Aromatic Herbs Discourage Deer
Popular herbal perennials such as foxglove (Digitalis), scented geraniums
Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) makes an excellent ground cover in moist
Winter savory (Satureja montana) and French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) serve dependably as low, deciduous shrubs, while rosemary (Rosmarinus), numerous barberries (Berberis) and lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) become larger.
A few aromatic herbs, such as annual basil (Ocimum) and pot marigold (Calendula), are not reliably deer proof and others are safe only after they become well established.
Although deer avoid them, fast-spreading comfrey (Symphytum) and mint (Mentha) should never be planted in the ground since, once established, they’re nearly impossible to eradicate.
One of the most unfailing and unheralded is germander (Teucrium). Today, it has little herbal use but is highly valued as a drought-tolerant ornamental.
Before putting any new plant in the ground—even those touted as deer-resistant—it’s always a good idea to set out a test sample in an area where deer are sure to find it.
If it shows merely nibbles but survives, surround the new planting with a secure wire barrier for several months until foliage develops stronger flavors that deer will shun.
Teucrium flavum looks best sheared twice annually to keep its long stems from flopping over on a 4-ft shrub. Its dark green foliage looks good year-round while pale yellow flower spikes appear in summer.
Teucrium marum, called cat thyme, develops into an aromatic, 2-ft shrub with wiry stems, very small leaves, and tiny pink flowers in summer.
Teucrium scorodonia ‘Crispum’ should carry a warning but rarely does. Despite its very attractive, soft, ruffly-leaved foliage, it becomes a thuggish invader when long stems root as they spread, and seeds from insignificant flowers self-sow far too readily.