This isn’t the most timely advice, it would be best in the Fall, but I’m posting this in Spring because it is on my mind. Also because I noticed a lot of my blog traffic is from people searching for advice on this.
I don’t really have deer where I live in town. However I do have three types of squirrels, ground hogs, lots of birds, a few snakes, raccoons, evil moles, and of course, rabbits. Rabbits drive my crazy. Complicating the matter is the fact that my wife loves the cute little critters.
During the growing season the rabbits seem to leave well enough alone, or atleast they don’t eat anything important. Every once in awhile I’ll notice that one has eaten a few leaves off a daylily, but that is it. In Winter though, when food is scarce, they’ll eat low branches, stems, or other growth from small deciduous bushes and shrubs. This really, really, really annoys me. It annoys me even more when they’re eating a fruiting or flowering shrub that doesn’t fruit or flower on the current years growth (meaning you need that old growth for it to bloom).
The solution I’ve found, and it works well, is to place simple wire cages around the plants I do not want the rabbits to eat. I simply go to the store and buy a 4 foot high coil of garden fence/chicken fence/rabbit fence (it goes by many different names) and using tin snips I cut it into sections which I then wire together to form circular cages. These go around the plants I do not want the rabbits to eat and the rabbits can’t get to them.
Additionally you can loosely fill the cages with leaves, leaves from hardwood trees are best, and it will insulate the plants as well. This is a great way to give hydrangeas extra winter protection.
For deer, you do the same thing except a 6 or 8 foot high section of fence is probably best and you need to anchor it into the ground in some way, landscape fabric pins work alright for that.
As for what they won’t eat. Well they’ve eaten my roses despite the thorns, my raspberries despite the thorns. My blueberries, my hardy kiwi, my euonymus, my hydrangeas, any and all of my young trees, privet, thuja, viburnum, etc. So its easier to say what they won’t eat. Rabbits have never touched my barberry, my spruces, my yews, or my boxwoods. I’m not sure about deer, not having them around here, but I know for sure deer will not eat spruces or barberries.