Help me with a plan for this bed, please

randitaApril 16, 2013

I just moved to a rural area near Roanoke, VA (Zone 7B). The house has plenty of beds with large shade trees, but nothing much in the way of plantings, so I'm starting from scratch which is overwhelming but fun.

I'm look for ideas for a bed (photos below) that has several large shade trees in it, one Japanese maple, and a very large boulder in the middle. I think this bed has a LOT of potential to be interesting, so I want to get it right.

What I plant has to be deer resistant.

For starters, I like Mountain Laurel, Loropepulum, Aucuba, Pieris Japonica, Coral Bells, Solomon's Seal, Pachysandra, ferns, and grasses that tolerate shade. I also like mid and low lying ground covers that offer either flowers in the summer or stay colorful in the winter.

My goal is to have plantings that lend a variety of shades year round and ones that offer something during the winter months.

I'd like something low lying and colorful around the edges of the bed, but can't decide what. The edges receive dappled sun.

I'm waiting for the frost danger to pass, then I'm going out to start looking.

I have a LOT of planning and planting to do to whip this yard into shape. One step at a time and the first step is this large bed.

Thanks so much for your ideas. I know what I like, but I can't always visualize how many and where to plant for maximum benefit.

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That site does look like it has a lot of potential. Love the boulder! However, I'm afraid many of the plants you listed are not particularly deer-resistant. Start with a list like the one linked below from Rutgers Cooperative Extension (the download is free to view of print). I checked your Virginia C.E. and the Rutgers link was at the top of the list they provided!

Anyway, then check out which of those plants that will thrive in the dappled shade of the trees, as well as the root competition - those trees will be seeking moisture and nutrients, too. There are loads that should suit your needs. Finally, I would suggest you try to include as many plants that are native to your region as you can. These will be well-suited to your environmental conditions, hence will require less maintenance, and will provide habitat for native wildlife like birds, butterflies and beneficial insects.

Deer are funny creatures and different herds seem to have differing preferences and aversions. What works in one neighborhood may not work in another. When deer are hungry, all bets are off ... it seems they'll eat just about anything. They are also creatures of habit, so the longer they have been snacking at your buffet, the more difficult it will be to discourage them. The flip side of that is that if they're relatively new visitors, it's best to nip that in the bud ... before they do (pun intended).

I would also try to keep the "deer candy" out of my garden - things like hosta, daylilies, azaleas & rhodies, yews...

Have fun planning and planting your garden bed then watching it mature!

Here is a link that might be useful: Plants Rated by Deer Resistance

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 7:17PM
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Thanks so much for your response and for the website link.

I hear conflicting reports around here about what deer will and will not eat. It varies yard to yard, I guess. Any kind of a vegetable garden is out of the question, I'm told, unless you have an 8 feet fence around it - no thanks. I got some large planters and will grow tomatoes up on the deck.

So far, they have totally nipped off the hostas that were starting to appear and have even eaten the new growth off the knockout roses. I planted a lot of marigolds around the roses, so hopefully that will deter them.

My neighbor who has mostly sunny out in the open beds doesn't have trouble with deer, but they like my yard a lot.

As you suggested, I am tending toward a natural woodland garden with specimens of what you would find growing wild in the woods around here. That will have the greatest potential for success and require the least amount of care.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 7:16PM
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The boulder looks like an iguana in the first photo!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 1:42PM
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Yes, it does! My grandson will think that's hilarious.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 8:29PM
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Hmm... I was thinking about Sweet Woodruff for the dappled shade you've got under those trees, since it's a natural under-story grower with lovely little sweet-smelling flowers. With the deer invasion you describe, though, the vanilla/fresh-hay scent might draw even more nibblers. I'll do some poking around online & see what turns up.

I love your mossy boulder, by the way!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 6:42PM
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Sweet woodruff would be nice there, and, according to the Rutgers list, is rarely damaged by deer.

A plant I've been wanting to add to my shady garden is the woodland peony. Single white or pink blooms in spring, leafy groundcover through the season, beautiful seed pods in fall. And it's deer resistant.

Playing up the "iguana" ... thinking of its similarity to dinosaurs ... ferns would be appropriate for a sort of prehistoric feel, maybe some jack-in-the-pulpit to add to the quirkiness. Wild ginger is another plant that makes a lovely groundcover on the forest floor and has the oddest little flowers (mine are just blooming now). Don't know how deer react to it, though, and it may be hard to find (mine were rescued from a farm/woodland that was about to be subdivided and developed and have taken about 3 years to settle in and bloom).

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 9:05PM
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