Remember when you were a kid, eavesdropping on a party your parents gave, hoping to find out what cool and secret things adults talked about when alone together, but it turned out the talk was all about mortgages, retirement funds, and taxes? You rolled your eyes, snuck off with some cheese cubes, and resolved never to turn out that way? And only yesterday you were talking with a coworker about investing some money into your IRA before the April 15th deadline?
Well, that has happened to me vis a vis wildlife damage in the garden. I always kind of rolled my eyes when people complained about deer damage or otherwise tried to deter hungry wildlife, which is a battle you can't win. Just give up and go with the flow, I thought. Heck, I have lived next to a park and nature area for nearly six years. My house had lawn up to all four sides when I bought it and now it's very garden-y (I've been meaning to post before and after photos, and I'm still meaning to!). I've spent a lot of time, money, and mostly sweat equity creating a tranquil garden space. I feed birds. And squirrels. And ducks, chipmunks, and groundhogs, who eat the fallen seed, on a daily basis. Of course there are all sorts of butterflies and beneficial insects around, too. In the spring, American toads have sung in chorus in the area right behind my property, and I often see a rabbit. On very rare occasions, I've seen deer, an opossum, and a painted turtle. I used to see garter snakes the first year I lived here, but not since. In other words, the joy of seeing wildlife always made up for the few lost or damaged plants. Yes, I'd always had a very Zen attitude about it all, feeling quite in balance with the whole cycle.
Two years ago, the groundhog(s) began breaking the balance. As reported earlier, s/he ate ALL of my zinnia and all of my morning glories. This year, s/he nibbled almost all of my tulips. (I know it was the groundhog because the trail of top-shorn foliage leads to a hole s/he started under my front porch. Though I concede the crocus may have been a rabbit's handiwork.) When one is oh-so-ready for spring, one likes to see bright flower bulbs. One does not like to see nibbled leaves and carcass stalks strewn about. (Although it does explain why I always feel I plant a ton more bulbs than ever bloom or come back the next year. If the foliage is nibbled off, the energy can't go back into the bulbs!)
So, yes, I was annoyed yesterday, on a warm sunny day as I was inspecting my garden for spring growth. But I was talking myself back into Zen, admittedly slowly and painstakingly, when I came upon a nibbled up Heuchera. Straw, camel's back, anyone? That was just not on! Nobody messes with my coral bells! Tansy? OK, it needs to be cut back anyway! Geranium? Fine! I only have it because I got it in a plant swap and I'm not fussy! Ornamental grasses, Centaurea, daises, lavender, salvia, thyme, great! I have a lot of those! If you're really hungry, I understand. Lettuce and other veggies? Fine! I can always buy more at the store and I know you can't. And I was even willing to look the other way over the nibbled hollyhock leaf, even though that's one of my favorite plants and its tough fuzzy leaves can't possibly taste very good!
"But no one touches my freakin' coral bells and gets away with it!," I yelled out ineffectually to no one in particular with my fist clenched and waving in the air. They're cute! I actually like all the new cultivars! And I got this one in Cleveland last May at a garden writers meeting! It's special! They're all special! And they're all mine, not yours! Frankly, I couldn't have had a better tantrum, complete with full emotional appeal, if I were a toddler in a grocery store!
I don't think the groundhog heard me.
Detroit Free Press writer Marty Hair had a timely column on how to protect tender bulb foliage. I have tried the sprays around the lattice at the bottom of my porch and it worked for a day or two. I also put down chicken wire and the branches of pruned barberry (prickly!). It didn't work much. Now I've tied old CDs, which I've read frighten birds, but I suspect the groundhog will simply admire its reflection before getting on with lunch. Admittedly, I hadn't tried the pepper spray directly on the tulips, but I will.
And my cats are no help whatsoever. Hell, they both sit calmly on the deck within two feet of a squirrel, all three looking like they're having a tea party. Now don't get me wrong. I don't really want my cats to harm another living creature, but I think they should at least try to frighten the groundhog off by getting all poofy, hissing, and otherwise posturing! But, no. That would ruin their sun bathing!
Man, I miss my Zen. Until it's restored, does anyone have any proven, non-toxic solutions for scaring off groundhogs?
On a more positive note, I did find the cute, cute foliage of baby Sedum hding under last year's stalks (yes, I really need to clean up the garden):
And a brave squirrel with a cute pale underside conceded to pose, close-up, for me, while eating nothing but sunflower seeds. Awwww!
Squirrly says "Happy birthday, Peter!"