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Botanist Guards Gardens, Defeats Deer

If you think deer are dear -- but not necessarily in your garden -- you might want to consult Ruth Clausen 's new book, " Fifty Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants ."

Clausen, who lives in Westchester County, wants to make it perfectly clear: “There is hardly anything that a hungry deer won’t eat, but they do have preferences. They have preferences as a herd and even within each herd. Just like people.”

Through dedicated observation over the years, Clausen has been able to identify trends and characteristics. If you plant tulips, “the deer are likely to think, ‘Oh, this is wonderful! Let’s come back for dinner tonight.’”

Born and brought up in Wales, United Kingdom, Clausen came to America in 1962 and got a job with Yoder Brothers, now known as Aris Horticulture . She earned a degree in botany from Kent State University in Ohio, stayed on as an instructor, then came east and went to work at the New York Botanical Garden . She has “never quite left there,” she says.

Clausen has written several books on horticulture and continues to teach and give lectures. She is on the Board of the Friends of Lasdon Park and Arboretum . Her daughter is getting married there in the fall.

Among the plants that deer eschew are “smelly ones.” She has bordered her own garden with witch hazel and “they don’t come any further.” Deer seldom go for herbs such as basil and thyme, and are not usually attracted to daffodils. But other plants are what Clausen dubs “deer candy.” Among them are hostas, day lilies, tulips and hydrangeas.

Clausen's book gives tips on how to protect tasty plants. Growing them on your deck or in high hanging baskets is one way. You can also protect your garden by raking up dropped fruit, so the deer don’t get into the habit of stopping for a bite to eat.

“They are creatures of habit and they are curious. They are also beautiful," she says. "I feel we should live and let live and learn to tolerate them a bit.”

What do you do do keep the deer out of your garden?

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