Rodents and rain cause gardening challenges around every corner

Published 9:00 am Sunday, June 29, 2014

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

If anyone tells you that gardening does not present challenges around every corner, don’t believe them for a second.

The squirrels are driving me crazy because they are ripping plants out of not only the containers but also the ground, and I am finding plants everywhere I look. When I had a dog, he took care of chasing those darn pesky critters out of the garden and even the cat would keep them away, but now the gardens are fair game for the squirrels and rabbits.

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

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On the side of the gazebo is a large container planted with a mandevilla and three petunias that will eventually fill the container and drape over the sides — that is, if the plants survive being ripped out nearly every day. Finally I decided to meet the challenge head-on and filled in the empty spaces in the container with broken clay pots. So far it has worked in this particular container and the plants are finally starting to grow.

Along the driveway I planted purple salvias that must be coveted by the squirrels because every day I find about half of them pulled out and lying next to the driveway. This called for more drastic measures on my part. I moved the pinwheel from the tulips that are done blooming to this garden, in hopes that the wind would whirl this thing around and thus scare the squirrels away. It works, but only on days the wind is at hurricane force, so I have decided to plant more of the salvias in hopes that a few of them survive.

Of course, when the tulips were blooming Mr. Rabbit and I had a few go-arounds until I placed the pinwheel in the midst of the tulips and that seemed to keep him away. When the lilies emerged from the ground, it must have been heaven for Mr. Rabbit because he was right there munching on them. I only had one pinwheel so I had to come up with a better answer to this challenge if they were going to grow and bloom instead of being dessert for a hungry rabbit. When I would see him, I would run after him waving my arms and yelling, much to the delight of my granddaughter, who was warned not to film this for Facebook.

If it wasn’t enough that the critters were challenging the gardens and me, what does Mother Nature do but drench us with rains, wind and hail for several days in a row. The baptisa was just starting to bloom when we had over 3 inches of rain that came gushing off the roof of the shed and splaying the baptisa down the middle and now it is on the ground, along with irises and roses. Is it too much to ask that the gardens be left alone so they can bloom?

A large container planted with mandevilla and petunias in Lang’s gardens has fallen victim to squirrels ripping out the plants daily. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

A large container planted with mandevilla and petunias in Lang’s gardens has fallen victim to squirrels ripping out the plants daily. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

My mind had to work overtime with the two lovely containers in the very back of the yard where I can’t see what is going on with the squirrels. Not only do they love salvia and petunias, but also sunpatiens, which must have presented them with a contest to see who could rip out the most plants in a container. I had to go to my stash of containers and see what would fit in between the flowers in these pots that were packed with flowers. I’m sure glad I’m not doing any garden tours this year, or those attending would certainly question me as to why all of the empty pots are planted among the flowers in the containers.

If it wasn’t enough that I was being challenged by critters invading my gardens, did I mention the raccoons who have been drinking the hummingbird nectar, eating the sunflowers seeds and then pooping everywhere? The wind took my one and only glass gazing ball, hurtling it across the lawn and shattering it into a million pieces. I am declaring war on critters and Mother Nature! If any of the flowers survive this year it will be a miracle of sorts. When challenged, I put on my fighting gloves and rise to the occasion.

“Man masters nature not by force but by understanding.” — Jacob Bronowski


Carol Hegel Lang is a green thumb residing in Albert Lea. Her column appears weekly. Email her at