b hole twoWell, look at this. For ten years the fence has protected the garden, with the occasional bunny break-ins where the chicken wire let go or rusted through. Then last week after a short absence, I walked out to enjoy communion with nature and found this. Aaaaaah! The woodchuck! I heard a rustling in the squash bed and saw him – one of this year’s babies, maybe half size but clearly prodigious in digging. We had the chicken wire six inches deep, thinking of bunnies. Clearly not enough for a woodchuck. When he saw me he ran up and back along the fence in panic, till he finally found the place where he could dive under and out the other side. So – he had both a tunnel and an underpass. I don’t know if he came in that way and dug the tunnel to get out, or tunneled in and dug the underpass to get out.

b damageIn the two days when I wasn’t looking he had removed an impressive amount of dirt. My yard has good soil where I’ve enriched it, but a few inches down, and under the raised beds, it’s all sand. Which was now piled on top of my pathway and strewn heedlessly about. The other damage was to my squash plants, the biggest leaves in the garden. This guy put the hog in groundhog. I put some repellent in the hole and filled it back in, but he dug it right out again the next day. I wasn’t expecting this level of industry from the local furry brigands. I am currently trying a variety of repellents, both on the plants and around the tunnel. Will let you know what, if anything, works.

b gladiol and r sageI am, though, getting a lot better at understanding what I can plant outside the garden, where woodchucks, deer, and rabbits maraud daily. They don’t eat gladiolus or Russian sage. They don’t eat culinary sage or any of my other herbs – mint, basil, oregano, marjoram, or lavender. The garlic chives will impede – but not totally prevent – their wading through to munch on the phlox.

b veronica and ceratostigmaThey don’t eat Veronica or ceratostigma, two useful groundcovers. Veronica has the nice purple flowers; ceratostigma is really useful for covering the wilting leaves of spent daffodils. It will have a blue flower later in the summer, and red leaves in the fall.

b nigellaThey shun the nigella, which self-seeds itself every year, even in pots. Nigella is also known as love-in-a-mist. In the upper lefthand area you can see its seed pods developing – as they dry they make great Halloween decorations.

One of my better anti-critter landscaping feats is this shade garden: andromeda (pieris), coral bells (heuchera), sweet woodruff, lamium, bleeding heart, wild ginger, and goatsbeard play well with each other while not feeding the fauna. Sometimes the astilbe prospers, and sometimes critters much on it.

b shade deerproffContrary to what I’ve been told, something out there does eat rudbeckias and shasta daisies. This sadly impacts my ability to cut them off myself and carry them into the house for vases. Nature, however, provides a pretty good substitute in the ox-eyed daisies that self-sow vigorously every year. A weed, so called by those with a pejorative bent; invasive, a foreigner, and therefore unknown to the menu choices of northamerican deer, rabbits, and marmots of all kinds. Smaller than shastas, but profuse. Persevering. I’ve written a poem about them (first published in Potomac Review).

b oxeye daisyOx-Eyed Daisy

A simple ring of white petals
point inward, a map, a chart,
a drawing of a flower,
schematic and clear to
the pollinating world,
an icon of sunlight, its
whole agenda is to make
new things grow from
its golden heart, the center
where desire is not a place for
souls to vanish but a place
to start building the next bright
petalled, swirling thing.


b tomatoesIt’s lucky the weather has been beautiful, because the news has been so disheartening. I have great need of the garden, to recharge my ability to deal with my fellow humans. Pure summer has arrived, blue skied, clear, and breezy, so I stepped away from websites and media feeds, took my kneeling pad, my weeder, and my tubtrug and went out to the garden. Hello tomatoes. Let me help you out by getting these iniquitous weeds out from under your feet.

b globeIt was satisfying. I liberated the tomatoes and went on to the cosmos and zinnias. You can never have too many flowers, so when the available raised beds were full I found  a place for more: a circle of zinnia seeds around my garden globe. In my garden I can grow what I want, where I want, in as many raised beds as I like, or in low dirt where I think that’s a better idea, No one argues with me about it. Other people grow other things, but gardeners don’t go around forcing their beans and watermelon seeds on those with other plans.

b deck stepsI added a row of pots down the deck steps – more flowers, and then some chocolate mint. Mint grows fast and will take over the world if not confined to pots. Someone once argued with me that mint couldn’t possibly taste like chocolate, because they didn’t believe chocolate came from a plant. They became very invested in this position, causing a force field to rise around their ears, blocking facts. I like to think this happens more outside of gardens than in them, but our first recorded instance of it was in a garden, long ago.

b robinbathOnce I had the pots on the deck I continued around the house to the front yard, where I checked the water in the birdbath. There was water. There was also a bird. Robins are my totem bird, of course, so when they hang out around my house it feels like a kind word from the cosmos, and makes me happy.

b pathI fill the birdbath from a hose at the end of the house. I’ve been wanting a nice clear path to it, so I cut up some cardboard boxes, laid them out across the grass, layered mulch over them, and lined up stepping stones on top. When I turn on the water, my thumb on the end of the hose sends a strong enough spray to the birdbath to clean out any fallen leaves, dirt, stray feathers, whatever muck the has been left behind. A slight change of pressure makes the spray gentler, filling the birdbath up again, clean, sparkling, ready for the future. It takes the right effort in the right place, repeated often, to keep the situation from getting out of hand.