In search of story

August 14.21: Coping


Does one zinnia a summer make?

This is my one and only zinnia flower. The seedlings that lived with me in the kitchen months ago, transplanted into the garden where they would be the yippee colors of summer, were almost all destroyed by the rabbits. Except for a few which I triaged into pots and then transplanted yet again, desperate for them to make a showing.

The results:

And one flower.

I plant tomatoes to remember Grandpa Mauck, moss roses to remember Grandma O’Hern, and marigolds to remember Dad. Mom is in the whole garden. So, as all gardeners know, the garden is not just expensive, it’s personal. The rabbits tried to take it all from me, and right now on this planet every loss is part of a huge rolling snowball of loss — and helplessness.

If there’s anything I hate, it’s feeling helpless. Life demands at times that we resign ourselves to it, but I can get pretty mad about that. I have lived to wage war this summer. I have potted and repotted and have fought the good fight with Irish Spring soap, rubbing it on flowerpots and shaving it around plants. And I have installed rose canes, which do seem to have some persuasive powers.

I have ultimately saved a small garden corner where my one surviving clump of gaura now thrives, the rabbit-scorned geraniums blaze away, and, in sheer defiance, some marigolds and salvia, once tattered, bloom insanely. Several of those triaged potted things have made a brilliant, if root-bound, showing.

I salute Farmer McGregor, the Grand Pooh-Bah of Rabbit Rage. I aspire to his greatness.


19 thoughts on “August 14.21: Coping

  1. I debated hitting ‘like’ on this one, but I do like hearing from you even when it is about rabbit atrocities. As you know, I have a long term affinity for rabbits, as in those that are personal pets and live in a house of sorts and don’t roam my garden. 🙂 The deer ate two rings of hosta around large trees this year which they haven’t done in a while. The squirrels sit under my net covered blackberry bushes and help themselves to berries, but then just drop them all over the ground for me to clean up. Spring brings hope for a gardener and summer normally allows for outside work as you enjoy that garden. Critters take that away – not fair. 🙂 I have one thought for next year, because we gardeners are always planning for next year, right. I wonder about tall containers/raised areas. Large containers can be expensive but even a pot that is set on another pot to raise it off the ground maybe with a stake through the hole to keep it stable. The squirrels climb right up into my raised beds, but I can’t imagine that rabbits could do that until you have really big ones. I thought the rose bush branch was a great idea! Go, Maureen.

    • Thanks, Judy! I am grateful for any ideas! As you might have recognized, I got the idea to use Irish Spring from Jason at Garden In The City. My success with that has been spotty but worth continuing. I was encouraged to do more with pots by Susan Rushton’s photos on her blog. I’d been pondering how to raise some pots, and here comes your idea about a pot on a pot! Raised beds are not an option for me, but raised pots are. You are so right about how gardeners look to next season. We are ever a forward-looking bunch.

      You are also right about the difference between a gentle pet rabbit and the monsters of the wild, which are too much like those marauding deer and squirrels. So discouraging!

  2. A gardener isn’t worth her salt if she isn’t fighting Mother Nature! Besides, right now I feel that so much is out of my control that I have to take a stand in my little corner of life.

  3. Like Judy, I had a hard time pressing the like button, but you told this story so well, I had to. We have something visiting the garden at night. Plants are in large containers (well 5-gal buckets) and are pretty tall. Squirrels aren’t our at night. We think maybe an opossum is visiting. In any case, he or she is claiming the bounty of our harvest. Not sure how to fight, they can climb anything.

    • That is so discouraging! You sure have a ton of sympathy from me. I wish I had a helpful suggestion for you.

      • It’s too late in the season to invest in counter measures. We might give it some thought next year, but this year is a bust. We’ve always had bunnies, squirrels and chipmunks, but we’ve never had this kind of damage. The chipmunks would always nibble something, and last year they were nibbling more for moisture, but it wasn’t awful. One or two tomatoes. Something is taking the whole fruit and leaving with it.

  4. Wow. That’s a whole different ballgame (so to speak) than what you’ve had. I hope you can figure out what’s doing it so you can know what to do next year. When you’ve worked toward a harvest all summer and then lose it like that — well, that stinks.

  5. I feel your pain, Maureen. I’ve had to resort to unsightly chicken wire for the backyard vegetable garden and Liquid Fence spray for the front, but they still do damage. I cover what I can in the garden and leave the rest to fend for itself. Lack of predators has caused a terrible imbalance in nature.

    • Thanks, Tamara! I hope Liquid Fence works better for you than it has for me. Your observation about predators is right on, I think. For a while there were hawks, but not so much any more. That’s a real shame about the chicken wire; it does indeed ruin the beauty of any vegetable garden, which right now would be gorgeous. But it’s a good trade-off if you get the harvest. We should be going into the blessed season of back yard tomatoes, and they belong to the gardener!

  6. Who knew that zinnias were rabbits’ gourmet delight? Too bad after all that work, although the one you have left is glorious! Guess you have to be consoled with knowing that you gave pleasure and provided sustenance for those cute little cottontails.

    • I fear that everything this year is the rabbits’ gourmet delight! In the past, they didn’t eat zinnias or marigolds or half a dozen other things they eat now. I think they’ve evolved for suburbia. I will try to look at it your way! Thanks!

  7. Well, I’m no gardener but I was desperate to save an outdoor plant one Spring, that something loved more than I did. We were strapped for any expenditures, so I wrapped a recently worn denim jacket around the base. It worked! But then the bugs of summer came.. I and the plant lost the war!

  8. That’s bad news. We need many more zinnias to make a summer in these times. I planted half a packet at my house and the rest at Mum’s and I have yet to see a single zinnia. It seems slugs like them too. For rabbits a barrier is best – a giraffe sized one might work for you. We tend to have stone or brick walls or fences (woven ones are really nice), but then most of our gardens are small and more easily contained.

    • I like the thought of a giraffe-sized stone wall. I bet, though, these wretched rabbits would dig under it. You lost all your zinnias? How sad. This summer is all kerfuffled. You are absolutely right that we need more zinnias in these times.

  9. Not sure if you would be interested in our remedy but we have great success by sprinkling cayenne pepper on tomatoes. Just rinse before eating. And wash your hands too of course. Doesn’t harm any wildlife. Just helps them ‘walk away’. Cinnamon works as well. Think Cinnamon Challenge 😉

    • Alas, I have tried cayenne pepper and hot sauce and every variation thereof, and none of that has seemed to help. I haven’t tried cinnamon, though. Thanks!

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