Over my 16 years as a Master Gardener Volunteer, I've given quite a few presentations to groups. They usually have a topic in mind. The most unusual request was for a presentation on deer-resistant butterfly gardening. Many of the group members lived in areas that encroached on wildlife habitats, so it seemed a reasonable subject to pursue.
There is good news for all those would be butterfly gardeners living where deer are at play. Many prairie wildflowers are deer-resistant butterfly magnets. The garden must feature carefully chosen perennials but will be delightful. Because insects prefer the ultraviolet end of the spectrum, colors are vibrant but can be toned down for our human eyes by the addition of blue and purple.
Orange butterfly weed, yellow tickseed, goldenrod, and gloriosa daisies blend perfectly with bright blanket flowers. Cool them down with an edging of catmint or lavender. Add blue asters and hyssop among the bright yellow and orange flowers. The achilleas, coming in a wide range of colors, sizes and forms, may be added to the mix. Purple coneflowers and liatris are also excellent additions if you don't find the magenta too jarring a contrast. The online catalog of High Country Gardens is an excellent research resource for this project.
As with all butterfly gardens, your site must have some shelter from the wind, be insecticide free, and get sun most of the day. These plants would be perfect planted in a drift along the sunny side of a fence or hedge.
Butterflies like a shallow "mud" puddle with a stone or other resting place on which to perch while drinking. To make your mud puddle, put a layer of sand at the bottom of a shallow bowl and fill it with manure tea. Any type of herbivore or bird manure will work. Just place a small amount of it in a jar of water and let it brew for a day.
If they are hungry enough, deer will eat most any plant or part thereof. They dislike rough foliage, dry flowers, plants that taste really bad and toxic plants. Last September, I was horrified to find my little churchyard display garden nibbled to the nub by Bambi and his mother.
But they didn't touch tall tasty roses, toxic belladonna or iris. They yanked out the iris but didn't eat them because they're too tough!
Master gardener Ann Bartlett never lets lack of familiarity with a plant stop her from trying it in the ornamental gardens around her home. Illustrations are by her daughter, Roxanne.