July 30, 2016

Disappointments, Surprises, and a Little Patience

bumble
This "vision" worked: a happy bumble bee on a 'Sensation Mix' Cosmos (C. bipinnatus).

Have you ever had a plan or a "vision" for your garden that didn't work out?

That's what happened to me last year. I realized I didn't have enough fall-blooming, native perennials in the shady section of the garden, so I planted some.

In my mind, the Blue Mistflowers (Conoclinium coelestinum) would form a magical, soft swathe around the Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). The Zigzag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) would arch gracefully along the trellis, and the False Asters (Boltonia asteroides) would bob and sway surrounding the Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) and the 'Vibrant Dome' Asters.

Unfortunately, the rabbits had a different vision. They ate all these plants down to the ground, except for the Milkweed (no taste for it), a few of the Asters, and the Mistflowers (which I rescued in time).

After decades of gardening--much of it in this current unbalanced ecosystem--I should have known. But most of these plants (except for the Asters) are generally considered "rabbit-resistant." Well, apparently these rabbits didn't get the message. I'd say a different animal was to blame, but the clues were obvious (and too numerous to list here). Not to mention trying to chase the long-eared pests out of this part of the garden several times.

So, I had to get creative. While the Agastaches and the Boltonias didn't return this year (whether victims of rabbit death or the freeze/thaw curse, I'll never know), the others did. And I discovered some happy surprises.

misflower

I surrounded the Blue Mistflowers in lava rocks and chicken wire-covered tomato caging, and planted 'Summer Beauty' Alliums around the perimeter. These things seem to be working and soon you won't even see the caging. Fingers crossed.

jewelweed

Oh, I forgot to mention I scattered seeds of Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) in various spots around the garden. They really took off! In the spot where the Agastache and the Boltonia were located last year, is now a mound of Jewelweed surrounding a new planting of Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). I'm thinking this will soon be a popular spot with the hummingbirds. There are Alliums in here somewhere, too.

obelisk

Yes, this is also Jewelweed. It's cuddling the obelisk, at the center of which is a Purple Hyacinth Bean vine, which is about to bloom. I forgot I sprinkled Jewelweed seeds here, too. Surprise!

cornus pumila

Other victims of the big-eared, large-fanged, plant-killing monsters were the four Dwarf Red-Tipped Dogwood (Cornus pumila) shrubs. Yep, the rabbits chewed them down to the ground during the winter. So, I rolled out more chicken wire, which will remain around the shrubs until they become established. Thankfully, they recovered from the insult.

OK, so most of those areas are under control ... for now. Here's another surprise:

bugs 1

I walked by one of the Hosta flowers the other day and saw this. From a distance it looked like a bit of leaf with a strange pollen-covered bug next to it. On closer examination, I realized the pollen-covered bug was a bumble bee (I think). And with help from a few garden blogger friends (you know who you are...thanks!), I found out the green insect is an Ambush Bug Nymph. A sad, cruel, and yet fascinating natural occurrence.

Quickly shifting the topic...

Finally, I'm once again reminded about the rewards of patience. The Zinnias I planted from seed in late winter/early spring are now big and robust and ready for cutting. They'll offer repeat blooms now until October. Yay!

seeded

It's difficult to show a good angle on the cutting garden because it's on a steep hill on the side of the house. But you get the idea here: My only sunny garden is a small patch of land that, when blooming, camouflages (sort of) the window wells, the utility boxes, and the air conditioning unit.

When the Zinnias, Coneflowers, and other sun-lovers are blooming, it's a bright and cheery place full of pollinators.

seed pods

The Butterfly Weed is forming seed pods.

sweat bee

And enough blooms remain to keep the sweat bees full and sassy. Here's a little movie I made to celebrate:



Overall, the disappointments, surprises, and joys have a way of balancing out. And patience (with a few tricks) certainly pays off.

(Oh, and I must say I've tried just about every potion and scare tactic for the rabbits. Each one works temporarily, but in the end the only things that work long-term for me, here in this "rabbit wonderland," are rabbit-repellent plants--not rabbit-resistant ones--and miles of chicken wire.)

50 comments:

  1. Glad you've worked out a defense against the rabbits Beth. I had one rabbit grazing here but haven't seen it in a while. Your zinnias are looking nice. Aren't they delightful flowers? The Ambush Bug Nymph is interesting to learn about. Great post.

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    1. Thanks! A rabbit? That would be nice. There are always multiple rabbits around here. And, yes, I love the Zinnias. I didn't plant them one year, and my garden just wasn't happy without them.

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  2. Rabbits seem to be more noticeable this year. I too have had a lot more rabbits in the garden this year. A lot more destruction too. Squirrels give my pots fits digging out plants and sometimes eating them. I love jewel weed. I have tried getting it started in my garden without success. After seeing this post I think I need to try again. For sure the hummers will be sipping from the jewel weed soon.

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    1. Hi Lisa: Actually, I had more destruction last year, which prompted all the changes. I am seeing quite a few rabbits this year, too, but these new plants are protected. I have lava rocks and rocks in most of my pots and planters to deter the chipmunks and squirrels from digging. It's kind of a pain to have to do that, but at least they don't eat the plants like the rabbits do. Regarding the Jewelweed, I simply gathered seed from plants up at our cottage and scattered them here and there in late summer. Boy, did they fill in! They are in partial to mostly shade. They're so pretty when they bloom! They're annuals, but I'm planning to do the same thing this year--gather the seeds and sprinkle them where I want the plants to grow next year. Good luck!

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  3. Your struggle with rabbits is like my struggle with voles. They have devastated sections of our garden leaving a wake of dead plants. It's frustrating for sure but also provides opportunities for trying new things. The ambush bug was a cool find! Nature is cruel sometimes but it is all about balance, right?!

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    1. We have some voles, chipmunks, and squirrels here, too. But more trouble with the rabbits. Lava rock seems to help prevent vole, chipmunk, and squirrel damage--but then we can't put lava rock all over the garden, right? ;-) Yes, the ambush bug was interesting. I had to do a double-take.

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  4. Sorry to read about the rabbit damage. You seem to be coping very well, coming up with original solutions. As usual your photos are excellent.

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    1. Oh, you know ... it's all part of the game after all these years, right? Just trying to help the pollinators, but I can't do that if the rabbits eat all the plants. ;-) Thanks, Alain.

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  5. I have those visions, too, Beth, and once in awhile they become reality, but far too often something goes awry. So sorry about the rabbit damage; I'm like Karin--not much rabbit damage, but the voles have played havoc with a few places in my garden. My brother's garden in town, however, has chicken wire around everything:) If it's not the rabbits eating his plants, it's the squirrels stealing his tomatoes! So frustrating, but as you demonstrate here, there are always so many pleasant surprises in the garden to keep us going.

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    1. Hi Rose: Yes, my investment in chicken wire is substantial. There's always some type of challenge for any garden, right? I hope my vision of the Blue Mistflower will eventually come true. It seems to be working. In the meantime, the casual addition of the Jewelweed was an easy, surprise success. Sometimes, I think I try too hard and should just move plants around and not think about it so much. Ha!

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  6. My "visions" often get "dashed" as well . . .
    For instance . . . I planted special zinnia seeds in three locations . . . just doesn't seem to work in our mostly shade yard/gardens . . . not a seed emerged into flower. The good news though . . . enjoying leafy green of any, every variety of everything seems to keep me in "good cheer!"
    Love your photos and flowers . . . your words too!

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    1. Hi Lynne: Oh, yes, I'm sure the Zinnias wouldn't grow for me in the shade either. I just have that little patch of sun... Thanks for your kind comments. Much, much green going on here, too, in this mostly shade garden. :)

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  7. Oh, those pesky wabbits :) I have had my fair share of rabbit issues and, like you, only experience will tell me what will/won't work in the garden. I'm sure that I'll have issues once I start to plant up the perennial borders - some annuals my daughter planted a couple of years ago were chewed to the ground within a few days.

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    1. Yes, they are pesky, for sure! And the damage is often immediate, as you describe. Actually, several of the plants had made it through one growing season, so it was even more surprising when the rabbits ate them last year. Argh. I want to try Anise Hyssop again, so I guess I need to add more chicken wire. ;-)

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  8. Rabbits are the bane of my gardening existence :-) This year I've been chasing one out of the gardens near the house --after he ate a set of annuals, of course.

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    1. LOL. It's somehow comforting to know others have similar challenges, although I don't want you to have to deal with them either. Last year was a weird year with the rabbits. Hopefully, the remediation will keep them out of that part of the garden. Good luck to you, too, Cassi!

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  9. I'm glad the blue mist flower survived! I'm so glad you planted jewelweed . It has such a pretty flower. I'm adding more alliums this fall, too. Gotta love a plant that wants to be dry!

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    1. Yes, thanks to you and the mail order nursery, I have the Blue Mistflowers going strong in a few locations. Thanks! I've always loved the Jewelweed, too, and was surprised how well it adapted to the garden this year. I hope scattering the seeds will help it to come back again next year, since it's an annual. Yes, Alliums are fabulous--for so many reasons!

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  10. On the bright side, you can blame the garden issues on bunnies. Me? My screw-ups are usually mine. Regardless, your garden boasts plenty of bloomers and busy, satisfied pollinators. Bummer about the bumble, but circle of life and all that.

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    1. Well, of course I have many of those types of self-inflicted errors, too! ;-) It's always something! The ambush bug situation was interesting. I don't remember seeing them before, and never in the act of slaying a bee. It would have been nice if the victim would have been a Yellow Jacket or a Japanese Beetle.

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  11. I love all your jewelweed! Last year I had a reprieve from bunnies (maybe thanks to the terrible winter before or the large snakes about), but this year I've seen two good sized ones hanging around. Between the bunnies, deer, and groundhog, I'm surprised I have so many plants still!

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    1. Hi Indie: I was surprised the Jewelweed took to the garden so well. Oh gosh, it would be nice to have just two bunnies ... but not to have deer and groundhogs, too. Many, many bunnies here, and chipmunks and squirrels. I agree, though--sometimes I'm surprised that any plants survive!

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  12. I had a plan when I began - but to be honest - the "plan" has evolved with so many "sub-plans". But, I think that is gardening. It is a living art form and I am the artist. The painting is constantly be reworked to greater perfection. Jack

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    1. I like that -- sub-plans! Yes, that happens to me all the time, too. You're right: Gardening is a living art form and we are the artists. That's such a beautiful way to describe it. :)

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  13. I hadn't realised you had such trouble. You certainly handle it well and always have such lovely photographs of the plants in your garden to share with us.
    I know from experience that rabbits can be a pain - and that's just my wife's pet rabbit!!

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    1. Thanks, Tim. A pet rabbit?! Wow, you folks are brave! The wild rabbits here are out of control--mainly because the ecosystem is out of balance. The garden borders a little wild area, which gives the bunnies cover. But then there aren't enough high-end predators. When the hawks, owls, foxes, and coyotes visit, that helps keep the rabbit population under control, but they're just aren't enough of them. But I know there are always gardening challenges in every setting. ;-)

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  14. Sorry to hear of your struggles with rabbits!

    Have you tried perennial cranesbill geraniums? They have highly scented foliage that seems to repel rabbits around here. (Of course, the agastache also has scented foliage and that didn't seem to deter the Beast That Bounces.)

    Did you direct sow your zinnias in late winter? Or did you start them from seed indoors and then transplant them to the garden?

    Oh and has the swamp milkweed bloomed for you in shade? I thought it needed full sun...

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    1. Thanks, Aaron. The garden is full of wild Geraniums! But they seem to finish blooming in early July. They're great, but I was trying to add later-blooming plants. Now I have more of those and I'm thinking of adding more June- and July-blooming plants. Oh, and I guess it's not repelling the rabbits enough. ;-) Regarding the Zinnias: I started them in seed-starting flats and put them in the south-facing window in the sunroom. They germinated fast! And then I transplanted them into the garden in May. Yes, the Swamp Milkweed blooms in shade--it's dappled shade, and the plants grow very tall and lanky toward the limited sun and need to be staked. But that's more foliage for the Monarch caterpillars! When the Swamp Milkweed blooms, it's the most popular plant in my garden--and covered with butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators!

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  15. Oh, the challenges of gardening! Your solutions seem to be working, and your garden is lovely. I once had many rabbits, but nature took care of them when the foxes showed up!

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    1. Hi Deb: Yes, indeed, it's always something! Thanks! I hope the chicken wire, lava rocks, and Alliums will continue to work. I want to see all these things bloom! We have a few occasional foxes and coyotes in the neighborhood, but not enough.

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  16. Bunnies...we are calling 2016 the year of the rabbit! We have so many here in our little town. We take a 2 1/2 mile walk daily and we see more little ones each time. HELP! ;-)

    Loved the video.
    I love your Zinnias.
    Carla

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    1. Thanks, Carla. I love the Zinnias, too! Ha! Yes, I certainly understand overpopulations of rabbits! They'd be cute if there weren't so many of them and if they didn't eat the plants out of existence! Good luck!

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    1. Thank you, Endah. The frustrations, challenges, progress, and joys all come together with gardening. Mostly joys, though, with a little patience. :)

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  18. Did you happen to read the recent post/interview by Margaret Roach where she talked with a naturalist who said we gardeners are creating the habitat that these critters need as urban areas consume the country. Good post and helped me to calm down about my rabbit problem.

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    1. The one with Heather Holm? I did read that one. Yes, the suburban garden is becoming increasingly important habitat for wildlife. I must admit, I'm pleased to see hawks and owls in the neighborhood to keep the rabbit population in check. Apparently there are a few foxes and coyotes in the area, too. It's frustrating when the rabbit numbers get too high. Thanks--we gardeners must help each other calm down. LOL.

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  19. For such a cute animal, the bunnies sure can be destructive. At least the areas with the cosmos, coneflowers and jewelweed worked out for you.

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    1. Yes. Occasionally I find myself feeling empathetic for the little bunnies--especially for the babies. But then I remember how many of my plants they've killed. ;-) Yes, the Cosmos and Coneflowers are fenced in, and they seem to stay away from the Jewelweed.

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  20. Loved your video. I remember jewelweed in the back garden when we lived in Madison - we had a big stand of it. At first I thought it was a weed, then realized it was an appealing wildflower. As for the bunnies, as you know I share your angst.

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    1. Thanks, Jason. Yes, I know you've had some issues with the long-eared thugs, too. I've noticed more neighbors installing chicken wire lately, so apparently I'm in good company. Re: the Jewelweed, I'm surprised I didn't think of it earlier. I just scattered seeds that I'd gathered in various spots, and it's looking good. I'll try to do the same thing this year.

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  21. To your first question – I big YES! My gardening style is an ever running trial and error so there’s often plans that needs tweaking, or simply just scrapped and start again. Where you have your sweet bunnies pestering your garden, I have the equally cute but oh so messy and all-munching squirrels in my garden. They have now worked up an appetite for lily buds, just before they are about to open. Can you think of anything more annoying? I have waited a whole year for those gorgeous lilies to open and every day I come out there are more stalks stripped for buds. The only thing that works for me is to have LOTS of lilies so the squirrels and I get to share, some for them to eat and some for me to enjoy :-)

    Your zinnias are lovely, and I loved your video!

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    1. Thanks, Helene. And thanks for the encouragement. We have squirrels here, too, but they don't eat much from my garden except the tree nuts (acorns and hickory nuts), which is fine by me. ;-) Oh yes, I have to fence in my Lilies for sure! The rabbits love them (I've found from past misfortunes). You are too generous to say it's OK to share your Lilies with the critters. LOL.

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  22. Yowler, our resident cat at work, has developed a taste for chasing rabbits. Not killing, just bringing them into the office to "play" with for a while. The veggie garden is thriving...guess the fear factor is keeping the bunnies at bay.

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    1. Ah, the cats do discourage the rabbits. I worry a little about the songbirds when the cats are on the prowl, but I'm glad when they chase away the bunnies. I'm glad your veggie garden is thriving. :)

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  23. Hi Beth,
    I have had rabbits eat plants to the ground every year, but this year has been worse than usual. I have one aster cultivar blooming now, the New England asters will, but the rest have been repeatedly eaten to the ground. There are a number of plants they also ate, such as Riddell's goldenrod, and some of the liatris. I managed to protect some of the purple prairie clovers. Jewelweed is one I just read about in an article today. I don't know why I didn't know about it. I'll have to keep a look out for some. Thanks for stopping by my WW post. I'm glad to hear you are seeing plenty of butterflies. There was an article in the paper recently, saying they think the number of spring storms we had had an effect on the butterfly numbers. I am starting to see some, but there still are not many.

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    1. Hi Sue: Sorry, but thanks for commiserating a little. It somehow helps to know that we aren't the only ones who must deal with this frustrating challenge. Yes, it was so sad last year to see the Asters, Goldenrods, and other plants eaten after a successful long growing season. I hope the chicken wire and lava rocks will allow them to finish out their growing season and flower this year. Regarding the butterflies, I'm seeing many more now. Not many Monarchs, but quite a few Red Admirals, Tawny Emperors, and Tiger Swallowtails.

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  24. Up until Spring I'd seen an occasional rabbit in the garden but this year we were suddenly overrun with them. Everything I planted nibbled to the ground overnight, rabbit resistant plants included. The tender young leaves were just too irrestible. I have invested in miles of chicken wire too. Effective. But pretty it isn't!

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    1. Argh. I feel your pain! Yes, miles of chicken wire is the only thing that works long-term. I just transplanted a Liatris this evening that I probably should have protected with chicken wire. I wonder how long it will last...

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  25. HELLO! What a great read; OK, so maybe I'm just imagining this, but we too had oodles of rabbits that would literally come into the garden in droves, LAY ON THE GRASS as if they owned the place (they looked like ancient Romans, reclining at table) while they ate the grass. OK, so....since we planted at least 50 feet of a green wall in ARBOR VITAE, we saw an immediate drop in the visits of our Roman rabbits. I KID YOU NOT, they do not come in our yard anymore. Tell me I'm crazy, or could Arbor Vitae be one of those rabbit resistant plants?

    AND...thank you so much for coming to visit and leaving a comment! I wish you continued joy in your garden! Anita

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    1. Ha! Thanks, Anita. Ancient Romans reclining at table--truly yes, that's what they look like! LOL. Wow, I'm glad the Arbor Vitaes have kept out the rabbits for you. I can't really do that here--it wouldn't work with the design of the garden. But that's a good tip to try for the future, or for a particular area of the garden. Joy to you, as well!

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