Those of us with unfenced gardens adjacent to wildlands usually learn the hard way which plants are ignored by browsing deer and which, without special protections, are not. It may seem that our choices in plants are rather limited, but lush and lovely deer-resistant gardens can be made.
Perhaps the widest range of deer-resistant options for summer-dry climates lies within the Lamiaceae, or mint family, which includes among its more than two hundred genera many plants that are widely used in gardens where summers are dry — salvia, rosemary, lavender, nepeta, agastache, phlomis, bluecurls, thyme, westringia, lion’s tail, perovskia, marrubium, monarda, lamb’s ears . . . the list goes on.
Teucriums are in the mint family too, as is obvious from their aromatic leaves, square stems, and two-lipped, tubular flowers. Choices in this genus include flat mats a few inches tall, low and medium shrublets, and shrubs four to six feet tall and wide. Bees of all kinds love the flowers and will spend all day nectaring on them. Most but not all teucriums are native to the Mediterranean region.
Teucrium chamaedrys makes a fine low edging for paths.
Teucrium chamaedrys makes an exceptionally neat-looking mound 1-2 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide, with small, glossy, dark green leaves that stay lushly green throughout the year. Short spikes of small but showy, purplish pink flowers cover the plant in late spring and summer. Plants tend to flop and open up in the center when in bloom, but pop right back up into a dense mound if cut back after flowering. T. chamaedrys is native from Portugal to Turkey and extending to central Russia.
Teucrium cossonii is 4-6 inches tall and spreads 1-3 feet wide, with small, linear, gray-green leaves and masses of small, purplish flowers. This attractive groundhugger is native to rocky soils on the Balearic island of Mallorca. It is often offered as T. majoricum (T. capitatum subsp. majoricum) which is a similar but usually somewhat taller plant also found in the Balearic Islands.
Teucrium aroanium (sometimes offered as T. aroanum), native to Greece, forms a flat mat, 2-3 inches tall, spreading 1-3 feet wide, with short, linear, silvery gray-green leaves and purplish pink flowers that fade to an oddly appealing rusty brown.
Teucrium fruticans, native to Spain and North Africa, has gray-white leaves and pale blue flowers. At 4-6 feet tall and wider than tall, it can be stiffly twiggy and a bit rangy looking and is often pruned or even sheared into smaller and neater forms. ‘Aureum’ is denser, bushier, and somewhat smaller than the species, with darker blue flowers. There is also a compact cultivar, usually offered as ‘Compactum’.
Most teucriums happily accept some summer water, but do well with little, even in full sun. Good drainage is always preferred.