The Deer-Resistant Evergreen Screen

Cryptomeria japonica 'Yoshino' - Yoshino Japanese Cedar
Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ – Yoshino Japanese Cedar

“Screening” is the term used by landscapers for plant material that hides an unwanted view. We get questions weekly at the Nursery about the best type of plants to use for this purpose. It’s one of those problems that doesn’t have a perfect solution on Nantucket. However there are several trees and shrubs that will provide a year-round living wall that won’t be decimated by deer.

Medium to short hedges can be created with boxwood. Buxus in all its forms is an extremely deer resistant, evergreen plant for us on Nantucket. Boxwood lends itself perfectly to shearing into hedges, but also looks great allowed to grow naturally. Many people are surprised to learn that American boxwood, Buxus sempervirens, will grow slowly to upwards of 15 feet, making a very dense screen.

In situations where a tall hedge is needed quickly, trees are a better option. The most deer resistant of these are Thuja plicata cultivars like ‘Green Giant’ aka ‘Spring Grove’, Ilex opaca (American Holly), Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese Cedar) and trees in the genus Picea (Spruce) and Pinus (Pines).

Because evergreens hold their foliage all winter, they are more susceptible to desiccation than deciduous trees. Keep these points in mind to help your plants make it through the winter with the least amount of damage.

  • Be sure that plants are well hydrated going into winter dormancy.
  • If you live in an area with punishing winds, spray with an anti-desiccant, like WiltPruf in December, and several times during winter warm-ups to stop the foliage drying out when the plant can’t pull in moisture from frozen soil.
  • If you decide to spray anti-desiccants, be sure to research individual plants first. These products can damage several evergreens, especially some types of Thuja and those trees with glaucous needles.
  • If your property is close to the shore or on a hill, consider covering the plants with burlap from mid December through February, when damage is most likely to occur.

The Many Shades of Potentilla fruticosa

Potentilla is another deer-resistant plant to add to your arsenal.  These small to medium sized shrubs have been popular for years, and for good reason.  Their compact habit and gently arching branches work well in mixed shrub borders, foundation beds and mass plantings.  Planted in full sun, they are super-low maintenance, tolerate many types of soil and boast flowers from June to frost.

There are more and more cultivars to chose from, but below are some of the most common.


Rosa rugosa 101

Rosa rugosa-1
Rosa rugosa flower

The common name of this popular plant is Salt Spray Rose. The Latin name refers to its wrinkled leaves. Growing wild in the dunes, in commercial landscapes and in home gardens, it would be difficult to visit Nantucket without seeing at least one! They are so widely visible on the island that some have presumed them a native species. In fact, they naturally grow in the sandy coast land areas of Japan, Northern China and Korea. They were introduced to North America from Asia as early as the 1700’s, but more likely in the 1840’s.

These shrubs can be used for a variety of landscape applications. They make a great short hedge, as can be seen along Baxter Road in ‘Sconset. Their tendancy to form colonies lends them very well to mass plantings. They look great in the distance, at a boundary, or up close in a driveway circle. And, as one might imagine, they can do a great job of stabilizing sandy slopes, while tolerating salt spray and wind extremely well. Like other roses, they prefer full sun, and well drained, sandy soils, with some organic matter.

Although Rosa rugosa thrives on neglect in the dunes along our shores, they require some maintenance to look their best in a more structured setting. Pruning is best done when the plants are fully dormant and the leaves have fallen. If you have many to prune, invest in a heavy set of leather gloves. Their tiny spines are notoriously irritating to landscapers and home gardeners alike. To maintain a dense, mounded shape, cut the entire plant to knee-height. This is easily accomplished with hedge trimmers or with loppers and hand pruners. Remove any obviously dead canes at ground level.  Wayward suckers can be lopped off, right next to the mother plant. Rosa rugosa hedges should be left to reach their natural height, by only removing dead branches and giving them a light shaping. During summer, lightly nip any stems that grow toward the lawn.

There is no need to deadhead Rosa rugosa — the edible hips that form just below the spent flowers bring their season of interest well into fall, and provide food for wildlife.

Rosa rugosa is free of most porblems associated with other roses, but there are some pests that use them as a food source. Deer will eat them, especially during their spring flush of growth. Deer sprays are a help to keep the damage to a minimum during the summer.  And a good fence during the shoulder season might be necessary in areas where deer are especially troublesome. Japanese beetles will congregate on Roses off all types and can completely defoliate plants in a matter of days.  Hand-pick and destroy the beetles in the morning or spray them directly with a Spinosad product.

Rosa rugosa is certainly one of Nantucket’s most popular plants. Why not use them in your next project, or try a few in your garden? We offer an ever-changing selection of cultivars and hybrids, from the common to the more uncommon. We would be happy to help you select a variety that suits your taste!

Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’

Weigela florida ‘Alexandra’ sold as ‘Wine and Roses’ under the Proven Winners line of plants is in full bloom here at the Nursery.  If you like drama in the garden, this is the plant for you! The striking combination of rosy pink flowers and deep wine-colored foliage is a great addition to the shrub border or in a large pot.  This Weigela blooms heavily in early summer and will rebloom throughout the summer. 

Deer and drought resistant, with no pest problems to speak of, Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’ is a very low maintenance shrub that packs a punch!

Weigela florida 'Wine and Roses'

Spring Flowering Shrubs

Viburnum 'Summer Snowflake'
Viburnum ‘Summer Snowflake’

Today it feels like Spring has really set in on Nantucket!  ‘Kwanzan’ cherry trees are in full bloom accross the island, giving everyone the feeling that Summer is also right around the corner!  It’s exciting to see perennials and annuals filling up the courtyard, but if your landscape still needs a few more “Bones” it is prime time for planting Spring flowering shrubs.
Early Spring shrubs like Hamamelis vernalis (Witch hazel), Pieris japonica & floribunda (Andromeda), Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape), Spiraea ‘Ogon’ and Forsythia are now giving way to mid spring and early summer bloomers.  The next wave of color will come from Kerria japonica, Prunus maritima (Beach Plum), Azaleas, Rhododendrons and Viburnums like V. x carlcephalum and V. carlesii .
The final days of spring are ushered out with Lilacs.  Syringa vulgaris, the common lilac has stunning flowers with unmatched fragrance.  But don’t discount the smaller-flowered varieties.  Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’ is an excellent landscape plant for Nantucket, resistant to powdery mildew and tolerant of more extreme conditions than others.

Spring Flowering Trees!

The nursery is filled with color as trees burst into flower. There is a wide variety to chose from, but the hues of pink and white predominate this time of year. Cherries, Crabapples, Ornamental Pears and Magnolias are in stock and ready for planting. Should you require a large tree for a special spot now is the time to shop!
Prunus x 'Snofozam' - Snofozam Weeping Cherry
Prunus x ‘Snofozam’ – Snofozam Weeping Cherry
Prunus 'Okame' Clump Form'
Prunus ‘Okame’ – Okame Clump-Form Cherry
Prunus x yedoensis
Prunus x yedoensis – Yoshino Cherry

Spring Flowering Shrubs

Spring on Nantucket has a way of being mostly grey.  Luckily, we have a wide selection of spring flowering trees and shrubs to brighten up the landscape.  With masses of yellow flowers, Forsythia x intermedia is hard to miss in full bloom.  As part of a hedgerow or boundary planting, it’s superb.  It provides color in spring, and great screening in summer due to a dense habit and pleasant green leaves.

If you need something a little smaller, Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’ might be just the ticket.  This three-season performer starts early.  It leafs out before many other shrubs in the landscape, and soon after it’s branches are covered in white flowers.  In summer its willowy, yellow-chartreuse foliage is the main attraction.

So, whether you fall back on an old standard or want to try something new, we have a plant in the yard to fit your space.  And if you don’t see what you want, we would be happy to order it for you!

Spring Digging Season

Malus ‘Donald Wyman’

Digging field grown trees and shrubs is done in the spring, before buds begin to break.  At this time, woody plants are the least susceptible to transplant shock; plants do not tolerate root disturbance at times of peak growth and during warmer weather.  Keep in mind that any trees that tend to bud out early, like crabapples, will have the most limited time-frame of availability.

The majority of our suppliers were affected by the massive amounts of snow that were dumped onto most of the country in February and early March.  For this reason, digging began a little later than in average years. However, the recent warm weather will likely bring the digging season to an early close.  Should you require specific varieties, or sizes for upcoming projects, please let us know as soon as possible.  Once digging has ended, selection is much more limited on large and specialty material.