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By Scott Cohen

12-19 cohen artThe arrival of Dasher and Blitzen is just around the corner, and it’s a certainty that once they’ve landed on your rooftop (with such a clatter, I’m sure), they’ll cast hungry eyes on the plants arranged in the gardens below. Remember: Santa will be too busy delivering presents to keep them away from quick, frenzied mischief!

With that in mind, the little garden elves at my company, The Green Scene Landscaping & Pools of Northridge, Calif., have come up with a list of reindeer-proof plants. Of course, anyone who lives where regular deer are garden pests understands that “proof” is a relative term: These beasts have huge appetites and will eat just about anything they can reach. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try.

On the grand menu of delectable possibilities, these seem to be their least favorite:

q  For foliage, try Acacia, Boxwood, Cypress, Cedar, Pine, Spruce, Palms and Heavenly Bamboo.

q  For showy (but unappetizing) flowers, try shrubs and perennials including Lantana, Lion’s Tail, Blue Hibiscus, Butterfly Bush, Bottle Brush, Wild Lilac, Princess Flower, Yarrow, Lily-of-the-Nile, Snow-in-Summer, Coneflower, Daylily, Candytuft, Lily Turf and Monkey Flower.

q  Among annuals – usually a hoof-tapping, bell-ringing delicacy for Rudolph and his reindeer friends – the deer-resistant varieties include Calendula, Impatiens, Pincushion Flower, Canterbury Bell and California Poppy.

There are several other deer-resistant plant varieties that serve a greater purpose by bringing appropriate Christmas colors to the garden: Holly, Pyracantha and Viburnum, for example, come complete with colorful displays of green leaves and red berries, while classic red-and-green Poinsettia can be grown outdoors in frost-free areas and White Ageratum planted in masses looks like snowdrifts under Christmas lights.

If the spirit of the season puts you in a giving mood and actually motivates you to feed the hungry reindeer as well as their feathered friends, why not go all out and add plants with edible winter fruits and berries? Your furry and feathered visitors will adore you if you plant Strawberry Tree, Natal Plum, Loquat, Crabapple and Gooseberry.

A final suggestion: While you’re “setting the table” outdoors, don’t get so distracted that you forget to leave milk and cookies by the fireplace for Santa!

Scott Cohen is president and supervising designer of The Green Scene, an outdoor design and construction firm based in Northridge, Calif. He is also the author of books on a range of subjects related to watershaping and landscape design. For more information, go to

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  • Guest - laxmi

    Another great post, I appreciate all the work you put into this site, helping out others with your fun and creative works.