The problem with sharing your garden with a host of wildlife is that quite a lot of it is intent on eating all my plants!
Rabbits seem to like to have a nibble at anything new, and if they like it, they will eat the lot. But plants that have been sampled one year (and survived) seem to be less likely to be nibbled the next. Maybe it is the rich lush tasty foliage that the plants grow while in the nursery greenhouses that they like, and the tougher, garden-grown leaves are less appealing.
The solution therefore seem to be to protect anything remotely juicy for at least its first season. I have a couple of old hanging baskets that are ideal for this.
These Tanacetum ‘Robinson’s Red’ should give a display of big daisies in the summer, but only if the rabbits leave them alone. If they get nibbled more, then I will upgrade the protection to the next stage…
This Rhododendron ‘Blue Tit’ is not supposed to be attractive to rabbits or deer, but the last little rhododendron that I planted in this spot was eaten to the ground! So I am taking no chances with this one, and it has a cage of chicken wire, with a few wires criss-crossing the top to deter deer. It shouldn’t outgrow this cage for a couple of years, by which time it should be less tasty.
For bigger shrubs, I am having to build bigger cages.
I treated myself to a lovely Magnolia ‘Susan’, and do not want it eaten, as it wasn’t cheap. So it has a 5 ft cage of deer netting to protect it for a few years. The netting needs to be at least 5 foot, and preferably 6ft, as the deer we have are not just little muntjac, or medium sized roe deer. No, we get the big ones, the red deer.
They have not been seen in the garden quite as often this year as last year, and I think our increasing activity levels in the garden puts them off. But after 4 days away last week, we returned to find three sitting in the middle of the lawn.
The ultimate solution, which we are using to keep them off the veggies and fruit, is a Big Fence…
They aren’t going to get into there! We haven’t managed to get all of the potager dug yet this year, but as we get a section cleared of the grass and roots and stones, we sow seeds. And we now have radishes, beets, mangetout, spinach and leeks all sprouting. It is very exciting!
Trees are yet another problem. We have standard tree guards around some small native trees and shrubs, but as soon as they poke their heads above the guards, then they run the risk of being eaten.
This little rowan had nice tall shoots before the deers’ visit last week, and now it has been eaten down to the guard. So we need a better solution, which might be to make cages like the shrub cages. It does make planting trees very costly.
My next challenge is to find a solution to slugs. We don’t use pellets, and hand-picking takes too long. I have tried some barrier methods with varying success, but currently I am just avoiding buying certain plants, such as hostas (obviously), delphiniums, lupins, and aubrieta.
Gardening here is a bit of a battle!