What to plant -deer resistant and Full Shade on slope

gail_grassgrower(NJ 6)January 16, 2007

I am in need of advice on what types of ornamental grass/sedge/pernennials to grow on a slope in full shade that are deer resistant. I would like to steer more towards grasses. The soil is not dry, but also not consistently wet.

Anybody out there that can provide some expertise?

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I can't speak to deer resistance, but you'll find a list of shade tolerant grasses at Bluestem.ca, linked below. Ornamental grasses, as a group, are reputed to be left alone by deer.

I don't think "shade tolerant" means they will all do well in full shade, however. I'm growing some of them in mostly shade, like Luzula's, Sesleria's and Chasmanthium latifolium.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bluestem

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 1:21PM
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Hi there

You might try carex ice dance. I've read that it is deer resistant. It's a nice, nice plant semi evergreen for me. You could give it a haircut in the spring to get rid of the dead stuff from the winter but not necessary...i don't. I have it in sun, full shade and part shade. Seems to do best in part shade. won't spread as quickly in full shade. ....i keep dividing it and spreading it around...wonderful plant. It is gorgeous right now...green and beautiful in the middle of winter.

I also think northern sea oats is deer resistant and hardy...mine does better with more sun.


Hope it works out for you!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 2:55PM
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gail_grassgrower(NJ 6)

Thank you both for your advice. I will try some carex ice dance and Chasmanthium latifolium since I have a pretty large slope to cover and these seem to be the most deer resistant and shade tolerant. I read that carex ice dance can become invasive...that does concern me.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 9:55PM
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I doubt that you need to be concerned about the carex. I would certainly not consider it invasive, even in my rather mild zone. It can spread rhizomatously if well-sited, but the spread is very moderate and quite easy to contain. It will need even moisture however - it doesn't appreciate dry soils and growth will be stunted if allowed to dry out.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 9:05AM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

I am wondering what you mean by 'full shade' ....
As you see in Donn's reply most of the grasses suggested do need some light. True full shade grows, almost nothing.
However if you have good dappled light reaching the plants or if they get at least a couple of hours of light, the grasses suggested above will do fine. In heavier shade (not full) I would try establishing a shade tolerant ground cover such as ivy, pachysandra, or Lamiastrum (I would bet that deer don't like lamiastrum). All of these would do well on a slope as long as the soil isn't too dry. You could always intersperse the ground cover plantings with grasses or hostas.

Another grass suggestion that should prove deer resistant is Carex pendula. The leaves on this are quite coarse & sharp edged. It makes a nice structurally shaped mound.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 9:58AM
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gail_grassgrower(NJ 6)

The slope faces south, but is totally blocked by a tall garage and trees..so the light is diffused. The property is on a PA lake where there is an infestation of deer. They even eat my pachysandra, so I am reluctant to buy any new plants, unless I know with a high likelihood they won't be devoured. The carex may be a good solution-- I ordered some ice dance plants and a couple latifolium, and just ordered Carex Pendula seeds from Pase Greenhouses. There doesn't appear to be many suppliers of Pendula. Should I ws the Carex Pendula seeds or wait to plant directly in the soil in Spring?

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 2:08PM
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Carex pendula is a cool season Sedge. You can winter sow it now, and it will probably germinate in March-April.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 3:20PM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

Gail, I agree with donn, definitely sow the seed anytime now and then plant out your plugs in May. Planting grass seed directly into your growing area is a bit tricky - hard to tell one grass from another when they are tiny. It sucks to find you have been cultivating a crab grass rather than your desired grass.

As for deer, no guarentees. I attended a North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS) meeting this weekend and there was a general consensis about deer and rabbits ~ they have regional tastes. In other words, what works for me or for your friend 10 miles away, may not work for you.

My experience is with rabbits and grasses. 'Our' local rabbits find most grasses tasty when they are first shooting. If I can get the grasses through the first couple of weeks that is enough to take them off the menu. Of course some grasses are never off the menu. Deschampsia spp. they love to death. Small Fescues are regularly given a brushcut in the late winter/early spring but, left untouched in the growing season.

The description of your slope sounds like it would be ideal to grow most of the suggested spp.
Have you ever tried growing a patch of Helebore foetidus?? Beautiful foliage but stinky like skunk - I would think it would be highly unattractive to a deer. AND the added bonus is that, if happy, it will self-sow and provide you with enough babies to move around and make an even bigger patch. Worth a try.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 10:52AM
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gail_grassgrower(NJ 6)

Wow, stinky like a skunk. Sounds like it might work as a deer deterrent. If I only had one, I guess the smell wouldn't be so bad, but if they multiply, would I be able to walk along the path or be grossed out by the smell of Helebore foetidus. I am not sure how far I am willing to go, and I'd rather not make this area not inviting to people because of the stench.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 9:59PM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

Hmmm... I have several patches of this and I've never heard anyone complain. I don't find the smell offensive unless the foliage is rubbed. Not nearly as strong an odor as that from Fritillaria imperialis (crown imperials).
Here is a couple of pics. First one is a plant growing in the wild in Spain & the second is taken in my garden. Out of flower you just have the lovelly glossy evergreen leaves.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 11:38PM
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The smell is only present if the leaves are crushed or the roots disturbed - otherwise this plant emits no fragrance. It IS quite toxic if ingested however, as are all other species of hellebores, so perhaps that is what keeps the deer away.

I grow dozens of hellebores including a number of named forms of H. foetidus and I have yet to encounter this so-called musky aroma, even when I've transplanted them. Nor would I be able to sell them successfully at my nursery were they so unpleasantly aromatic :-) I'd not be overly concerned if I were you.

A, I am glad to see your sited in a decent amount of sun - I'm sure that's why they look so robust. Too often these are tucked away into a heavily shaded area when they really prefer a fair amount of sun. Partial or dappled shade is ideal.

btw, Helleborus foetidus is a stunning companion to Carex 'Ice Dance'.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 7:29AM
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gail_grassgrower(NJ 6)

A and GardenGal,
I'm sold. This looks impressively beautiful. I can't resist, I will just have to buy a Helleborus foetidus or two. It seems every other day, I am making either a purchase of seeds or plants. As a newby, I am sooooooooo addicted to this website, and WS. Last nite, at my Garden Club in NJ, I suggested we have "WS" as one of our next topics, as none of the people I asked were familiar with this process. So, all of a sudden, I have become the expert! LOL

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 7:52AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

I garden in deer country, and as a garden consultant consider it one of my specialties. While it's true that deer tastes vary and that starving deer will eat anything, even if it's poisonous, grasses, Carexes, Hellebores, and Lamiastrums are highly deer resistant. So are (for shade)Lamiums, Cimicifugas (now Actaea), Brunneras, Pulmonarias, and for a great groundcover, Geranium maccrorhizum (but not other Geraniums except for types like G. 'Biokovo', 'Karmina', etc.) All mentioned geraniums have strong (and very nice) smelling foliage. All bloom. G. maccrorhizum would be a nice choice to add to your grasses and hellebores.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 7:27AM
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gail_grassgrower(NJ 6)

I had a hard time finding the Geranium maccrorhizum, finally found it on Bluestone. That will look good, appreciate your expertise. I hope I have the same results as you in WV, and the deer won't eat my new plants. I thought pachysandra was safe, it was for years, but then this fall many of them were eaten. I refuse to give up. I am going to be spraying with Deer Out as well. Thank you everyone for your input. Now, I believe I have a plan for the slope.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 8:15PM
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Hi There!

I have a massive planting of the big root geraniums (Geranium macrorrhizum) and I LOVE them as well.! They are super easy to propogate so you don't need to invest in gobs of them. They are wonderful weed suppressors, smell interesting (you love it or hate it) flower pretty in the shade and though they wilt when dry, it doesn't kill them. They are pretty in the fall and turn reddish. I would bet the deer wouldn't go for them. I bought ONE from white flower farm 5 years ago. It now covers (thanks to me making many babies from the one plant) an area about 40 feet by 25 feet under some limbed up evergreen trees.

I say give it a whirl...its a great tough plant.

Note: I also bought some from Bluestone....they are a smaller overall plant and not as vigorous a spreader...not sure if it is the same one. White flower farm was Ingwersons variety.

Here's a link about them: http://www.entomology.cornell.edu/Extension/Woodys/CUGroundCoverSite/Geranium%20macrorrhizum_photos.html

Have fun!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 9:09PM
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