mt airy

fothergilla mt airy


I have no intention of giving up on Fothergilla Mt Airy and hope to create a full blown post dedicated to this native shrub next year.

As always, your feedback and advice would be greatly appreciated.


Deer resistant perennials for wet soil

A friend in town, who only recently became aware of this life changing blog, asked me for some plant recommendations. Oh shit. Typically I am not a fan of doling out plant advice because the pressure can become crippling.

If the recommended plant doesn’t survive, I’m scorned at the next basketball game.

If the suggested choice can’t be found at the local nursery, I’m no longer trusted and the kids aren’t invited to any more birthday parties.

But I’m putting it all on the line today.

Without fear.

I am that confident with the choices I’m about to offer up. The following perennials (staying away from grasses for now; he’ll have to buy me lunch first) are very specific to the conditions we have here in zone 6B New Jersey. Throw in deer and rabbits galore.  And a high water table which leads to very poor draining soil.

So my local homey, here are the top 7 perennials that I can vouch for based on my personal experience. Each has thrived for at least 5 years running and all show no signs of slowing down.

Click on the hyperlink for each plant name for additional info where applicable.

You are welcome in advance.

#1 – Joe Pye Weed close to 6 feet tall, blooms are long lasting, attracts numerous critters  and looks good all the way into the fall.

joe pye weed

joe pye and miscanthus


#2 – Amsoniathe deer have never touched it, great bluish blooms in spring followed by fine textured foliage all summer. But Fall is when it shines with unbelievable colors ranging from yellow to orange.   





#3 – Astilbeno critter has ever touched it, appreciates oodles of moisture, blooms in white and pink and red in late spring and the fern like foliage separates itself from others.   




#4 – Bee Balmthe scent keeps the deer at bay, the bees flock to it and the blooms last all summer and even into fall. I personally love the taller options which make their presence known in the garden.




#5 – Purple Coneflower – yes they are everywhere but it is still an oldie but goodie. Multiplies like mad so there is a full supply year to year. Consistent blooms without a care in the world.   




#6 – Lobelia – cherishes the waterlogged soil and provides late summer blooms.


blue lob


#7 – Mountain Mint not the showiest, but what a critter magnet. I could stand over these in bloom all day.



We’ll talk again in spring dude but start doing your homework now if you want to continue to hang with me.

The deer mean well?

I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was July of 1985. I was 13 years old. My family had been vacationing “down the shore” (that is some NJ speak for you) when we returned home, exhausted after a week of doing nothing but frying in the sun. 
As we walked through the front door and into the kitchen, we were greeted by at least 20 plastic bags filled with immature looking veggies. The first thought was, “Wow, that’s nice, the people who were watching our house while we were away, left us some gifts from their gardens.” But then the reality quickly sunk in. Those were our f’n vegetables in those bags. And they were nowhere near ready to be eaten. 
I could see the disappointment on my father’s face. He was crushed. All of that time and effort in the spring and now we weren’t going to be able to enjoy the fruits of that labor. Turns out, a few kids in the neighborhood had taken it upon themselves to completely wipe our garden clean of all veggies that had just started emerging. I could have beaten them all senseless. But it was hard to be too angry for too long when ultimately, they had good intentions. 
I tell you that story because it came to me while I was surveying the garden this afternoon in the seasonably warm, but brutally foggy outdoors. I knew I would discover more deer damage based on the high volume of the f’ers I’ve seen of late. 
I would be right of course.
Here is an Arborvitae ‘Rheingold’ from just two days ago:                             

And here it is from earlier today:

The second shot looks better, right? Well that would be due to all of the growth chewed off by the deer. They actually ended up exposing the still green growth underneath all of that ratty discolored foliage that came on quickly once the temperature dropped.

Maybe the deer were doing me a favor, eh? Maybe they can sense my dissatisfaction with them and this is the first step to mending our relationship? Sort of hard to argue with them at this point.

And then I turned the corner and knew for sure. The deer were handing out the olive branch. I mean look at the stunning topiary they left for me:      

Pretty wild stuff. What do I have on my hands here? More research is required and you all will be the first to know the results.

After witnessing the deer artwork, I stumbled inside and grabbed myself a brew. Because I am a man of my word and told you I would start adding beer reviews to some of my posts, I give you the following:  

This IPA is of another world.

If it hasn’t passed Stone IPA to become the new #1 on my IPA ranking (soon to be published) it is a definite “1A”.

The citrus scents are intoxicating and the “heavy on the hoppishness” is right in my wheelhouse. There are even hints of pine in there and that is a big positive. I highly recommend this IPA if you are a fan as it is the best new beer I’ve tried in a long time.

It gets 9.5 blooms out of 10.

And one last thing, especially for my Canadian friends:

Welcome back NHL, we sorely missed you.


How I deal with the deer

The deer count is completely out of hand: 

And I am dealing with it the only way I know how …

Taking it out on the kids:  

Disclaimer – no children were injured in the creation of this blog post:


Hurricane Sandy aftermath, including a deer brawl

We are without power, have a few trees down and a wet basement after Hurricane Sandy passed through last night into this morning.

But we are safe and the damage is very limited. We were lucky unlike so many others. We have read a lot about the destruction via Twitter and have seen a few pics, but haven’t truly seen all that went down. Our hearts go out to all that were so deeply affected by Sandy’s wrath.

Just now, we were witness to two bucks brawling right in our backyard. Maybe they needed to get out some energy after the storm:


We actually thought that they were fighting to the death and started to approach them only to scream like mad when they both ran right at us in a frothy frenzy.

Hopefully will be back up and running soon.



Early signs of autumn … and deer karate

Autumn is here and there isn’t a hell of a lot I can do about it. 
I miss the summer already but I vow not to wish my life away. It’s not that I dislike the fall as much as I despise the winter and fall is a reminder it’s not too far off.
But enough of my bitching …
There are signs all over the yard that “things are a changing”; some subtle and some not so subtle.
Come with me on a journey to view these changes, won’t you?
Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’ is out of its mind with color right now:  

Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’ bloomed like shit for me, but the foliage still looks good:

Viburnum fall color comes and goes real fast so I am enjoying it while I can:

Amsonia (Bluestar) is just now showing signs of its amazing fall color and when it is at its peak, I’ll probably dedicate an entire post to it:

Even the geraniums are joining the autumn color brigade:

Fall color on a Monarda ‘Bee Balm’ isn’t something I typically count on, but I’ll take it:

It may not be a foliage change, but the fading blooms on Helenium (Sneezeweed) always gives me the fall chills:

Not overly exciting, but the “yellowing” of the River Birch leaves backed by some serious “redding” is not so bad:

Not gonna lie, the transformation of this Panicum saddens me more than I am letting on:

The tour is complete … but it wouldn’t be fall without the deer taking up permanent residence in the landscape. And raising holy hell in the process.

We had a bit of a stare down:

He threatened me with some sort of “Karate Kid” like move:

And then he ran when I screamed bloody murder with fear of being karate chopped by this SOB.

Another day, another battle.

What I do for my garden …


Timber Press book giveaway – “50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants”

As you know, I struggle mightily with deer chowing down on my plants throughout the year. I’ve tried using deer repellents and while I have had success, there is a need to continue the applications on a regular basis, especially each time after it rains. It can be very difficult to keep up with.

As a result, I’ve come to appreciate the truly “deer resistant” plants which I can put in the ground and then give the deer the middle finger knowing they won’t touch them. It also reduces my over the top, plant stress level. Just ask my wife.

The problem I have, however, is that my “deer resistant” plant palette is quite limited. Well guess what? There is a new book out on the market that is music to my ears:      

And guess what else? Timber Press, the publisher of this gem, is giving away a copy of the book. You can access this contest on the Timber Press giveaway page and can follow along as the contest unfolds on the Timber Press blog.

So head on over and give it a shot. You can enter up to four times and the contest ends on August 17th.

** Quick side note showing you how cool I am. I sat at the same dinner table with both the author of this book, Ruth Clausen, and the photographer of this book, Alan Detrick, in the Dallas Arboretum during last year’s Garden Writer’s Conference. I am by no means exaggerating when I say they were two of the most kind and warm people I’ve ever met. I was a schlubby garden blogger who had no right being there yet they made me feel right at home. I’ll never forget the experience. **

How you like me now?


A peony, some iris and a near fatal encounter with a deer

Yesterday, I posted a photo of a ‘Bowl of Beauty’ peony in bud and literally an hour later, it bloomed like an SOB. It is the only bloom so far out of three different plants and I dig it because it gives me a chance to ogle the one bloom for the next day or so:

There was also just one Iris sibirica ‘Snow Queen’ bloom as of yesterday and overnight it turned into Bloomapalooza:

Same goes for the Iris sibirica ‘Ruffled Velvet’:

And just in case you didn’t know already, I sort of like my Catmint:

Just to keep on my toes, the deer have appeared in droves the past two days. This young fellow was running around the yard like he was lost and while it was sweet and all, I calmly escorted him off the property and gave him by best intimidating sneer:  

True story, I stepped outside at 5:45 to run this morning and saw a large heap of animal in the backyard with a bird perched atop. I assumed it was a deceased deer and was planning on how to dispose of said carcass but when I got within ten feet, the deer jumped up, I peed myself and the deer ran off. The deer must have been in serious REM sleep when I approached because it didn’t move. When I returned from my run, the deer had returned to it’s favorite place and is most likely, still there:      

I’ve finally learned to keep my camera nearby and ready to go so I can hopefully capture some decent shots of the wildlife. This morning, I was the “bird hunter” and despite taking maybe one hundred photos, these are the only pics that came out OK. Bird photography is not a strong suit right now, but I’ll keep working on it:

Finch in a River Birch tree 

Cardinal on the weed filled playground

Good times for all!

Deer say the darndest things

I am feeling so blessed today so I figured why not express that joy with you all. My little way of sharing a cup of awesomeness with you. And please, feel free to share your tales of happiness as well. Let’s take all of these positive anecdotes and smush them together, roll them out with a rolling pin and bake one giant loaf of fantasticness. We’ll even add a pat of sweet butter to each glorious slice and chase it down with a glass (half full of course) of freshly squeezed orange juice. You with me? Super duper.

I just love the deer waltzing all over my property each morning and each evening:

It is such a sight to behold. And a funny story for you; they pulled this cute little stunt the other night. All spring and summer these darling little creatures stayed away from all of the plants near the house. I figured it was their gift to me for not shooting them on sight. Well, the little buggers got all nutty the other night, and this part is hysterical, they ate all of the sedums in my yard. How adorable:    

I am just so excited to not see the blooms during their peak time. The chewed stems and leaves lend so much character to the beds. What an unexpected surprise! That is the beauty of gardening, you never know what is going to happen and it is such a special feeling to baby plants all year only to have them destroyed when they are supposed to take center stage in the Fall garden.




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