Well, 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.
In 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.
I 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.
They 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.
They 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.
Contrary 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).
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.