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Garden Q&A: Not all mountain laurel species are deer resistant

I’ve always loved the unique flowers of mountain laurel. They are supposed to be deer resistant, but my mom says deer ate her expensive fancy one. Any suggestions before I try one? We have quite a few deer.

While our native mountain laurel — the plain species — is deer resistant, that doesn’t always extend to hybrids of the species. During the process of selecting for traits, such as unusual color, sometimes the DNA that made the plant deer resistant gets bred out. Get a regular mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia). Of course, deer will eat anything when they are hungry enough. We suggest wire fencing while it is young and the height that deer like to browse. As it grows, it may be fine or you may want to spray with deer repellent occasionally, but the spectacular blooms should be worth it.

Do you have any data on the boundaries of microclimates by county? I’d like to purchase my landscape plants accordingly.

Microclimates are too small and variable to map. In one yard, they can change multiple times, from a hot, dry protected area on the south of a building to a wet, shady area on the northwest — and every variation in between. You’ll become familiar with your own property through observation and trial and error. If you are new in your home, you can rely on some basic principles to start. The arc of the sun as it passes over your place will affect heat. The hottest areas get sun from midday to late afternoon. Sloping areas will be dryer, because water will run off faster and have less chance to sink in. Areas under trees are dryer from root competition, but also somewhat cooler from the shade. Low areas may hold water. High areas may catch more drying wind. As landscapes grow, the microclimates change somewhat, too.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.