Springwatch. Chez duck.


The bunnies are back. With a vengeance.

And this year they’ve brought in an army. It’s difficult to know where to turn right now, given that it’s impractical and unaffordable to fence the entire plot. Or even a part of it. I created the garden to blend seemlessly into the woodland after all. But I swear there were rabbits of Jurassic Park proportions grazing the lawn last night. No doubt a deliberate ploy to distract attention from their offspring as the babies simultaneously wreak havoc in the terraces. It’s just not playing fair.



Wire mesh cages proliferate almost as fast as the bunnies.

Mike has gone into full scale production mode and still can’t keep up. Even if he could it’s hardly aesthetically pleasing is it. But given the cost of plants, the time and effort spent nurturing them quite apart from any capital outlay, anything new to the garden starts life in a cage. At least until it has toughened up sufficiently to lose some of its tender-leaved appeal.

You’d think the combination of cold winter and subsequent dry weather would have taken its toll of the mollusc population. But no, not a bit of it. I’ve grasped the opportunity to scatter organic slug pellets liberally under the protection of the cages. Yet it seems even they are losing their effectiveness. Yesterday I found a Phlomis tuberosa ‘Amazone’ comprehensively nibbled with the surrounding little blue pellets left untouched. I shall have to dig up the phlomis and give it a spell in intensive care.




Chaenomeles NoID

It continues to be such a very odd Spring. After the delayed start we have plants blooming which would normally be long finished by now, such as the flowering quince above. It has led to some arresting combinations. The vibrant red azalea from a recent post reached its peak so late that it found itself competing with a tango orange neighbour. In a ‘normal’ season they’d have given us a couple of weeks at least betwixt and between. I remember saying when I moved the red one, a few years ago now, that if they ever bloomed together it would set my teeth on edge. I was right.

Camellia x williamsii 'ETR Carlyon'

Camellia x williamsii ‘ETR Carlyon’

This does tend to be a late variety in any event. But it’s nearly June for heavens’ sake..


Phlomis russeliana


Phlomis russeliana doesn’t seem troubled by anything

Light blue touch paper..


Athyrium otophorum var.okanum


Athyrium otophorum var. okanum

I have taken to picking up the camera for the early morning tour of inspection. I don’t know why I haven’t done it before. The quality of the light is so much better at that time of day. As is increasingly becoming the case it is the woodland where I find myself lingering. Most of the ferns have unwrapped themselves now but I caught this one still in the act. It was a fleeting moment. The following day the delicate tips with their tints of red had been replaced by fully mature fronds.


Acer palmatum dissectum 'Garnet'


Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Garnet’

Even more fleeting, one of the first rays of sunlight to penetrate the tree canopy falling on the leaves of the acer. By the time I’d shifted position for an alternative shot the light had moved and the fiery effect was gone.



In front of ‘Garnet’ the freckles of Digitalis ‘Camelot Cream’ echo the colour of the acer’s leaves, deep purple now at the other end of the day.


Earlier in the month we had the wild cam out again. I’d set it up intending to find out what was munching Acer ‘Garnet’. Yes, it was a rabbit. One of the branches hung to just within browsing range. Or at least, it did. But what we caught as well was far more interesting than a rabbit..


What do you reckon. Was it a worm? Or even a mouse?


The last couple of weeks have been mostly about weeding. I’ve been scrambling to meet a deadline, of which more anon, but while that may suck up a shed load of time it doesn’t provide the most scintillating of copy for a blog. All good stuff for Consolidation Year and great progress has been made. But even the most methodical of gardeners (who, where?) needs a little creative stimulation now and then.



The photo was taken from the level below the lawn. Close enough to the river to make a glance over the shoulder before stepping backward highly advisable. It’s also looking suspiciously like a new project is it not? And didn’t I say there wouldn’t be any of those this year? In my defence, it was Mike who started this one.

It’s more of a challenge than it looks. Aside from the chunks of trunk left over from the 40 foot beech trees which previously resided here, casually cast over the edge by the tree surgeons, there are self seeded saplings and Lonicera nitida run amok. It won’t be long before they grow tall enough to restrict the view of the river we worked so hard to gain. My plan is to put ornamental grasses in here, the sort that will readily self seed and rapidly colonise the slope but which won’t grow too tall with little in the way of maintenance required. The slope is steep. Perhaps one of the steepest yet. But first it needs to be cleared.

We were doing so well. And then we heard them. High pitched chirps of alarm coming from somewhere deep within the undergrowth. As I watched an adult Marsh (or Willow) Tit emerged from the shrubbery and another entered with food in its beak. The two types of tit are difficult to tell apart but both are on the conservation red list.



Marsh Tit. I think.

So there you go mate. Food, shelter and a protected nest site. I’ll just go back to the weeding then shall I?


Linking to Sarah’s Through The Garden Gate (here) and Helen’s End of Month View (here) where colour is bursting out all over!


2018-05-31T19:29:48+00:00May 30th, 2018|Tags: , , , |


  1. FlowerAlley May 30, 2018 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    We are having a strange spring in NC also. I agree that morning light is lovely. Good luck with all those critters.

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 6:27 pm - Reply

      The climate seems to be pretty messed up all over. But what I have noticed already is that the harder, more ‘normal’ winter that we had this year does seem to have had a positive impact on the plants. Everything seems to be booming at the moment. The roses are covered in buds. Perhaps they all need that period of dormancy they haven’t had in recent years when autumn has lasted so long and spring has come early?

  2. peakwalker May 30, 2018 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Rabbits or no rabbits you have a wonderful section of plants, that as i start on my garden (again) I can only envy

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 6:30 pm - Reply

      Thanks. The rabbits will no doubt help me to ‘edit’ the collection into those that really can survive the conditions!

  3. Christina May 30, 2018 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    Oh! No! Not more rabbits. Could you try the Bob Flowerdew method and plant something even more rabbit delicious a little way from your prize plants as way of a distraction?

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 6:33 pm - Reply

      There are so many of them and they seem to be everywhere! I’m flushing them out all the time as I walk around the garden. But encouragingly there are signs that they are trying many things and finding them not to their liking.. plants with a couple of stems broken and then left behind. My hope is they won’t come back to these and they will be allowed to grow back.

  4. Backlane Notebook May 30, 2018 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    My deepest sympathies. How profoundly frustrating the rabbits must be and after so much hard work by you both.

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 6:38 pm - Reply

      It is very frustrating. Given that we can’t keep them out I shall just have to wait and discover which plants survive reliably and grow more of those in the future. As I’m already trying to shift the design towards drifts (more plants of fewer species) the rabbit (and deer!) resistant ones will feature more. All part of the constant tweaking and editing I suppose. And proof that a garden will never be ‘done’.

  5. Pauline May 30, 2018 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    I too photograph when first up, usually at 5.30am these days when the birds are singing so loudly. I think rabbits also read the price tag on new plants. We had a problem with them quite some time ago, but eventually neighbours cats got rid of them for us and they haven’t been back thank goodness. Your new project looks a lot of hard work!

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 6:41 pm - Reply

      I’m quite sure you’re right about rabbits reading the price tag. Slugs, deer and mice can pull off the same trick too!

  6. Peter May 30, 2018 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    So sorry about the hungry rabbits! The owl visitor is very exciting. Now if you could just convince the owl to eat some bunnies…

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 6:44 pm - Reply

      Yes indeed. I bet it would take some of the tiny baby bunnies if it could find them. There do seem to be a few owls around here. The mouse population offers rich pickings on its own.

  7. Kris P May 30, 2018 at 8:00 pm - Reply

    Spring looks lovely at Chez Duck despite the challenges! Good for you to delay work on clearing the slope for the benefit of the nesting birds. Seriously, though, with your expertise in working on slopes, you’re welcome to visit here any time! As to the bunnies, I can now empathize far more personally with the problem. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have 7 years to work in my garden without bunnies. And why the legion of coyotes virtually everyone on my entire peninsula is complaining of haven’t remedied the problem in another question. Wire cages are proliferating here too.

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 6:49 pm - Reply

      We had about 4 years free of rabbits. Then there was one. The following year two. The outcome was inevitable. The thing that upsets me most (so far) is that they’ve started munching holes in the lonicera hedge which finishes off the edge of the lawn. Just as it had started to fill in nicely. A chicken wire fence is under construction.

  8. snowbird May 30, 2018 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    Wow! Loved the video of the owl, a mouse surely??? Oh….shame you have so many rabbits devouring things, that’s one thing I don’t have, touching wood! A shame worked stopped on the slop for the birds, but they are lovely, I would have been rather relieved to be honest, that slope would defeat me! Lovely blooms, loved the shot of the cottage too, so beautiful.xxx

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 6:53 pm - Reply

      That will be the advantage of having your own tame peahen.. nothing else will venture anywhere near you!

  9. janesmudgeegarden May 30, 2018 at 9:23 pm - Reply

    Such a lot of beautiful green around your house- more than you want, it would seem- and it looks like a beautiful spot. Lovely to see it as I’m a new follower. Shame about the rabbits: I didn’t realise they were such a problem in the UK still. Tremendous luck getting a video of an owl.

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 6:58 pm - Reply

      Yes, they’re a real problem in some places. To be honest I don’t know how we got away with it for so long, there are quite a few burrows in the woods. I’m back to taking everything in a pot into the greenhouse at night, I’d rather hoped that job was over for the summer!

  10. Vera Coe May 30, 2018 at 10:10 pm - Reply

    A lovely photo of your house which gives an entirely different perspective to it. Shame about the rabbits, though. Nice to eat. Will not say any more on that subject! As always, I am in admiration for the way in which you know all the posh names of the plants. Me! I have a difficulty remembering the ordinary names let alone the botanical ones!

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 7:03 pm - Reply

      I keep all the plant name tags. Otherwise I’d have no way of remembering! The difficult ones are those which were here in the garden already. Some are relatively easy to identify. Things like rhododendrons and roses where there are hundreds of different cultivars I’ve given up trying!

  11. Susan Garrett May 30, 2018 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    Lovely photo of the willow/marsh tit. Wildlife has it’s stars as well as villains doesn’t it?

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 7:04 pm - Reply

      It certainly does. There are enough welcome visitors to keep us happy.

  12. Caro May 31, 2018 at 12:08 am - Reply

    Urban foxes tend to keep rabbits away from my veg patch but then when they’re not frolicking among the veg, cats are patrolling. And, yes, to organic slug pellets … I’ve not indulged before now but spring was so late this year that I’ve relented. Ah, just checked, peas have been decimated but mange tout still standing, grrrr. Can I ask which camera you use? Your photos are really detailed. I use a Canon but need a better zoom!

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      All but one of these photos was taken with my bridge camera, a Nikon Coolpix B700. The shot of the house Mike took using his Nikon DSLR. That camera is much better for landscapes, the sensor is bigger so the resultant photo has more detail and is sharper. The bridge camera scores when a long zoom is needed and for macro shots. Plus I just like having one thing to carry around which gives me as wide a range as possible.

      • Caro June 7, 2018 at 2:02 pm - Reply

        Thanks, Jessica. I’ve been looking for a while now and get totally bamboozled by the subtle differences between smaller cameras. I’ve used a DSLR for years but need one camera that I can take out with me, is light to carry around, takes good pics and is intuitive to use. Preferably with 4K video, a touch screen, a viewfinder, a decent zoom length and good macro shots – not asking for much! I’ll check the Nikon Coolpix out. Cheers!

        • Jessica June 8, 2018 at 12:30 pm - Reply

          I think the Nikon bridge ticks all of those boxes, except the touch screen!

  13. germac4 May 31, 2018 at 12:42 am - Reply

    Lovely photos, I agree about the morning light in the garden….the absolute best time. I do feel for you trying to keep the rabbits at bay, so disheartening to see plants being eaten to the ground….however, your white thatched cottage looks splendid up against all your garden greenery……enjoy your coming summer.

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 7:17 pm - Reply

      Thanks Gerrie. If last year is anything to go by the rabbit problem is worse in spring. As the plants grow they presumably either move out of reach or the leaves get tougher, but the damage does seem to be a bit less. And at least our investment in chicken wire will stand us in good stead for next year!

  14. vonniet May 31, 2018 at 2:14 am - Reply

    Beautiful pics

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 7:17 pm - Reply

      Thank you and welcome!

  15. Ali May 31, 2018 at 7:22 am - Reply

    I can feel your frustration re: rabbits. But you have taken some stunning photos! The maple is incredible! A morning walk around the garden is my favourite way to start the day.

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 7:24 pm - Reply

      Thanks Ali. A morning walk is a great way to start the day. Albeit heart in mouth these days, wondering what I’m going to find. But the good usually balances out the bad.

  16. wherefivevalleysmeet May 31, 2018 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Oh dear! your camera was just sort of the complete picture of the owl – was there a body there, and that was the tail? I am coming down on the side of a worm though.
    Your Chaenomeles is a brilliant shade of orange, and how lovely it is now for us to have all of our flowers in bloom once again.
    One thing that we do not have is rabbits – our oolithic soil is very stoney and they cannot build burrows, so luckily they stay away from here.

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 7:31 pm - Reply

      Yes, if only the owl had been standing just a little farther back, or facing more toward the camera! But that’s the pot luck of the field cam. I just aimed it into a little clearing where I thought an animal might walk and hoped for the best! I also hoped that, having successfully found dinner, the owl might return on subsequent nights so we set the camera up again. Sadly, no such luck.

  17. Debbie Wilson May 31, 2018 at 10:36 am - Reply

    My advice would be Get a Cat! We’ve taken down all our rabbit-proofing now (there was a lot – we have 6 acres next to a wood and farmland). We barely need to feed the animal at this time of year she’s so busy catching baby rabbits. The marsh tits might move farther away though.
    My problem is next doors sheep getting into my bog garden. Hey ho.

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 7:40 pm - Reply

      Hi Debbie and welcome!
      Yes, we’ve experienced the sheep invasion too. They eat even more than the rabbits! And the hooves in the flower beds, dreadful. I’ve often thought about a cat. For various reasons, even though I know it would help, it’s not really possible at the moment. I must admit though the bringing of dead birds into the house does put me off a bit.

  18. thisthat317705636 May 31, 2018 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    Love your blog and your garden.

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 7:41 pm - Reply

      You’re very kind, thank you. And welcome.

  19. Linda from Each Little World May 31, 2018 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    The most successful things in my garden are my lovely display of cages. Can’t look anywhere without your view taking in a group of them. As Lisa from Greenbow just commented to me: Have chicken wire, will garden. Alas, that has become our motto, hasn’t it. I am now seeing squirrels jumping off the fence into large plant clumps and flattening the centers. We create these gardens that are dream homes for critters and yet it is always a surprise when they show up and take advantage of all we’ve put out for them.

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 7:50 pm - Reply

      Something, probably a rabbit, has dug a hole in the top terrace today and undermined a clump of irises. It’s the stuff, like your squirrels, that we can’t predict and protect against which is so demoralising. The bunnies started coming through the hedge around the lawn using a small gap that hadn’t yet completely filled in. We plugged it with chicken wire so what did they do? Chew their way through, making a new hole somewhere else. The chicken wire is going to have to extend all the way around the lawn.

  20. offtheedgegardening May 31, 2018 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    *sigh* bloody rabbits, it is heart breaking, they are so destructive. Hope that things improve soon. Have you got a cat? A big old farm cat would see off a few at least. Or perhaps a leopard would be better. Beautiful photos, as always. x

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 7:55 pm - Reply

      A leopard would be better. I could go all glam and ponce around North Devon with the leopard on a lead? OK. Maybe not.

  21. Diana Studer May 31, 2018 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    Your flowering quince is a lovely rich salmon, mine was more of a fierce coral.

    • Jessica June 1, 2018 at 7:57 pm - Reply

      The light is deceptive, I would say this one is a fierce coral as well. It’s pretty though.

  22. ginaferrari June 2, 2018 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    Gosh, I feel your frustration with the rabbits. I have an ongoing problem with pigeons. I thought it was slugs decimating my vegetables but no, it’s pigeons. Despite the rabbits your garden always looks full of beautiful plants.

    • Jessica June 3, 2018 at 7:30 pm - Reply

      If it’s not one thing it’s another. I do sometimes wonder how anyone can grow anything at all! My sympathies.

  23. Denise June 3, 2018 at 8:02 am - Reply

    Just been catching up on your blog, Jess, and His Lordship Malarkey was looking over my shoulder. ‘Is that Jess’s house?’ he said. ‘It is,’ said I. There was a pause. ‘It’s offensively nice,’ said he.

    A compliment to you, then, from His Lordship!

    • Jessica June 3, 2018 at 7:33 pm - Reply

      Why thank you Ma’am, and to His Lordship as well. I just need one buyer to agree with you a few years down the line!

  24. Sam June 4, 2018 at 10:45 am - Reply

    Gardeners have to be such optimistic and resilient creatures, don’t they?! You have rabbits, I have pigeons, magpies (who I’ve caught eating the strawberries) and molluscs. Beautiful photos, Jessica – your garden is looking wonderful. And how lovely to have marsh tits nesting (even if it has thwarted your plans).

    • Jessica June 5, 2018 at 6:59 am - Reply

      The marsh tits are so cute, we are lucky to have them. But I couldn’t destroy a nest even for a bird that was not endangered. We certainly do have to be optimistic and resilient. The bunnies are almost impossible to deal with because I can’t keep them out. I am going round noting the plants they don’t like to eat, it looks like my range could be even more restricted from now on.

  25. Cathy June 9, 2018 at 7:20 am - Reply

    Pleased I managed to catch up, albeit belatedly

    • Jessica June 9, 2018 at 10:22 am - Reply

      Thanks Cathy, especially as I know how busy you must be. Keep going, the garden will do you proud.

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