If only the many creatures that are rampaging through the garden right now could follow the example of bees. Bees are the perfect guests. In exchange for being welcomed with food and shelter, they show the best of manners by pollinating, gently humming me to a state of relaxation and never doing the slightest bit of harm. The only brief moments of friction come when one of us surprises the other – usually over a bag of compost, which they love.
If only the rabbits, sparrows and blackbirds would take note and mend their marauding ways.
One rabbit is a pest, but two are trouble
William the rabbit in his favourite spot
Usually it is the rabbits who are the king of the large pests in this garden. (Vine weevils & slugs are chief evil mini-monsters). When just one rabbit is present, the focus is entirely on eating. Grass is the main casualty (fine with me) but crocuses and other new foliage also hold munch-appeal.
As with rowdies of the human species, the trouble really kicks off when two or more of the beasts get together. Two rabbits in the garden generally involves random running round in circles. I have no idea (do they?) if this is romantic, aggressive or a combination of both – but when this ritual begins, my beloved plants get squashed as well as nibbled.
Should a third rabbit enter the equation, madness ensues. Add random leaps into the air, karate kicks & Olympic standard gymnastics to the nibbling, running in circles and general scrabbling. My poor plants get caught in the battle royale.
Fortunately the rabbits haven’t picked the garden as a community toilet yet, but last year they tried to nest in a flower bed. (I didn’t see any kittens, so I don’t think they succeeded).
Happily for them I have a live and let live policy. But if the squashing and nibbling gets out of hand – or if they start tunnelling into the hillside – I shall have to dig down and lay chicken wire below the fence where they dig their way under.
I have already learned that repellent – even foul smelling home brews of egg and chilli – have no effect whatsoever. Bizarrely, the only thing that does keep them away is not clearing up after I have cut bushes down. If I leave the garden completely covered in rubbish and twigs, they stay away. Clearly, like me, they prefer my garden to look pretty before they eat it.
Birds challenging rabbits in the destructiveness league
I don’t have a sentimental BBC Springwatch view of birds, I have seen them fight to the death in the garden. But I do find them entertaining & clownish. So I indulge them with seed heads, fruit, shelter, nesting sites and native trees that attract insects.
The garden has attracted a vast amount of birds – from pheasants, buzzards, red kites and sparrowhawks at the large end, to goldfinch, bullfinch, goldcrests, black caps, coal tits, long tailed tits, willow warblers and wrens at the small end. There are at least two large gangs of sparrows, constantly warring robins and blackbirds (both species would rather fight over food than eat it) and a healthy thrush and fieldfare population. Jackdaws and crows clown around by day, owls at night and I have even had oystercatchers in the greenhouse tents.
Mostly they give me more pleasure than pain. But right now their hormones are driving them mad and even the usually endearing blue tits have turned into major thugs. They’re all busy nest building and anything goes.
I helpfully left out lavender and other soft prunings for them at the weekend – were they interested? Not at all. Instead as I sit here I am watching them strip random chunks of leaf from the remaining bushes. Yesterday I watched a sparrow fixate on a specific bit of clematis. It was too big a task for the lone sparrow, but eventually he was joined by three colleagues and the demolition job was completed.
My hanging basket liners are being systematically stripped, young plants being rooted up along with moss and mulch, and twine plant ties are being shredded. I’m starting to regret my hospitality policy!