Finally spring arrives and your much anticipated tulips are poking their leaves up through the damp earth. As the days progress, you notice small buds forming above the leaves, then pastel tints start showing as the blossoms open and suddenly… there they are! What a perfect bed of color. Maybe you’ve planted red, pink, yellow, white or multicolored tulips and here they are in all their glory. The next morning, with your cup of coffee, you go to the window and your magnificent blooms are gone. All that’s left are leaves and deer prints. All that longing for spring through the cold winter months, and now, just disappointment. You scream, jump up and down and wish for a 10 foot fence. But no, what you really need to do is read a good bulb catalogue instead.
My first fall living full-time in Pentwater, I planted about 700 deer resistant bulbs. So beautiful. Next spring I was at the kitchen window with my cup of coffee as I watched a chipmunk dig up my patch of white crocus one by one, hold the corm with its tiny front paws, peel off the husks, stuff one in each cheek and scamper off into the woods. I did stamp and scream, but trying to be optimistic, I hoped that next spring they would appear naturally throughout my woods. Unfortunately, they may have come back as chipmunk manure, but not flowers.
So it was back to the catalogs that fall with a more thorough reading. Oh, so there are deer and rodent resistant bulbs! Who knew there were spring bulbs, other than deer resistant daffodils, that squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and deer will leave for me to enjoy every spring. By the time I left that yard behind for my empty post-construction site in town in Pentwater, I had planted over 5,000 bulbs, including around 20 different narcissus/daffodil varieties.
The following are some other bulbs and corms that I have had particularly good luck with from early to late spring blooming. Occasionally the leaves will be eaten, but the blooms will still appear.
Try: Galanthus-snow drops, Crocus (only C. tommasinianus), Muscari-grape hyacinth, Ipheion, Hyacinthoides (English bluebells, which are great for naturalizing and Spanish bluebells), Anemone blanda-Grecian windflowers, Fritillaria (can be finicky), Scilla-wood squill, Leucojum (looks like a tall lily of the valley), Camassia (likes moist), Eremurus-foxtail lily and all Alliums (bloom time varies by variety). Please be aware that if a plant is resistant to deer and rodents, it’s often because it’s poisonous. Use caution around young children and pets. There are also many native early spring flowers, but you will need a specialty catalogue to purchase through or a nursery that carries them. Please don’t dig plants from the wild. Follow all planting instructions as to depth and spacing. Both my gardens have been mostly sand, so as I dig a hole for the bulbs I amend the area with good soil to give them a better start.
After spending the spring and fall of 2020 planting trees, shrubs, grasses, perennials and mulching in my ‘blank space’, I followed with 500 bulbs in the fall. This garden is an experiment in deer resistant plantings because my property is on the morning/dusk deer route for our local herd of nine. I can’t wait, now that spring has rolled in, to see how fortunate I’ll be looking out my windows with flowers poking through the last snows of early April.