My mother’s gardens were bountiful and beautiful.  She could grow anything from radishes to roses. Given the chance, she’d work in them all day long.

Me? Hardly.

Nevertheless, I keep trying to grow flowers. My success has been limited, mostly because we’ve moved to houses with too much shade. The bright floral expanses I dream of have never been possible.

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So when we landed here with a sunny blank space along the west side of the lot, I attacked the southern end and deeded the northern portion to Cliff for vegetables. We’ve experimented annually.

Finally we figured out which plants disliked our conditions and which ones loved our area.

Then the rabbits found us.

Word spread quickly.

Our cafeteria was open for business.

imagesAlmost overnight, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter arrived with relatives. They adored the spinach, chomped through the lettuce, and savored rows of peas and green beans. My gerbera daisy blooms fell, gobbled like M&Ms, followed by the delphiniums. The gorgeous “Look-at-Me” blue delphinium that I had babied through the previous summer and anticipated with all my heart, was chewed to the ground.

20190622_155714Although late to the party, chipmunks quickly made up for lost time. Every morning, we found their strawberry breakfast remains on the front porch.

We are not cruel people. We don’t want to trap or poison these animals, not that we bargained for keeping them vitamined-up either. We’re not inclined to build fences, invest in chicken wire, or construct raised beds.  So Maggie, after researching home remedies, filled a sprinkling can with vinegar and assorted hot pepper flakes and garlic powder. We watered the remaining plants each evening with the potion and scattered apple pieces, as tasty distractions.

It worked somewhat.

But every time it rained, we had to re-apply our tonic. Then summer fired up its heat and humidity. From inside our air-conditioned house, I looked out at empty plant cages. In previous years they had vanished among the lush leaves and flowers. Now they leaned, like so many crooked skeletons, hollow reminders of summers past.

I don’t know about Cliff, who considers himself lucky that rabbits and chipmunks don’t like tomato leaves or stalks, but I’m re-thinking next season. Maybe shrubs and statuary dotted among the irises and day lilies, that seem to taste terrible, will be scenic landscape enough.

Until then, I’m staying indoors, wearing my gardening hat, daydreaming on my desktop background garden that stands forever beautiful and safely un-nibbled.

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10 thoughts on “Cafeteria Garden

  1. Another story of perseverance, and the rabbits are winning while enjoying a seemingly endless buffet. What to do? Other than the dark cloud over what was to have been another bountiful crop, is to take stock and try not to weep about crops gone by. There will be another season. Turn, turn, turn…

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  2. Karen, as I read your piece I watched a rabbit nibble endive, only this was inside our apartment, next to my desk. Once you accept these guys into your life and your home, they know they can get away with almost anything. Just be grateful you don’t have to bunny-proof your living room.

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    1. Thank you for giving me a new perspective. I now feel grateful that the invasion ends at the door. Years ago I read that the wonder of a garden is enhanced by what it attracts, along with what it produces. If so, we are wealthy indeed this year.

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    1. Lovely. Nothing would have pleased her more. Sometimes I remember her towering rows of tomatoes and peas, bordered by fluffy lettuces and think it would have been the perfect place for a wedding.

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  3. There is a saying in the gardening world, “If your plants aren’t being eaten, then you are not part of the bio-system.” Be proud that you are very much part of the eco-system.

    Here is one of my favorite catalogs to browse and daydream over. rareseeds.com Enjoy!

    So glad to see that you posted something too. It’s been a while. I know, life.

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