One of the garden highlights I most look forward to is the mid-summer bloom of bee balm in my border. When it is in full bloom, it attracts more hummer attention than even the most favored salvias. I often have three hummers at once working of the blooms within feet of one another in the most favored patch.
In mid-May I was surprised to find evidence that deer had munched on my bee balm (Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’). Most of my hummingbird garden is made up of plants in the mint family, including Monarda. The strong fragrance of the foliage in many plants in the mint family make them unpalatable to many garden marauders, including deer and rabbits. Many mints, including Monarda, are often considered deer-proof.
I didn’t worry too much about the early-season nibbling on the bee balm. Deer had never before snacked on my Monarda, and I figured they probably were sampling it at a time of year here when there is not yet much up for them to eat. It was also uncanny how the deer munched the tops off of only the stems in the front and sides of the patch–I had planned on cutting back exactly that portion of the patch by late May in order to keep the stems in front shorter for a layered effect and to try to prolong bloom. This is a technique described in detail by Tracy DiSabato-Aust in her book “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden.”
The picture at the top of this post is from last summer, taken in early July when the taller stems in the back of the patch were just beginning to bloom.
This morning, six weeks after the initial Monarda snacking, I was surprised to find a doe and her spotted fawn standing in the patch, carrying out additional pruning! Most stems were munched, many of them had been just about ready to bloom:
Now I will have to wait to see if this additional late trim will further delay blooming, or perhaps even prevent blooming altogether. Anybody else out there have deer who love mints or other “deer-proof” plants?