Plant the image of Bambi traipsing through a garden
in the minds of most suburbanites and they'll coo with
pleasure at the thought of Mother Nature gracing them
with her presence. Mention deer to a gardener, however,
and you'll often get a decidedly different reaction.
As cute as they may be, deer hold a place right alongside
moles, rabbits and grubs in the minds of those who invest
hours in planting a beautiful garden. The word deer
might as well be an acronym for Destructive Entity Eating
Rabidly. If you plant it, they will come. If you plant
it with the intent of luring something benign, they'll
come even faster. What appeals to one critter often
appeals to another which is the crux of the dilemma
for those who wish to attract hummingbirds.
The good news is that there are solutions which will
help you selectively lure one cute critter without the
other. The only thing you have to decide is exactly
how far away you'd like Bambi to stay.
If you'd be happy never to see a deer in your hummingbird
garden again, the best insurance is a fence. Anything
lower than 8 feet tall may act as a deterrent but wont
guarantee a motivated deer won't hop over. Slat fences
will certainly do the trick if you don't mind a very
obvious boundary. Alternatively, polypropylene mesh
fences blend into the background and cost substantially
Other options to deter deer include predator or even
human urine deposited around the perimeter of your garden.
The drawback to this method is the need for constant
(weekly) reapplication. The bigger your garden, the
less convenient this option becomes.
Some gardeners report that human hair contained in nylon
stockings and strategically placed around the garden
has been reported to deter deer. Likewise, heavily scented
soaps either sliced in slivers or hung still in the
box near plants you want to protect reportedly do a
good job. Recommended brands include Irish Spring, Zest
and Dial. Finally, dryer sheets such as Bounce smell
unpleasant to deer. The concept derives from a deer's
desire to remain as unremarkable as possible to avoid
attracting predators so they avoid getting close to
heavy scents which may rub off and expose them.
If keeping deer entirely at bay isn't your objective,
there are some methods that will still give you a chance
at seeing them at the edges of your garden without having
to sacrifice hummingbird attracting plants to their
insatiable appetites. Using any of the scented methods
above in moderation but only near plants you want to
protect is one option.
Consider placing more desirable plants at the perimeter
of your garden and keep your hummingbird flowers closer
in to your home. Some plants for which deer have a high
preference include, Indian Hawthorn, English Ivy, Hosta
Some sprays such as hot pepper applied to the leaves
of plants you are trying to protect have also been shown
to be effective. Remember, though, to avoid spraying
the flowers on your hummingbird friendly plants or you'll
deter the very creature you are trying to attract.
Finally, choose deer-tolerant flowers which hummingbirds
enjoy but deer only dine on when stressed by loss of
habitat or starvation. There are a few varieties that
still appeal to hummingbirds but which represent less
of an invitation to a deer's remarkably undiscerning
palate listed below.
Ultimately, remember that deer-tolerant is the same
as water-resistant. It isn't a guarantee. When stressed,
starving, desperate or diseased, deer can and will eat
just about any non-poisonous plant to get by. If you
want the ultimate protection against them, the answer
to your prayers was mentioned early on. Invest in a
About the Author
David writes for Hummingbirdfeedingguide.com,
a blog devoted to feeding and attracting hummingbirds.