Q.

I need to fill in a shady area between the fence and our driveway where the cedars have died. I’m looking for something deer resistant and ideally evergreen.

A.

There are two main considerations

  • NUMBER ONE – plant things that deer don’t like!
  • The second option, which doesn’t work nearly as well, is to try to protect those beloved plants that the deer (and rabbits) do love. Here’s a link to one article that might help How to Protect Garden Plants

I will focus mainly on what to plant as the only sure way to protect from deer is to avoid plants they love. In general, deer do not prefer aromatic plants or those with spines and prickles.

In the area you’re planting, I suggest go with an evergreen that’s a narrow shape naturally or can be easily sheared to keep it out of your way, somewhat shade tolerant, and also drought tolerant. Also, consider where you blow or plow the snow and avoid anything ‘breakable’.

Here’s a good link with lots of info and a well-organized list of plants by type. This list is from BC but most plants will do fine in our zone 5 gardens.

Deer Resistant Plants – by Master Gardeners Association of BC. Here’s an excellent list of Deer-resistant Native Plants. This is compiled by the University of Maryland so a bit far afield but is an excellent focus on plants that should still do well in most Ontario zones in Canada and planting NATIVE is the right thing to do!

Some ideas I gathered from these sites:

Broadleaf evergreens:

  • Holly or Oregon Grape – great all year plus a bit of colour in certain seasons but a bit slow to establish and can suffer from snow load damage
  • Privet – relatively easy to prune (these are the plants Disney uses for topiary), but can be aggressive. That’s great if you want a fast grower.

Coniferous evergreens:

  • Hemlock – very tolerant native but a bit wild looking which may suit your site. Not particularly dense needles so would be a lacey screen. I think it’s a bit too big and wide for that spot.
  • Dwarf Alberta Spruce – very dense conical shape. Doesn’t tolerate pruning and would be a bit wide for that space I think but ok if shaped gradually.  Slow growing and does prefer some sun.

Vine

  • Climbing hydrangea would be great on that fence as it would eventually fill in solidly. It tolerates shade well and gives some spring flowers, however, it’s very slow to get going and deer will eat it if there’s nothing better around.
  • Silver lace vine is a fast-growing vine that will tolerate some shade. It’s not evergreen but is in leaf for 3 seasons. The best thing about that is that there are no leaves on it in deer season.

Here’s also a second website with some good info. http://njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/ The only thing that concerns me here is that not all plants are good for our zone and some are actually quite invasive eg buckthorn and Russian olive to name two.

Also a few tips on this forum http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/neweng/msg0316435330152.html?35

All say to avoid YEWS. I haven’t recommended Junipers because of this forum and I also find they prefer lots of sunshine anyway.