MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gardeners just can’t seem to get a break this spring. First, it was a late start to the growing season with cool, rainy weather and not a lot of sunshine. And now deer are causing problems.

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Some gardeners say they are getting more frequent than usual visits from deer, who are after the plants and flowers planted their yards.

Over the winter months, it appears that deer were especially active in some neighborhoods, walking
right into people’s yards and chewing up whatever greenery they could find.

And now that it’s spring, we are really seeing the damage deer can do to flowers, plants and bushes. WCCO crews got a look at what happened at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen.

All the way around a group of evergreen bushes, a 5-foot-high section of branches is chewed away.

Dr. Mary Meyer is a horticulture expert.

“You can actually look under a microscope if you need to and see the biting method, you can tell from the way it is torn off which kind of an animal has taken a bite on it. It’s very distinctive,” she said. “They only eat a certain amount of green.”

People across the metro say they are seeing deer venture into places we don’t normally see them.

“I think it is a combination of things. There are more deer and they are looking for new places to eat, and when they can find easy access to their favorite plants, they will go for it,” Dr. Meyer said.

She showed a few of the plants and flowers that will keep deer away because of the texture or the scent.

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Things like lilacs and peonies.

“So if you have damage on your yews or taxus evergreens, you can plant an evergreen like boxwood, they don’t like the smell and taste of boxwood,” she said. “The red is the barberry. They don’t like the barberry. It has thorns on it. People don’t like to touch it and deer really don’t like to touch it.”

And then there are the plants deer love, like hostas.

“Deer love hostas, they will come in and eat hostas, there are thousands of them. There are some they don’t like, the big coarser texture ones deer are less likely to eat, but the really soft leaves, tend to eat more of,” she said.

Dr. Meyer said deer like tulips, fruit trees and roses, as well.

The Department of Natural Resources said that some cities do a better job than others in trying to control the deer population during the winter, and the bottom line is, the plants we tend to use for landscaping are the favorite foods of deer.

And what about fencing to keep deer out?

It works, but it has to be high because deer can jump. So for homeowners it’s not really practical to have a 10- or 14-foot-high fence around their property.

You can use repellants, too, but you have to re-apply them fairly frequently and they get washed off when it rains.

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For more information about the plants that deer like and dislike, click here and here.