Bon Appetite–I Think Not!

Bon Appetite–I Think Not!

What won’t the deer eat? This is a question that I’m asked over and over again. My answer is unwavering. The more educated you are about deer resistant plants, the less of a selection the deer have. Plant materials that have thorns, odor or stiff branching aren’t always a sure thing. But it helps! I often say that if you’re hungry and you don’t like tuna fish and there’s nothing else to eat, you’ll eat tuna fish. The same holds true for deer. If all you have planted is barberry, spruce and juniper, you can bet their decision is simple. Either they starve or they eat TUNA FISH. However, having said this, there still seems to be one staple plant that our four legged friends have left alone. BOXWOOD!! Boxwoods

contain a toxic alkaloid that makes them unpalatable. Let me try to dispel the myth that all boxwoods are just green meatballs. There are currently some 160 registered cultivars of boxwood. While all boxwood shares the same texture, there are color differences, size and shape variations that will tantalize even the biggest skeptics.

Buxus sempervirens (common boxwood), has long been a staple for many existing and new landscapes. A plant that will stay in bounds as a foundation planting or prove that over time can be quite a handsome specimen is still just green. But there’s more out there to tempt us. Graham Blandy and Fastigiata are two upright, tight, pillar cultivars that lend themselves well for container gardening or as vertical accents for either side of a front door. Dee Runk is another upright, conical grower with lateral branching at about 45 degrees. Morris Dwarf, Morris Midget, and Green Pillow are just what you’d expect. Diminutive forms that are suitable for container and trough gardening. Grace Hendrick Phillips, Vardar Valley and Insularis are all spreading forms that vary in color from lime- green to bluish casts. And let’s not forget the bicolor boxwoods. Argenteo-variegata, Aureo-variegata, and Elegantissima offer whites and yellows mixed with green. I’ve saved the best for last. Buxus sinica v. insularis ‘Justin Brouwers’ is the undisputed heavy weight. Having narrow, dark green foliage, this mounding cultivar found in Williamsburg, VA. in the 1950’s is fantastic for edging or to showcase as a specimen in a small garden. This one has shown great promise and is among the darkest green, cold hardy cultivars I have seen so far.

Gardening is an ever changing equation. I recently drew my own landscape plan for a house my wife and I are currently building. My favorite plant list consisted of over 250 different plant varieties. Will I redraw, rethink and retool the existing FINISHED landscape plan. Almost certainly! Not because we’re uncertain of our choices, but because we won’t allow the deer to dictate what we plant. It’s trial and error. That’s what makes it such a great game. Use deer repellants, netting, ingenuity, and makeshift ideas to keep deer at bay. Remember, there is never just one absolute plant for one situation. Personal taste, budget and landscape topography will dictate your decision making process. Boxwoods are highly adaptable to soil conditions, lighting exposures and landscape footprints. As a family they are used extensively throughout the country. Whether it’s for mass plantings, foundation plantings, container gardening, hedge rows or for topiary use, boxwoods are there. Easily transplanted, these garden wonders prefer limestone soils and a haircut in late winter. Try to protect from drying winds and consider spraying them with an anti-desiccant in late fall. When used effectively, this group can act as a skeletal backdrop or foreground accent, for other companion plants, adding even more color and texture. The possibilities of this family are limited only by your imagination. Hopefully the boxwoods in your garden will keep our antler friends at bay for years to come.


Robert LaHoff

Hall’s Garden Center