Are they heavenly creatures or a serious gardener’s worst nightmare? It depends on your perspective.
As a professor of horticulture, my dad was an avid gardener. He passed away ten years ago, but throughout his lifetime he shared his passion for gardening with my five siblings and me. We all love gardening although some of us are more dedicated than others.
Shortly before retirement, my parents built their dream home in a wooded area not far from the University of Rhode Island where dad was teaching.
It’s not easy making a garden thrive when you are surrounded by the woods and all manner of forest dwelling creatures. I recall dad’s constant battle with nature, in particular with deer, ground hogs, rabbits, fox and even chipmunks. I never understood moving to the natural habitat of wild animals and then spending all of your time trying to keep them at bay.
Dad spent countless hours building wire fences around his garden and his cherished plants to keep the deer away. Deer are incredible jumpers so the vegetable garden fence had to be really high and had an added component of an electric zapper along the top. Dad had a relocation program for the chipmunks which involved have a hart traps. I am not sure why the chipmunks were spared because I don’t believe some of the other varmints fared nearly as well. I try not to dwell on it. Let’s just say that he valued plants above animals, as many committed gardeners do.
I enjoy gardening but my level of commitment is wavering. I grow flowers because I like to cut flowers and put them in vases. I grow herbs because fresh herbs enhance the flavor of the meals that I make. In my youth, my dad was trying to feed a family of eight with his vegetable garden. By comparison I am a pampered gardener.
We moved to a new home in the middle of the pandemic and the gardens were badly in need of attention. Having this task saved me from falling prey to a bout of depression for all of those months when we were holed up at home.
I inherited this raised bed which I turned into a kitchen garden and filled with herbs and a few vegetables.
As my father had taught me, sometimes you have to move plants and shrubs around if they are not thriving in their current location. I moved lilacs and peonies, shrubs, and hydrangea bushes. I revived soil and installed a new perennial bed. I cut things back, ripped things out, pruned and fertilized. I released all of my COVID angst and created something beautiful.
The birds were thrilled. Birds and gardeners have a symbiotic relationship. We dig up worms for them and they grace us with their beauty and song. The butterflies and the bees were overjoyed. I even had a few rabbits who hopped through the yard at dusk and dawn.
When we came back from vacation in June we made a remarkable discovery — burrowed under the thyme in my raised bed was a nest of baby bunnies; four tiny balls of fluff.
When I told my siblings about the bunnies, my brother’s wife said, “oh, no!” She’s an ardent gardener. One of my sisters said that her cats just love baby bunnies! Yikes! None of them thought this was particularly good development, but my teenage daughter was completely enchanted.
For several weeks we watched the babies grow and hop around, at first in the herb and vegetable garden, and then once they discovered they could hop over garden walls, all around the yard. During the day they frolicked and played. I was amazed at how independent baby bunnies are and by the fierce instincts which helped them escape all of the neighborhood cats, including a close encounter with Licorice.
Each day, in the early morning and late evening, the mother rabbit would return to nurse them. My apologies for the poor video quality but if I were closer she would have startled.
Eventually, the survivors moved on and I got my garden back. But I have to say that for a brief period of time I did not mind sharing my garden with a family of rabbits. It was nice that they felt safe enough to build their home in our small backyard.
So it seems despite my efforts that I am not a serious gardener, but I am as it turns out a resolute nature lover.
Happy Saturday all!