Mr McGregor Lives On

Picture the scene if you will. The Gardener is attempting to fix yet another hole in an irrigation pipe nibbled by the mice. And as we know, any operation in the flower borders at this time of year is a balancing act. Literally. Just where do you put your feet? The resultant bodily contortions are never comfortable and more likely than not ungainly in the extreme. To make matters worse, for some reason known only to the Assistant Gardener a.k.a. Mike, the watering system could not be turned off while the repair was in progress. Ergo, The Gardener is going to get wet. Three times as it happens. First from the fountain of water spewing forth from the perforation. Then there’s the torrent occasioned by a snip through the tubing with the secateurs to prune out the chewed up section. And ultimately, saving the best till last, the sheets of water under pressure, cast in every direction, as the drip nozzle must be rammed back against the flow still gushing from the end of the severed pipe.

Was that all? Of course not. In order to grapple with her latest critter precipitated irrigation woes The Gardener is bent forward, head buried deep within the shrubbery. A further struggle against the forces of gravity involving muscles she never knew she had. And then, with barely a moment to register the sound of something crashing through the foliage a blur of grey fur streaks past the base of the phormium and without so much as a polite pause, even less an “Excuse Me”, the rabbit hurtles straight through the gap between The Gardener’s bare legs. And then what? THEN what? A millisecond later would you believe it, the same thing bloomin’ well happens again. A stoat. In hot pursuit of the rabbit. I need danger money to do this job. I tell you, I really do.

 
 
 

 

On the basis that fencing the plot isn’t even remotely practical we are having to learn how to live alongside our latest uninvited guests. As the plants continue to grow the chicken wire cages become marginally less offensive to the eye. And at least they seem to work. The jury is out on rabbit repellent sprays.  I am up to double strength which may be having some limited effect but at that rate of application a £9-for-a-small-bottle disappears alarmingly fast. Squirrel and mollusc spray repellents have been pretty much useless here so I didn’t hold out much hope in the first place to be honest.

And so I continue to pore over the lists of plants that bunnies should find less appealing to eat. Agapanthus, penstemon, sedums and veronica are so far holding up well. Along with the obviously poisonous and irritant species such as foxgloves and euphorbia. Roses, astrantia and every one of my much loved ornamental grasses are to rabbits as bulbs (and irrigation pipes) are to mice.

 
 
 

 

Why do they have to be so destructive? And so darn cute.

 
 

 

The hedge at the bottom of the lawn has taken two years to mature and in early Spring looked as though it was finally filling in. But the long view disguises a problem.

 
 

 

The bunny burrow is on the far side of the hedge. Their favourite evening hangout, the lawn, on the near side. In constantly pushing through from one to the other they’ve turned my hedge into a veritable Swiss cheese.

Enter the Assistant Gardener. Because ground rules need to be established and enforced.

 
 

 

Ha. Remember the chicken wire that came off the roof?

 
 

 

In the steamy heat of the propagator, 40 new cuttings. Hedge infill in the making.

 
 

 

Softly, softly, catchee out rabbit.

Until the next time.

 
 
 
 

2018-07-02T11:12:21+00:00July 2nd, 2018|Tags: , |

70 Comments

  1. derrickjknight July 2, 2018 at 11:18 am - Reply

    Superb photographs, and the stoat story had me laughing out loud. Jackie was intrigued, but I wouldn’t tell her what had tickled me before she had had a chance to read it herself

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      Thanks Derrick. I certainly get my fair share of wildlife. The bunnies though are becoming a real nuisance.

  2. Jill Chandler July 2, 2018 at 11:37 am - Reply

    Ha ha that so made me laugh. Living in harmony – not! Pity there isnt a contraceptive pill for rabbits, that would sort it, but then what would the stoat eat…

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 8:37 pm - Reply

      Didn’t I read recently that there is such a pill for squirrels and that it is being used somewhere. Shouldn’t be beyond the wit of man to do the same for bunnies.

  3. Mary July 2, 2018 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Almost spewed my tea laughing at your play-by-play in the garden. Sounded like you were playing the game Twister in a shower, with some wildlife thrown in as a bonus. However, I am all admiration for your fortitude and flexibility 🙂 as well as the Assistant Gardener’s chicken wire skills and the hedge fill propagation!

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      Sorry. But your description of my predicament was spot on !

  4. Valonia July 2, 2018 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    Oh, I feel for you, I really do! We lost most of our allotment crops and flowers to rabbits last year. We discovered (after wrapping the plot a billion times with chicken wire) that if the chicken wire holes are big enough to poke their noses in they chew through it. We struggle with their cuteness too. I think it’s an evolutionary trait to ensure survival!

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 8:46 pm - Reply

      Hi Valonia. Oh goodness, the damage here pales into insignificance compared to your losses. Although I have pretty much given up growing veg for the moment. Mostly because my raised beds have become too shady with overhanging trees (to be removed). But between them the slugs, rabbits, deer and mice consumed far more than we ever did!

  5. janesmudgeegarden July 2, 2018 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    What an enjoyable tale to read. I hope the fence works. I was once told to sprinkle blood and bone around to deter rabbits. Have you tried it? Of course, you have to replenish if it rains.

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 8:50 pm - Reply

      I haven’t tried it but I will. It sounds a good tip and presumably feeds the plants as well. Win win!

  6. Anne Wheaton July 2, 2018 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    Goodness! I wouldn’t want a stoat running between my bare legs.

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 8:52 pm - Reply

      Fortunately I saw it departing rather than approaching. Otherwise the expletive uttered might have been more meaningful.

  7. stephanie young July 2, 2018 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    hee hee…thanks for the giggle. I just noticed my own little Peter staring at me….but he’s not as happy as yours. Mine is sitting in a pile of weeds.

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 8:54 pm - Reply

      If the bunnies did a little weeding while they were here they might be more welcome. Why is it they only eat the expensive things I’ve planted?

  8. Penny Post July 2, 2018 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    Great story and equally great photos of some very cute looking bunnies. This makes me grateful I only have to battle slugs, here’s to hoping the chicken wire works, the hedge looks so good around the lawn.

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      Slugs are bad enough and there are plenty of those here too. The plants the bunnies leave the slugs tend to love!

  9. wherethejourneytakesme July 2, 2018 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    You had me in giggles here Jessica – I had only just briefly mentioned our bunnies in yesterdays post – we have just the same problems and we have been told by our neighbour that we have now aquirred a Stoat though we haven’t had the pleasure yet! I am glad I only have a tiny suburban garden in Yorkshire where I only have to contend with picking off the odd slug and snail because our garden in Scotland has become a full time pest prevention job. We are finding holes in our banking that are so huge I am wondering if we have some giant lumbering bunny somewhere. I reckon the holes go all the way through to the village shop!

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      It comes with the territory I’m afraid. The wilder the area we choose to live in the more entrenched the wildlife. Could you have badgers? They make some pretty big holes..

  10. Jennifer July 2, 2018 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    Your photos of the rabbit are incredible! Wow. I have an occasional rabbit in my yard but I don’t think they eat much of anything. The squirrels, on the other hand, will eat it all!

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 9:01 pm - Reply

      Squirrels are the worst. And the trouble with them is their intelligence. They never give up and whatever you try to deter them they will find a way around it!

  11. Tracy Perez July 2, 2018 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    Have you thought of getting a dog?

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 9:11 pm - Reply

      Hi Tracy!
      Yes, many times. I grew up with dogs and love them.

  12. plantgeeksgarden July 2, 2018 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    Great photos! We had a rabbit problem in our veggie garden when I was a kid. Not sure what we did, other than ineffective fencing. Good luck!

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Fencing is supposed to be the only long term solution. So far the chicken wire appears to be keeping the rabbits away from the hedge but ideally it should be buried under the ground as well to stop them burrowing in. Maybe in the future we’ll need to do that.

  13. Alistair July 2, 2018 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    Great post, we are all giggling away at your antics, rabbit stuffs no joke though. Great looking job with the chicken wire.

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      No, it’s no joke. They seem to be getting far too used to having humans around, it’s becoming more and more difficult to chase them off. I got to within touching distance of one today and still it didn’t move.

  14. Anne July 2, 2018 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    Very funny Jessica, but you do live dangerously. I think it’s one to the rabbits and one to you and Mike this week.

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 9:25 pm - Reply

      I’m watching a deer from my desk at the moment.. if it’s not one thing it’s another. It would be nice if they all let me win occasionally, just to keep the spirits up.

  15. smallsunnygarden July 2, 2018 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    Rabbits… grrr!!! Very cute (I can so see Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny in your photos), and so darn destructive! My fullest sympathy!!
    We’ve been having mice trouble here – not in the garden, but in our minivan – two recent trips to the auto shop to repair chewed wiring. Apparently the insulation contains sugar – who’d have known! The Mouse (at least I only ever saw one at a time) was generally observed harboring under the horses’ water tanks, from whence he once ran over my foot. Supposing there was only one (a long shot, I know!) our troubles are over, as BettytheDog finally annihilated him after heroic efforts. Thanks to my sister’s vigilance, said defunct mouse did not end up on my bed afterwards… Life has been a bit hectic lately… 😉
    Can I order one of those chicken wire hedging jobs long distance?

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      Oh well done Betty!
      You can certainly order one of those chicken wire hedging jobs. Especially if you have a spare room, I fancy a break in Arizona. And can I bring Betty back home with me please? 😉

  16. Kris P July 2, 2018 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Perhaps a new animated film can be created based on your activities in the garden?! I’ve finally given up playing Mr McGregor myself. After a couple successes chasing the rabbits back down into the canyon, they became more adept at identifying alternative routes to safety that didn’t send them in the direction of coyote dens and I found myself chasing them in circles through the garden. So I’m relying on wire cages. The repellents didn’t work at all with the raccoons so I’m not bothering with those again. I do wish the bunnies would focus on the clover that’s spread into my beds, though – at least then I could see them as delivering a service, as the raccoons do in taking out snails and slugs.

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      It’s infuriating isn’t it. It’s not been a good year for the garden here, too many distractions and not enough time have left far too many weeds to contend with. And do the bunnies eat any of them? No.

  17. snowbird July 2, 2018 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    Oh goodness! Rabbit and stoats flying around the place? Whatever next??? Your list of plants unattractive to rabbits are highly desirable to peahens! Seems we can’t win. Marvelous idea to recycle the chicken wire, that hedge is coming on though!xxx

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      There’s a lot of overlap between deer resistant and bunny resistant plants. Which is fine. Except an awful lot of them are still very tempting for slugs. No, we can’t win!

  18. pollymacleod July 2, 2018 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Oh dear, sorry Jessica, I can’t stop chuckling, you do write a good prose. I know they are pests but they are so cute, your first image is delightful. I can imagine them all hanging out in their favourite spot going over the day’s events, who did what and who got the tastiest morsal! I hope you find some comfort in having an excellent assistant gardener 🙂 Your hedge cuttings are magnificent.

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      Thanks Polly. Their current favourite is sanguisorba. There is (was) a lovely one just below my study window. The number of times I’ve run down and chased a bunny off. Good exercise I suppose… 🙁

  19. Susan Garrett July 2, 2018 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    They are cute aren’t they, unlike the slugs. Surprisingly we once saw a stoat come hurtling out of a woodland followed by a rabbit in hot pursuit.

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 10:43 pm - Reply

      Sounds fair game for the rabbit! Last year Mike tried to rescue a baby rabbit that had been attacked by a stoat. Sadly it didn’t make it.

  20. germac4 July 3, 2018 at 2:50 am - Reply

    Very entertaining, although ultimately those rabbits must have you at your wit’s end! Chicken wire is a nuisance to unravel and set up…but worth every minute of your time. Good luck!

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 10:45 pm - Reply

      Thanks Gerrie. Yes, they are quite a problem. For a while I stopped doing my morning tour of inspection. It was just too depressing.

  21. John Kittredge in New Hampshire July 3, 2018 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    I am so sorry your rabbits are so desructive. Our rabbit population seems content to nibble on the clover in the lawn, with an ocasional lettuce plant fo desert. On the other hand the deer have munched our hostas and the squirrels have eaten every peach, long before they even approached ripeness. This is our gardening life on the edge of a woods.

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 10:53 pm - Reply

      You’re so right John. If we choose to live side by side with nature we must accept the consequences. For me, it is still worth it. I was watching a deer from my desk this evening. How many people have that privilege? True, it would be better if it stayed at the bottom of the garden and refrained from snacking on the roses..

  22. Vera Coe July 3, 2018 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Oh bless……hope your fence keeps them away……..but all in all, it was a jolly good read!

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 10:58 pm - Reply

      Thanks Vera. The fence won’t keep them away entirely. There are open areas at each end for paths down to the river. The bunnies are still on the lawn but at least they have to hop round the hedge now rather than take a short cut by just pushing through it!

  23. karen July 3, 2018 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    Great story Jessica. Your stoat and rabbit tales made me laugh. We have baby rabbits in the garden. They are eating all the newly planted cut flowers for autumn. I’m having to rig up all kinds of deterrents. Luckily they don’t seem to like dahlias, Sweet williams or Sweet peas. But they adore cosmos and have chewed them down to an inch. Good luck with your gardening.

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 11:18 pm - Reply

      I’m sorry to hear about your cosmos. Come to think of it, it has never survived long for me either.. I’d always assumed slugs were the culprits but perhaps not. Rabbits are such a difficult problem when you live close to open green spaces. Good luck to you too!

  24. CherryPie July 3, 2018 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    I hope your preventative measures keep the rabbit at bay.

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 11:23 pm - Reply

      So far so good. We had a fox try and get through the fence this evening.. stopped him too 🙂

  25. ginaferrari July 3, 2018 at 10:18 pm - Reply

    This sounds like full scale war… but had me laughing all the same!

    • Jessica July 3, 2018 at 11:28 pm - Reply

      It feels like we’ve been on a war footing since day one. But tensions have escalated somewhat this year!

  26. grammapenny July 3, 2018 at 11:50 pm - Reply

    oh dear jessica.. i feel your pain. chicken wire cages, sprays, granules, traps… i actually caught two woodchucks in one day last week.. so delightful.. but i saw another one trying to climb the garden fence today so the traps went back out. ah it just never ends…..

    • Jessica July 7, 2018 at 6:30 am - Reply

      I had to look up woodchuck.. groundhog. Or ground squirrel – that says it all! There’s always something. If we plant it they will come.

  27. Jayne Hill July 4, 2018 at 8:26 am - Reply

    I would laugh – but it is not really funny. Spending hours (and ££££s) trying to create beautiful planting only to have it munched into oblivion is enough to break the spirit of the most committed horticulturist. Although I’d have given a great deal to have experienced the rabbit-stoat sprint at such close quarters. Never a camera handy when you really need one …

    I do sympathise with the muscular trials you went through – balancing on the steel canopy to cut back the clematis recently was similar. Heartily recommend a soak in the bath with a generous quantity of Epsom Salts (400g is not excessive). Buy it in bulk via Amazon, don’t both with the tiddly packets from Boots. Does wonderful things to aching muscles. Oops – just realised, that is an insensitive suggestion – you’re about to commence The.Bathroom.Rebuild. Oh heck. Good luck. xxx

    • Jessica July 7, 2018 at 6:39 am - Reply

      It all happened so quickly I wouldn’t have got a picture even if I’d had the camera. All I saw was a quick flash of rabbit and then the tail end of the stoat disappearing through the planting on the terraces.
      The bathroom looms only too large in my mind at the moment. Wish I could leave the country for a month quite honestly.

  28. Freda July 4, 2018 at 11:23 pm - Reply

    You are the bravest, most resilient gardener I know. You deserve a medal Jessica!

    • Jessica July 7, 2018 at 6:44 am - Reply

      It’s either plod on or give up. And I know you’re the same, the latter option is unthinkable.

  29. Linda from Each Liitle World July 5, 2018 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    I read a rabbit-free plant list and it said they will eat anything if they are in the mood and it can change from week to week and season to season. I can’t take a pix in my garden that does not include chicken wire!

    • Jessica July 7, 2018 at 6:46 am - Reply

      That sounds about right. They also try just about everything to see if it’s tasty or not, leaving the broken remains of the rejected on the ground.

  30. Brian Skeys July 5, 2018 at 11:13 pm - Reply

    Come on the stoat!

    • Jessica July 7, 2018 at 6:46 am - Reply

      🙂

  31. hb July 6, 2018 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    I’m cheering for the stoat. Is that mean?

    • Jessica July 7, 2018 at 6:49 am - Reply

      A fox has now turned up too. We may have become the equivalent of the out of town grocery superstore.

  32. Carrie July 8, 2018 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    oh my I have just found you for the very first time, ever and YES I like your blog, your style, your rabbit and that cottage! So much to read and loads of stories to catch up on. Hurrah for Bloglovin’ for leading me to you. I’ve just had a coffee, can you tell? Bit hyper here and very excited, haha

    • Jessica July 8, 2018 at 8:25 pm - Reply

      Thank you Carrie and welcome!

      • Carrie Gault July 8, 2018 at 10:57 pm - Reply

        squeee! I’m all sleepy now but still in love with this new blog find – thank you so very much for commenting on my new one xxx

        • Jessica July 10, 2018 at 7:37 pm - Reply

          🙂

  33. Peter Herpst July 11, 2018 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    Your sense of humor is such a delight. Wonderful pictures and story. Darned cute bunnies.

    • Jessica July 14, 2018 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      They are too cute. Especially the baby ones. But that doesn’t make them welcome!

  34. Charles July 12, 2018 at 10:44 am - Reply

    Why not employ a jack Russel or a sausage dog. They love chasing rabbits and it would even the odds. They are not lethal, like ferrets, but they would keep the rabbits on their toes. There might be bit of digging but probably worth it. If you got a cat the mice would also behave more circumspectly. Of course this would mean you would not have to do as much aqua-aerobics/mountain Pilates but the choice is yours.

    • Jessica July 14, 2018 at 8:08 pm - Reply

      The owl population seems to be on the rise so I’m hoping that will help. Ditto foxes. What is the collective name for owls? Whatever it is we definitely had a gathering here last night.

I'd love to hear from you..