Ideas needed for Deer Resistant Woodland Garden, zone 5/6

Trenton, MI(Zone 5b)

This is school property behind us. It semi floods in the spring, dry in the summer. The Ash trees have all died here (emerald ash bore), and so it is mainly Maple Trees. This area gets over taken with some kind of vine (not poison oak or anything like that).
Over the last 2 years I've tried cleaning out a small area. (Picture was taken before I cleared). I plan on making this area larger. I have hellabores and Jack in the pulpit coming from a co=op. But I would like a few more ideas, some blooms would be nice , but interesting foliage is nice too. Also something in the 3 to 6 ft range.
For the first time in 18 years, the deer have invaded my main garden. This area will have to have deer resistant plants if they are to survive.
Michigan is a hot summer, high humidity state.

I have a variety of named daylilies to trade for any interesting shade plants.

Hoping for some good ideas. Thanks in advance.

Thumbnail by toofewanimals
Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)

I have no ideas for a 3-6 foot plant but Astilbes come in tall varieties.
Dicentras are deer proof but wider than tall.

Cimicifuga racemosa would fall into that taller range. By the time it blooms, mine are 5 ft. I think there's a 'Pink Spike' or 'Black Negligee' that might be nice. Epimediums flower in early spring and tolerate the dryness once they're established. Not sure about the very wet spring though.

Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)

I have the white rosmosas and they are tall. The Black Neglegees need a damp environment.
I have Hillside Black Beauty but had to water it all summer. Too much fuss for me. Doubt I will see it this year.

I have just the "plain ole' Cimicifuga. It does get dry in the summer where it's planted. I have about 6 or more of them all along my back path and it does provide some nice tall interest.

Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)

I believe the Ostrich Plume Astilbe is tall.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Mine is in shade and about 2 - 2.5'.

My plants get to be about 2 1/2 ft tall but they get extremely tall bloom spikes for a total of 5+ ft.

Trenton, MI(Zone 5b)

Thanks all. The Cimicifuga racemosa sound great. I just may plant some Astilbe there also if I can find a couple cheap ones at the local stores.

Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

Hillside Black Beauty does lousy for me. I've done better with Atropurpurea and Brunette, which I think is a shorter one. I don't think Astilbe will like a dry summer....they get crispy easily if not given adequate water. Are the maple trees really close? If so, you may have some issues with root competition. I've seen people recommend building raised beds with several layers of landscape fabric put down to keep the maple roots out for as long as possible. But then others say you shouldn't add soil on top of existing roots, so I don't know. I had no choice but to add soil on top of things in my garden.

Have to agree w/Noreaster on the Astilbes although A. chinensis is more drought tolerant (learned that on another thread). My Epimediums handle drier conditions once they're established but they're not going to get very tall and once they bloom in early spring, they're done for the year. But some varieties do have some pretty neat foliage.

Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

Oh wait, what about Thalictrum? I don't have it, but saw some really tall ones at a local garden display, and thought it was very pretty. I don't know about deer resistance, though. Here is the one I think I saw. I'd love to have room in my garden for this:

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Noreaster, I have lots of deer, and I think my thalictrums are relatively spared.
Relatively, being the key word.

Thumbnail by Weerobin
Trenton, MI(Zone 5b)

Weer = beautiful garden picture of your thalictrums.
I do have one thalictrum planted on the edge of this woodland space. Started from seed a couple years ago. So far the deer haven't bothered it. Wish I had started a few more of them.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

I've heard people say their thalictrums multiply rather promiscuously.
Unfortunately, not for me. I really like them. My only complaint is that the tall ones flop.

Oh gosh - I didn't even think about Thalictrum r. I've grown that one from seed and love the little lavender flowers. It even self-sows here and germinates decently from collected seed. I really like that one and it does handle drier conditions pretty well. That would give some nice tall interest with those pretty flowers. Mine don't flower profusely because of my crummy soil (I'm still working on that) and they do get to be about 5+ feet tall here (mostly shade). I think I've had a deer nip at one of mine once but my deer prefer columbines over Thalictrums.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Have you considered any Digitalis? D. x mertonensis can take a fair amount of shade and does not tend to self sow freely. Also Aconitum napellus, as mine blooms in essentially full shade. Ostrich ferns can exceed your 3 mark and are not attractive to deer. Blue Wood Aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium) gives you height, fall blue in the woods as well as deer resistance. Also, try Monarda fistulosa along your woodland margins. Other suggestions are Wood Sage or American Germander (Teucrium canadense), and Tall Bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum). In the way of shrubs, Mahonia aquifolium gives year-round interest except to those cloven-hooved wood rats, and Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora' is not bothered in my yard and blooms nicely in early spring even in my wooded areas. All these items can handle your zone 5b.

Trenton, MI(Zone 5b)

Greenthumb, thanks for some wonderful ideas. I'm trying to grow the Aconitum from seed ... we'll see.

Conroe, TX(Zone 9a)

I have something to add about deer resistant plants even though I am not in your zone. I lived in zone 8A for 12 years (Austin TX) and dedicated myself to learning about and planting deer resistant plants. If they get hungry enough due to drought or over-population, they will eat everything! They ate sumac, rock rose, rosemary, nandinas, cactus, even ash juniper (called cedar there). By the time I moved, I was ready to shoot them even if I did get fined and/or hauled off to the pokey. As gardening is my favorite hobby, you can understand why I was so upset. Those little buggers are not cute. Not only do they eat plants that they are adverse to, they carry ticks that infect humans with lime disease.

Sorry about my rant, but they need to be controlled. Shooting them is probably not the best way (unless you like venison - ugh!).

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