Gardeners have a variety of needs and wants, but almost everyone can agree that hardy, deer-resistant plants are desirable. Each of the following plants offers those very qualities. It’s always important to note, however, that deer will eat anything and everything, but some plants stand a better chance because they simply aren’t a favorite food.

Brunnera

Gardening in the shade can be a challenge, but Brunnera makes it easier in every way. Large, heart-shaped leaves, pleasing texture, and a low mounding habit make this a lovely plant to tuck into any shady garden. Bunnera is a great border or ground cover plant, and in spring rewards the gardener with delicate and airy light blue flowers.

Tonkadale carries three varieties of Brunnera. Jack Frost has stunningly shiny silver foliage, and Silver Heart has shiny foliage with more pronounced veining for added interest. Variegata is a lighter green with creamy white variegation along the outer edge of each leaf.

Brunnera is easy to grow as long as it’s planted in partial shade and has consistent moisture (irrigation is fine).

Gro-low Fragrant Sumac

This low-growing shrub only grows 2-3 feet tall, but spreads to 6-8 feet wide, making it an excellent ground cover. The leaves are the fragrant part of this plant — just brush against it when walking past to release the aroma.

Gro-low also provides all-season interest. The shrub produces little yellow flowers in spring, and the fruit that follows is enjoyed by wildlife into the winter. In fall, the leaves turn orange and red.

Easy to grow, this sumac tolerates poor soil and can be planted in full or partial sun. Water consistently the first year to establish strong, healthy roots. Years after, watering is only needed during dry spells.

Rhubarb. Photo by RhubarbFarmer, Wikimedia Commons

Photo by RhubarbFarmer, Wikimedia Commons

Rhubarb

Rhubarb: Yum! Pie, dessert bars, compote for ice cream, barbecue sauce (yes, it’s true and it’s good) … this plant is a great addition for the landscape as well as the kitchen.

Eating rhubarb isn’t for everyone, so it is often grown for its ornamental qualities. One of the earliest plants to pop out of the ground in spring, rhubarb is fast-growing and produces giant leaves. The leaves are poisonous and should never be eaten, but they make excellent molds for concrete stepping stones for the garden! Along with the incredible size and texture of the leaves, the colorful stems add interest in a perennial garden.

Rhubarb should be planted in well-worked soil in full sun and kept weed-free. Add a general fertilizer before growth begins in the spring and again at the end of June. In fall, mulch with compost. Once established, watering is only necessary during dry spells.

If harvesting rhubarb is in your plans, there are some general tips to know.

  • The stalks are very sour and must be cooked with sugar, but recipes abound for tasty dishes.
  • Do not harvest the first year you plant – it needs this time to develop strong roots.
  • Stalks can be harvested lightly for a couple weeks the second year, and each year after it can be harvested more heavily and through the end of June.
  • To harvest, just grab a stem close the bottom of the plant and pull. Then prepare and enjoy!