Deer Resistant Shrubs Near a Septic Weeping Bed

(Question)

I live in Muskoka.  My cedar hedge was devastated by deer and has been removed.  I am planning to replace it with more deer resistant shrubs.  So far, I have purchased 3 barberry shrubs and I’m considering Snow Mound  spirea.  Am I on the right track with these shrubs?  Also, my hedge will abut a septic weeping bed and I am concerned about roots clogging the bed.  What advice can you provide on this?

 

(Answer)

You’ve done your homework.  Both barberry (Berberis thunbergii) and Snowmound spirea (Spirea nipponica ‘Snowmound’) are deer resistant and salt tolerant plants.  One source I checked claimed barberry was the closest we have to a deer proof plant.

However, there is a downside to barberry. The Ontario Invasive Plant Council has identified barberry as an invasive species. Invasive plants can cause serious damage if planted near natural areas where they may out compete native species.  Barberries are prolific seed producers.  The seeds ripen in the fall and remain on the plant through the winter.  They are carried long distances by birds where they can invade forest understory.  The Grow Me Instead guide published by the Council lists a number of alternatives to barberry. Here is a link to the guide:

https://www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca/files/GMI_Booklet_spreads_2011_Final_web.pdf

Snowmound spirea will grow to about 5 feet with a similar spread in full sun to part shade.  It tolerates many soil conditions.  It has an upright mounded form and can be pruned into a traditional hedge or left in it’s natural form to create a hedge row. As it tolerates pruning, the occasional deer ‘snacking’ is more easily overcome

You do need to be cautious about planting shrubs close to a septic weeping bed as the roots can cause issues.  Shrubs should bot be planted closer than their root spread.  Root spread can be estimated as roughly equivalent to the mature height of the shrub.  Closer to the bed, stick to shallow-rooted, herbaceous plants that are drought tolerant.