Baby Bunnies!

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.

My herb and vegetable garden

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.

Momma rabbit nursing her baby bunnies

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!  

I don’t kill Orchids….

My 1st Orchid

My father was a Professor of Horticulture, but I have a black thumb. My family jokes about my keen ability to kill plants, flowers, and sometimes shrubs. It always ends the same way with me saying: “I just don’t know what happened.”

The innocent plant was fine one day, and then suddenly it wasn’t.

Plants are not really all that complicated. They require water, and a certain amount of sunlight. Somehow, I mange to screw this up, either by over watering, or by under watering, or by allowing too much sun, or too little. So maybe for me, it is not so simple after all. I have had moderate success with a few cactus. But any houseplant unlucky enough, to come and live with me, does not do so for long.

I believe that the quality I lack, and that most plant lovers possess, is patience. You cannot hurry nature. Nature moves at it’s own pace.

A friend of mine grows Orchids. For years I had been in awe of her amazing green thumb, and certain that these exquisite, delicate flowers, were surely beyond the limited nurturing capability of someone like me. Then, a coworker, (who obviously did not know me well), gave me an Orchid as a gift.

I panicked! I tried to give it away, but there were no takers. Then, I read the instructions. I was careful. I treated the flower like the fragile thing I believed it to be. I was diligent. Attentive. Patient.

And it bloomed! Even better it remained in bloom for weeks. I could not believe how simple it was to care for.  I gave it ice cubes, not water. I let it sit in a sunny window. Sometimes, I forgot the ice cubes. This was wintertime, so sometimes the sun stayed away for days. Still, it bloomed! Such a remarkable plant, I thought, that blooms at random times of the year.

And then, one day, this happened:

 

One at a time, the flowers went limp and fell to the floor. I had murdered the beautiful foliage, after all.

I was saddened, but did not have the heart to throw it away. This once living thing had brought me such joy! I let it sit in a corner, on the windowsill. I dropped an ice cube into the pot whenever the spirit moved me. I went on to kill other plants, like Poinsettias, and Easter Lily’s.

Several months later, something miraculous happened. It bloomed! I had brought it back to life…or at least nature had. My new discovery: Orchids go dormant, and then they have a blooming phase. This cycle continues as long as you take care of the plant.

Do not let anyone fool you, if I can grow Orchids, anyone can!

Here are some great resources should you decide to grow an Orchid of your own:

How to Care for Orchids

How to Trigger Reblooming of Your Orchid

Thanks for reading, and keep writing!