Friday, July 18, 2008

Problems with Deer? - a book review

We welcome this Book Review and Guest Post by our sister Carolynn Sears:

Creating a Deer Proof Garden
Peter Derano (2007)

Derano practically lives in my back yard; therefore, I rushed to buy his book. I am always trying to stay one-step ahead of the deer that forage my garden and the promise of current and local information regarding deer resistant plants was alluring.

Derano maintains a positive attitude about gardening with deer. He features 117 plants with color photos and descriptions, including cultural requirements. One full page devoted to each plant is helpful. I enjoy his confidence as his puts forth “the definitive guide to deer proof plants”, his optimism, and chatty style. He shares with the reader his favorites and why some plants are not in his favor. I would like to meet the author and exchange ideas.

No book is perfect. This one desperately needs an index (probably two, one by scientific names and the other by common names). An index would also serve as an alphabetical list of the 117 plants. It has two useful lists: one for matching the right plant to the right site and one describing plants by their landscape features. Adding a list of flowering plants by period of bloom would be an asset. Throughout the book, some of the scientific nomenclature needs editing.

Many of the plants listed are invasive; these plants out-compete our natives and threaten the biodiversity of our surroundings. For example, Derano recommends planting Lythrum (purple loosestrife), Berberis sp. (barberry), Iris pseudacorus (Water flag iris), Elegeanus augustifolia (Russian olive), Euonymous alatus (Fire bush), and Gleditsea traicanthos (Honey locust). I would like to see the invasive plants identified as such with at least a caveat to the reader.

From personal experience, I found Derano’s book to be less than definitive. Some of the plants that he identifies as deer proof (Liatris, clematis, astilbe, baptisia, geranium, and marigolds) are eaten by the deer that traverse my property. These same animals leave plants alone that Derano does not include in his book (Leucojeum, Camassis, Scillia, grape hyacinths, Monkshood, and shrubs such as Daphne, Potentilla, Butterfly bush, Caryopsis, and flowering almond). These animals do have their own way of determining what is or is not appealing to them.

Derano includes many herbs but has not completely explored the potential of oils in these plants to deter deer. I did not find reference to the alliums, Perovskia (Russian sage), lavender, thyme, and oregano. Regarding vegetables—no one mentions them--I have success with rhubarb, asparagus, and garlic and plan to test ramps, cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), and ground cherries.

Shortcomings put aside, I am glad to have purchased the book. Derano has inspired me to try at least five new plants in my garden. I would recommend it to others, especially for the photographs and cultural requirements. It is super to have the information all in one place. I hope that Derano has the opportunity to revise his book; I would buy it again. His book can be ordered on line.

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