Rose Cuttings – February, 2012

Lovely companion plantings for roses can hide low-lying deterrents for deer. Read below about the solution used at the Antique Rose Emporium. Photos courtesy of Mike Shoup.

Oh Deer!

Roses are some of the most nutritious plants in the landscape. They attract rabbits, horses, cows, and the most damaging of all, deer. Once deer have feasted on this tasty foliage, they will search for roses. They eat flowers and hips as well, but total destruction of the plant can be expected if there is no deterrent from browsing on the foliage. Unfortunately, the number and size of rose thorns does nothing to slow down this assault.

So what’s a gardener to do? Sprays are helpful, but are only as good as your willingness to keep spraying (sometimes once a week is needed). Fences can be tacky or, even worse, ugly, and can ruin the effect of your garden. So that leaves only a couple of options. One is illegal or cruel, as you can imagine, so you are left with the following:

Roses can be protected with chicken wire. No, we are not using it by making a fence around the rose, but rather by laying it flat on the ground at the base of the rose. We have found a chicken wire “mat” to be amazingly effective when addressing this pest.

By stretching the chicken wire out around the rose in this manner, deer are deterred from encroaching too close to the rose. They will not step where their footing is disturbed. When spreading the chicken wire on the ground around the roses, it is important that it be placed on bricks, rocks or stakes that keep the wire off the ground by an inch or two. In this way the deer will feel the wire as they step on it.

The beauty of this method is that lovely companion plants can be grown around your roses  (like liriope, verbena, dianthus or any number of annuals, perennials, herbs or those plants not foraged by deer) to hide the protective chicken wire. None will be the wiser, including your neighbor, who will now be entertaining Bambi on a regular basis.

About the author: Mike Shoup is the owner of the Antique Rose Emporium. Visit his company’s Brenham and San Antonio display gardens for endless ideas on landscaping with roses. To order roses online, visit

Posted by Neil Sperry
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