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'Plants that deer don't like to eat'

Deer-Leerious concept makes headway in US garden centers

"It's about selling a solution to a problem, not necessarily about selling a plant", says Ed Kiley, General Manager of The Perennial Farm, when talking about the Deer-Leerious concept. This Maryland grower introduced the concept in 2015 at the MANTS and the interest in it continues to grow. In its first year, 100 garden centers, from Maine to North Carolina out to Ohio, embraced the concept and this year, the second year, the number of garden centers increased to 150. Next year, Kiley even expects it to be embraced by 200 to 250 garden centers.

Mark Haver at the Cultivate'17.

Deer resistant varieties
This innovative concept is the 'brainchild' of the folks at The Perennial Farm. It introduces plants and informational signage that are useful for those consumers where deer present a problem in their gardens. "Deer are a big problem in many areas in the US and the lists with deer resistant plant varieties that are provided by the garden centers are often confusing and we even discovered that they seem to be highly inaccurate. For this reason, we decided to find a much easier solution and more accurate solutions to this age old problem", says Ed Kiley.

Over the course of 6 months they talked with dozens of landscapers, mapped our own experiences, and refined a grouping of plants and their characteristics which became the nucleus for our Deer-Leerious Plants Program. Every year, they review their list and add and remove plants from this list. "We are now looking for stories for the consumers; what are the experiences with our plants, how can we improve the concept, the plants in the concept, and so on."

The concept currently consists of approximately 350 deer resistant varieties that are first distinguished by Sun or Shade with yellow and green tag backgrounds. These are further divided into three categories from highest deer resistance to high deer resistance to medium high deer resistance. Additionally, every pot is a distinctive lime green color and has a color Deer-Leerious plant tag attached to the side of the pot showing a picture of the plant along with plant care instructions.

Click here to view the video in which Allen Armitage introduces the Deer-Leerious concept.

Its key to really embrace the concept
The concept has been embraced by 100 garden centers in 2016 and 150 garden centers in 2017 and the overall reactions are very positive. However, Kiley points out that the ones that are doing the best are the ones that really embrace the concept. "They clearly display the concept in the garden center and train their staff how to support and assist the consumer. Only then, when implemented properly, the garden centers can enjoy the benefits."

Expanding production area
All the plants in the Deer-Leerious concept are being grown by the Perennial Farm and partly due to the increase in popularity of the concept, they are expanding the farm. "Even though we can turn plants three times a year on the same property, we need to expand the farm." They are currently adding 8 acres to their 60 acre farm. "We expand according to the needs, and as we expect over 50 new garden centers to embrace the Deer-Leerious concept next year, more plants need to be produced."

Next concept is for pollinators
The Perennial Plant Farm is ready for a new concept; a concept that includes pollinator friendly varieties. They already started to launch it, but they will give more information during the MANTS that will be held in January 2018.

For more information
The Perennial Farm
Ed Kiley
Email: [email protected]