Easy solutions to the most common garden problems

May 6, 2011

By Contributor

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Do you have a problem? Do you find it difficult to grow the plants you love because of hungry beasts that ravage your roses down to stubs?

Perhaps the endless rainy winters have left an unexpected pond in your backyard where you wanted a cactus. Or maybe it is your neighbor’s small forest of evergreen conifers casting deep, dry shade on your side of the fence.

Let’s take a look at a few solutions for some of our area’s most common gardening challenges.


There are a lot of hungry deer in Newcastle. They will eat practically any plant, or at least try it once. And if you plant any of their favorites, such as hostas, roses or tulips, you might as well put out a neon “All You Can Eat Buffet” sign.

And, for heaven’s sake, please stop feeding your deer emerald arborvitaes. Try Degroot’s spire arborvitae or Pacific wax myrtle instead. Although there are no truly deer proof plants, several have proven to be consistently left alone. Other deer-resistant plants include:

  • Boxwood
  • Leucothoe
  • Juniper
  • Mahonia
  • Sedum
  • Pieris japonica
  • Japanese holly
  • Viburnum
  • Sambucus

Many ornamental grasses

Strong tasting herbs, such as lavender, rosemary and thyme


Wascally wabbits

Fencing may be the only way to keep that tenacious Peter Rabbit away from your garden patch, but planting unpalatable plants may be easier. Hungry bunnies tend to dislike prickly, rough and fuzzy textured leaves. They also tend to dislike the same strong herbs that deer won’t eat. All of the following rabbit-resistant plants are also deer resistant:

  • Astilbe
  • Iris
  • Lamb’s ears
  • Peony
  • Salvia
  • Veronica
  • Achillea (yarrow)
  • Perovskia (Russian sage)
  • Euphorbia
  • Yucca


Dry shade under evergreen trees

This is typically the toughest spot in the garden. It is difficult to establish plants under conifers, as the soil is dry, there is not enough sunlight and accumulating needles create very acidic conditions. If the area in question is on the north side of these trees, decorative mulch and garden gnomes might be your best option.

Planting on the southwest side, however, has the advantage of more sunlight and rain. Preparing the soil by adding compost will also help. Watering during the first growing season is a must.

That said, the following plants stand the best chance for success in deep, dry shade:

  • Epimedium
  • Sarcoccocca
  • Taxus (yew)
  • Helleborus
  • Geranium macrorhizzum
  • Asarum (wild ginger)

Dicentra formosa (Western bleeding heart)

Acuba japonica

Buxus sempervirens

Gaultheria shallon (salal)


Wet winter soil

This is a problem with several newer homes in our area. As topsoils are scraped away to level building sites, compacted clay may be left behind, which holds too much water in winter and not enough water in summer.

This area requires a plant that will tolerate both extremes. Standing water spells certain death for many plants. There are, however, a few beauties that do not seem to mind at all. Those with * will even tolerate some standing water.


Betula nigra (river birch) *

Betula jaquemontii (whitebarked Himalayan birch) *

Pinus contorta var. contorta

Japanese barberry

Pacific wax myrtle

Vine maple


Acorus “ogon” *

Western sword fern

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower) *

Redtwig and redosier dogwood *



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