April is National Gardening Month, and here in Atlanta, it is arguably the prettiest month of the year. Everything is in bloom, and it can be positively head-spinning to pick out favorite landscape plants, so let’s discuss a couple of favorite deer proof plant materials.
Viburnum macrocephalum (Chinese Snowball) is one of my favorite small landscape trees. It tolerates full sun and part shade, and once established, it’s fairly drought tolerant. Many people mistake this tree for a hydrangea, because the flowers are similar. However, unlike hydrangeas, viburnums are deer resistant. I’ve never seen one of these trees damaged by wildlife, and just look at the size of those flower heads. Use a specimen tree like this as a focal point in your landscape, so that when April arrives, all eyes are upon it.
While we are on the subject of deer proof plant materials, and favorite April-bloomers, let’s talk about herbaceous peonies. These long-lived perennials are tough as nails, they thrive here in the Atlanta-metro area, and are drought tolerant once established. Choices include fully-double peonies, or single-petal varieties. The doubles are very fragrant, but they may topple over without support, especially in heavy spring rains. My personal favorites are the single-petal varieties, like ‘Red Emperor’ and ‘Krinkled White’ because they withstand heavy down pours. The two most important things to remember about growing peonies is (1) make sure they have good drainage, and (2) keep the “eyes” (or the “crown”) of the plant at ground level during the winter (and don’t bury them in mulch). Peonies will bloom better when nipped by cold weather, so they appreciate the extra winter exposure. Garden centers often carry peonies when they are in bloom, so it’s easy to choose your favorite color. For best results, plant in groups of three, and expect peonies to multiply over time, providing years of spectacular blooms. If you want to start peonies from bare roots (“tubers”), wait until fall to plant them. There are many fine mail order sources for bare root peonies, and it’s a much more cost-effective way to expand your perennial collection.