We sympathize with those of you who must contend with deer eating their
ornamental plantings. Our area has an abundance of the beautiful "but
unwelcome in my garden" animals.
I am not sure about the deer in your area, but I can tell you about
the deer in southern British Columbia. For many years our willows grew
out in the open and no deer touched them. Then came the really hot and
bone dry summer of 2003 (the infamous summer of forests fires). That
fall and winter the deer ate our willows.
I have a fedge out of S. triandra 'Black Maul' and it is right alongside
a major deer pathway (they touch it when they walk by) and they sleep
about 20 feet away from it. But they don't so much as nibble it.
Also, a customer in New York state buys willows from us because she
says the only plants not eaten by deer on her acreage are the willows.
So I am guessing that willows are not their favourite food and they
will only eat them when there is nothing else to eat. Salix purpureas
are known to be bitter and not eaten by livestock or rabbits.
Willows grow so fast that even if the deer do eat them, they will bounce
back very quickly. However if you are planting plugs or cuttings, they
should be protected until well rooted because if a deer decides to sample
it, they would likely be pulled out of the ground.
Ornamental Grasses and Deer
Tip from Kathy Phillipy:
Kathy grows willows and they don't touch them, however she is not so
lucky with her other ornamentals. She has recently discovered a product
which is working very well to keep the deer from munching on her ornamental.
She says "It is working beautifully. They haven't touched anything
since I sprayed." The company is called Messina