How many books on deer resistant gardens are in the marketplace? Plenty. But I found that 80% of the allegedly deer-proof plants on the list got eaten anyway. If the deer are hungry enough they will eat any plants they can get their teeth into. The few plants that deer won’t touch basically narrow down to three categories: highly scented (mints, sage, lavender…any plants that will emit a strong odor when you just brush against them), poisonous (foxglove, lily of the valley), and the very thorny.
We love roses, especially the fragrant ones. We keep our eyes on the swelling buds in hope of seeing their beautiful colors and enjoying their sweet fragrance. They disappear over night, cleanly nipped off at the bottom of the buds. Our rabbits weren’t suspect, even if they got on their hind legs they couldn’t reach the buds. Only whitetail deer could do this type of damage. Sometimes they add insult to injury by leaving piles of detritus that had passed through their digestive system for us on the lawn. It’s a matter of which perspective you’re looking from; it could be an insult or a gift since the grass grows greener and healthier where their deposits were.
I picked Rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa) for its fragrance and winter hardiness. I soon realized that the deer skip the rugosa buds but ate other rose buds. Even without the mixture of rotten eggs and garlic spray we use to deter them at night they still won’t touch it. The difference is rugosa are pretty thorny, much more thorns than any other roses and highly fragrant.
If you like rose that you don’t have to take care of much, drought tolerant, winter hardy, very fragrant, disease free, deer and insect won’t eat, Rugosa rose is your best choice. A couple of down sides though: all rugosa come with plenty of thorns and the flowers don’t last long, about two days generally. Here are ours…