Endearing name, deer resistant flower

My favorite iris is in bloom – and does not require deer repellent.

I believe it is totally fine to choose a plant because its name resonates with you. I planted Blue Jacket hyacinths on the grave of my father-in-law, who was on the first ship hit at Pearl Harbor. I sent an assortment of daylilies with names like “Crimson Pirate” to my nephew, a then budding gardener. (My gifts are usually spot-on, but a box of roots did not thrill the young boy. His mother (my sister) did love them for years until something the guy truly did want – dogs – dug them up. Such is life.)

Numerous, huge, yellow blooms cover this deer resistant plant.

So when I decided to add to my iris collection Goodnight Moon was too sweet of a name to pass up. Now this plant has been divided a couple times, with one rhizome going to friend who raves about it every spring. Last year I moved a few rhizomes into a new bed by our deck and this spring it is reminding me why Goodnight Moon is my favorite iris. As I write this, she stands about three feet tall with at least five blooms. Although each bloom does not last long, they are so huge and numerous that this iris has been a show-stopper for quite some time. And, being an iris, no deer repellent has been needed.

That deer resistant foliage is a great addition to the garden even when the blooms have gone. I think that once you cut back the stem, the linear, upright leaves add an architectural accent to the planting bed. And in a few years you can divide the iris and add that accent throughout your garden.

I would call Lenten rose deer proof

It is risky to call any plant deer proof, but there are a few I would give that tag. One is Lenten Rose (Helleborus xhybridus or ), which seems like the perfect plant to me. It is evergreen, tolerates part to deep shade, resistant to deer and other pests, and blooms when few other plants bloom. Not just any flower either – sculptural, perfect blooms that entices me to pull out a sketchbook and concentrate on their beauty.

Lenten Rose is hardy from Zones 4-9 and is one of the longest blooming perennials in cultivation, with blooms that last for six weeks or more. To make it even more desirable, it is one of the earliest blooming perennials, with blooms starting as early as January in Georgia and lasting into April. Who couldn’t love a plant that blooms even before the daffodils?

Glossy, bold, leathery foliage is a year-round asset to the shade garden. Leaves are divided into seven to nine segments, falling away from the central stem like an umbrella. These coarse leaves are a great contrast with ferns and bleeding hearts. Although they are evergreen, the leaves can look a little ragged before the new growth emerges. This is just a little winter burn and aging foliage. Trimming off some of the older foliage in January or February not only makes the plants look better; it shows off the blooms better too.

The perfect spot for a Lenten Rose would be in deciduous shade, protected from the wind, in rich soil with plenty of moisture but good drainage. They would like the bank of a creek, along a woodland path. Lenten roses do better planted among hardwoods than pines, because they appreciate winter sun and pine needles accumulating around them can hinder growth. One thing Hellebores cannot take is soggy soil.

These plants are disease and pest resistant and prefer to be left alone. Once established, Lenten roses reseed to form a colony, creating a dramatic woodland groundcover that blooms in various colors. Seedlings can be dug up and moved, but established plants resent being moved or divided and may not bloom the following year.

My first few plants have reseeded to create a colony in my shade garden, with each plant producing slightly different blooms. The blooms come in many colors, including white, pale yellow, pink, maroon, purple and speckled. These are subtle, beautiful, nodding blooms on evergreen plants that are eighteen to twenty-four inches tall.

I love my colony of reseeded Lenten Roses but, oh my, what are available in nurseries now are stunning. The breeders have been working on Lenten Roses and now offer double blooms in bright colors with their faces rising upward, or pale pink fluffy blooms comparable to an English Rose, or blooms that look like they were hand painted in a porcelain factory. Just do a search on Pinterest to be amazed at the variety and beauty. These new Lenten Roses can be pricey – and worth every penny. Once in your garden, they will become your favorite plant, asking little and giving so much.

I suggest you shop for these plants locally, when they are in bloom. Then you know exactly what the bloom will look like and buy a plant that is already at blooming age.