Grow a Deer-resistant Mahonia Grove for Edible Berries

Adding a Mahonia grove to your garden keeps things pretty while warding off any hungry deer looking for a nibble

The Mahonia’s yellow flowers aren’t only pleasing to the eye, but to the nose as well

A Mahonia grove provides not only edible berries and bright-yellow flowers, it will also keep out deer looking to loot your garden

In my effort to grow a deer-resistant edible garden, I’ve added a small “orchard” of Mahonia × media, an umbrella-like shrub of jagged, glossy leaves grazers generally dismiss as unappetizing.

This perennial is highly supportive of other wildlife, however. Migrating hummingbirds gravitate to the fragrant, yellow, spiked flowers that add “sunshine” to the grey of the mostly dormant garden in the fall and winter; and a variety of birds feed on the striking blue-black berries in the early spring.

The berries are edible for humans, too, and I’ve snacked on them while digging in the garden. Tangy and somewhat seedy, when stewed slowly, they serve well as a homegrown replacement for cranberry sauce. Still, I don’t rush to use them, preferring to leave lots for our feathered friends who deserve a little help when the weather is rough.

One caution for those in deer country: foragers do like to nibble on the flowers, but with a little patience you will find that your Mahonia grove, generally reaching 4 to 5 metres (12 to 15 feet), will outgrow their reach.