Name: Nepeta spp. and cvs.
USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained, average soil
This plant’s leaves emit a strong mint aroma, which attracts cats but repels deer. The stems are covered in gray-green foliage all season and explode with purple to blue flowers from mid- to late summer. A terrific compact cultivar is ‘Walker’s Low’ (pictured). The Perennial Plant Association awarded it Perennial of the Year in 2007.
‘Kobold’ blazing star
Name: Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’
Zones: 4 to 9
Size: 16 to 20 inches tall and 18 inches wide
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil
The blooms of blazing star are attractive to bees, butterflies, and birds, but deer usually leave them alone. Native to the eastern United States, blazing star is a prolific self-sower and may border on being a nuisance, but the seedlings can be easily pulled up. They flower from July to September in my garden. Blazing star has no serious pest problems and requires little attention. I recommend ‘Kobold’ because it has large flowers and a long blooming period.
Name: Heuchera spp. and cvs.
Zones: 3 to 8
Size: 6 to 18 inches tall and 10 to 24 inches wide
Conditions: Partial shade; rich, moist, well-drained soil
Heuchera is a popular, dependable performer, which is rarely, if ever, browsed by deer. Hundreds of hybrids are available, and more are developed every year. The foliage color and texture are what make the plant so special. The variation in color is vast: green to chartreuse, orange, purple, and blood red to almost black. One of my favorite cultivars is ‘Plum Pudding’ (pictured). The flowers are the secondary attraction; they stand 6 inches above the foliage in midsummer.
Name: Boltonia asteroides
Zones: 4 to 8
Size: 3 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; best in well-drained, rich humus but will tolerate many soil conditions
False aster is prized for its late-season blooms. The profuse display starts at the time most perennials have finished flowering, and it may continue to bloom after the first frost. If you are looking for a white-flowering cultivar, one of the best is ‘Snowbank’ (pictured). False aster grows in a bushy form and looks good all season with little effort. It also has no serious pest problems, including deer; I rarely catch them nibbling this plant—even when I plant it in the back of my perennial border.
Photos: Jennifer Benner; courtesy of Peter Derano; Jerry Pavia