Dear Grumpy,

I have a black, yes not green, but black thumb...however, I desperately need to plant something in a flower bed about 2' x 4' in the front of our house. It receives late afternoon and evening sun. We have some deer that dare to come in the back yard but have not yet come to the front, so I don't know that they are a threat.

Due to some windows right behind the bed, I don't want anything real tall. What could I plant this fall and for the winter? What might I plant that will stay despite the season (such as evergreens)? What flowers would you recommend I plant in the spring?

Thank you for your suggestions.


Martinsville, VA

Dear Laura,

Even with his extraordinary talents, the Grump has trouble picking out the perfect plants for you, as he cannot see the bed in question. However, as deer will inevitably enter the picture, he will start by recommending an evergreen shrub that deer don't like. It's called glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora). It bears small pink or white flowers attractive to butterflies almost continuously from spring through fall. Choose a compact selection, such as 'Confetti' (1 to 2 feet tall), 'Little Richard' (2 to 3 feet tall), or 'Rose Creek' (3 to 4 feet tall). Many nurseries in your area should have them.

As far as perennial flowers go, try Lenten rose, coneflowers, lamb's ears, Shasta daisy, and yarrow. Annuals you can plant next spring are begonias, ageratum, salvia, and periwinkle. And if you want to feed the deer this winter and thereby ensure they'll have many more babies, plant lots of pansies and violas this fall.