Posted by & filed under deer, Deer resistant gardens, Design, Garden Design, Gardens, Landscaping, Uncategorized .

I live in a divided neighborhood. 


One-half thinks our resident deer are adorable while the other half (the gardeners of the group) fantasizes about turning them into venison.

Being engaged in daily competition with the herd this entire summer for my hostas, daylilies and phlox, I have to admit I lean more to the meat side than the sweet side. 



I’ve tried all sorts of things to deter them  — spreading repellants like milorganite, adding wind chimes and hanging strongly scented soap, but the results have been sporadic at best. I even have a motion sensor security light in the front; instead of scaring them, it just seems to provide them better light to improve their grazing experience.


I know that a fence would work, but the idea of an 8 foot high barrier around my front yard is not very appealing to me.



One of my fall goals is to re-landscape our front yard.  At first, I visualized converting our so-called lawn area into a series of luscious beds bursting with blooms from early spring all the way through the last days of fall.  After seeing plant after plant ripped apart and devoured by our four-footed insatiable invaders, it seemed an impossible dream.


I had all but given up my plans when I ran across some advice on deer resistant gardens by Ruth Rogers Clausen. 


Although the bulk of her suggestions centered on which plants to use, she also included some intriguing information about designing deer resistant features into the landscape. Modifying the terrain, especially at the deer’s entry points, is a good starting point in creating a deer free zone. 


Deer are both homebodies and creatures of habit, meaning that they typically remain within a few miles of their birthplaces and that once they identify a safe, reliable food source, they will consistently return to the same place at about the same time using the same route. That predictableness is helpful in thwarting them. 


One choice is to entirely close off their specific entry points. Groupings of impenetrable and unappetizing (to them) plantings or tall, sturdy trellises covered with thick vines are excellent deer obstacles. Entirely blocking the view into the garden leaves deer reluctant to jump over the barrier since they are unsure about where they will land. 


A second option is to add berms, steps or terraces at entry points. Deer have limited depth perception so navigating a variety of levels can be uncomfortable for them. Deer prefer an easily accessible escape route in case of danger. A set of parallel berms spaced about 3 feet apart can also deter deer. Jumping over the first into the pathway doesn’t allow enough landing space and jumping over both can be difficult for a deer to judge.


Changing your own routine maintenance habits can also have an impact on how much of a draw your garden is. Deer, like many other vegetation consuming wildlife, prefer soft, lush nitrogen rich foliage. Cut back on the amount of high nitrogen fertilizers used throughout the growing season to reduce the quick flushes of soft, new growth that tempt deer. Tough, leathery or fibrous textured plants, like Lily of the Valley, repel them.  


When and how you water can also make a difference. Avoid watering on a daily basis; instead, water deeply into the ground once or twice a week. Leaves should be dry by the evening hours, especially during periods of drought. Wet leaves during the evening hours draw deer that are seeking water.


Deer have incredible senses of smell. They not only have almost 60 times more the number of olfactory sensors in their noses than humans do, they also have a scent gland in their mouths and two specialized scent areas in their brains.


They can pick up scents that are days old and a half a mile away. While definitely a benefit in the wild, this extraordinary sense can be used agaInst them in the garden. Interspersed plants with highly fragrant blooms or foliage can be overwhelming for deer and can cause them to retreat to a safer space. Place plants with strongly scented foliage at entry points to turn deer away.


The final step in creating a deer free garden is the careful selection of plant material.  Although there are no absolutes defining what a deer will or won’t eat, there are some common characteristics that they tend to avoid.    


With their ever increasing numbers in urban areas, keeping deer out of gardens is becoming quite a challenge for home gardeners as well as those in charge of public spaces like parks and green belts. Using a variety of strategies to foil them, humans at least have a fighting chance to win the battle for the garden against the persistent  —  and pervasive —  adversary. I’m determined to win my skirmish. How about you?

Posted by & filed under Butterfly Gardens, Deer Resistant Plants, Drought tolerant plants, Uncategorized .

The native Missouri wildflower commonly called Black-eyed Susan is in full bloom right now.



Known for their bursts of bright, yellow to yellow-orange blooms, black-eyed Susans, or Rudbeckia hirta, are  favorites of butterflies but avoided by deer and rabbits because of their hairy foliage. They are biennials or short-lived perennials and will easily self-seed in the garden. (Deadhead them to prevent unwanted spreading.) They need full sun and well drained soil to produce masses of flowers, but will tolerate drought conditions and clay soil.


Posted by & filed under Benefits of Houseplants, Benefits of Nature, Deflecting sound, Green Roofs, Health & Wellness, Indoor gardens, Interior landscaping, Living walls, Uncategorized, Water Management .

One of my favorite sessions from the recent Perennial Plant Conference I attended in Chicago was on Living Walls. It had been a reluctant choice at first — a lesser of two evils type of choice. Surprisingly though, after the first few minutes, I was hooked. The presenter didn’t try to teach me how, instead he showed me why. And he made me a believer. 



Having seen a few in Kansas City, I thought that I knew what living walls (and by extension green roofs) were. What I didn’t really understand was what an art form they can be and how beneficial they are for us individually and to our struggling earth.



For those who may be uncertain about it, a living wall, or a vertical garden, is a system of panels that allow plants to grow vertically against a wall. Unlike vining plants such as ivy that are planted in the ground and cling to the wall with tendrils, the vegetation in vertical gardens is planted in some type of growing medium held in bags, bins or other types of modules. Hidden reservoir systems deliver water and fertilizer to the plants. Vertical gardens can be installed either indoors or outdoors and can be used for foliage plants, flowering plants, vegetables and herbs.






Similarly, a green roof is a roof that has been specifically designed and engineered to support plant life. Some green roofs are extensive, which means that they are not intended for public access, but instead are densely planted with low-growing, herbaceous plants like sedums and  creeping thymes that tolerate poor soil conditions, wide ranges of temperatures and intermittent waterings. Extensive green roofs tend to require less maintenance once they become established.



A second type of green roof is an intensive green roof. It has a thick soil level and generally  includes pathways and areas for public use. Intensive roofs support a wider variety of plant material, but also require more maintenance, often as much as a ground level garden.. Considerable engineering is required to make sure that their weight is adequately supported.



Like so many other of our revolutionary “new” ideas, living walls and green roofs can actually be traced back to ancient cultures. The most well-known ones, of course, are the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Ancient Greek historians described magnificent gardens that some believe King Nebuchadnezzar had built in 605 BC for his wife, Queen Amyitis, who had originally come from a lush, mountainous area. Legend says that she was homesick and to give her comfort and ease her troubled mind, her husband had the gardens constructed. 





During the reign of Augustus, the Romans were known to plant trees on the tops of their institutional buildings. Throughout the Renaissance, green roofs were part of the Italian landscape; Russians however, favored hanging gardens. The 1800s saw sod roofs and houses across the North American prairie. By the twentieth century, green roofs were common across Germany and found in many other European nations. 1938 saw the first modern outdoor living wall patented by Stanley Hart White, a University of Illinois professor. In 1986, at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris. Patrick Blanc, Adrien Fainsilber and Peter Rice worked together to design and install the first indoor green wall in a public space.




Throughout history and across the globe, people have not only appreciated the beauty of green roofs and living walls, they instinctively understood their benefits. Today we have evidence to prove that both green roofs and living walls:


Improve the quality of human life

82% of the United States 327 million people (2018 total population) live in urban areas which cover only 3% of our country’s total land area, giving an average population density of 283 people per urban square mile. (Compare that to our overall population density of 87 people per square mile.) Even more alarming is the fact that of our approximately 106,00 square miles of urban landscape, only about 30% of it, or 31,000 square miles are dedicated to some sort of green space. (My rough figures calculate 8,645 people per square mile of urban green space!)



Long before our cities became concrete and asphalt oases, Henry David Thoreau said, “A remedy we can never have enough of is a healthy dose of nature.”  The sentiment has never been truer than it is today. Crowding out a daily dose of nature has taken a toll on the physical and mental health of our citizens. More Americans suffer from stress related illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes than ever before. 1 in 5 adults experience some form of mental illness every year, and 18% report disabling episodes of anxiety disorder and depression.



Regular access to nature is recognized as a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. It is known to lessen anxiety, lower blood pressure and reduce stress. (See last week’s blog for specific results and recommendations.)  Unfortunately, green space is often limited, unevenly distributed or totally unavailable in many of our urban areas. Adding green roofs and living walls to our urban landscapes increases the opportunities for city dwellers to enhance their lives through contact with nature..



Reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions

It is a well known fact that vegetation helps to remove pollutants, especially the noxious gas carbon dioxide, from the air.  As the stomata of leaves open, they absorb carbon dioxide from the air which is then used in the process of photosynthesis to produce chemical energy needed for growth . Currently, plants absorb only about a quarter of the greenhouse gases that humans produce so increasing masses of plants may result in cleaner air for communities. 



Reduce energy use and thus energy related costs

Green roofs and living walls act as excellent insulators for buildings, reducing the amount of energy consumed for both heating and cooling. One study found that, depending on the climate zone, installing a green roof reduces a building’s winter heat loss up to 25% . During summer months, again depending on the climate, a green roof can reduce the need for air conditioning as much as 75%.  As individual energy needs are reduced, total energy production in a community can be cut, eliminating a significant amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the air.     


Reduce Heat Island Effect in urban areas

A heat island is an “urban area or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities.”  During the day, heat islands can be 6 or more degrees F warmer than their surrounding areas, while at night the difference can be as much as 22 degrees. Besides providing shade, green roofs and living walls add moisture to the air through evapotranspiration, which helps reduce air temperatures both inside and outside buildings.  ( Evapotranspiration is defined as the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and other surfaces and by transpiration from plants.) When temperatures are lower, then less air conditioning is needed which results in less overheated air from air conditioning units being released into the air.  

Reduce noise

The average decibel level of a city street is about 60 decibels, which is loud enough to cause irreparable hearing damage over time. Plants absorb sound through their stems, leaves, branches and bark. Planting mediums also help to absorb noise. The flexible surfaces of plants also deflect and refract sound waves, breaking them apart and deadening noise rather than amplifying it. Dense plantings, such as those found in mature living walls, can reduce noise by 6 to 15 decibels, which could make a significant difference to your hearing.



Improve stormwater management

Green roofs are especially effective stormwater management tools since they have the ability to capture and store up to 75% of rainwater in their plants and soil.  The remaining 25% of storm water percolates through the vegetation and the soil base and is slowly released into storm drains. Less run-off into water systems means less potentially polluted water reaching streams, rivers and lakes. Less run-off also means fewer tax dollars spent to repair and maintain municipal water and sewer systems.


Create habitats for insects, birds and other wildlife

Both green roofs and vertical gardens can help improve biodiversity by providing much needed green corridors and suitable habitat in urban areas that are typically lacking in green space. Roofs and gardens that are planted with a broad range of native species and include hollow logs, twigs, rocks and other natural elements tend to attract more birds and insect pollinators than those planted with a single species.



Create beauty

Green roofs and living walls are more than just practical gardening applications  — they are living art. Using plants as their media, horticultural designers create unique canvases that can convey every emotion from drama to whimsy and that evolve over time. From inception, no two are ever exactly alike and once gone, none can ever be recreated. 





The design staff at Embassy Landscape understands that Living Walls and Green Roofs are more than the current fad. They see them as important tools to improve the  livability of our cities both now and in the future. Contact them today; they can help you design your own slice of green space.


Posted by & filed under Bees, Butterfly Gardens, Deer Resistant Plants, Russian Sage, Uncategorized .

Russian Sage, or Perovskia atriplicifolia, is giving a spectacular show right now.



A full sun perennial, Russian sage (named in honor of the Russian general V.A. Perovski), features light lavender blooms on 2 to 4 foot stems from mid July to mid October. Easy to grow, Russian sage thrives in average, well-drained soil. It withstands drought and city air pollution, is deer and rabbit resistant and looks gorgeous paired with rudbeckia. Bees and butterflies flock to the blooms. Part of the mint family, leaves are fragrant when crushed. Russian sage is beautiful massed in borders or as a specimen plant. Perennial Plant Association Plant of the Year 1995.