Field of Science

Yard smart, gardener dumb?

The Phactor’s estate is without doubt an urban oasis for wildlife. Over 70 species of birds have visited in the past 10 years as well as the usual, and not so usual, assortment of small, and not so small, animals. So it was a no-brainer for when this property received Yard Smart certification. But the bucolic serenity of a balanced ecosystem remains elusive.

For several years ecology worked quite well. Red fox were common, and as a consequence, rabbits were not, a most satisfying, and extremely biological, relationship. But something has happened to these handsome canids; they have not been making their daily rounds. As a result the gardener-in-chief has had the Phactor busy conducting an interesting, and increasingly expensive, experiment in the gastronomic preferences of Sylvilagus floridanus, the eastern cottontail. The experiment is conducted thusly. The most precious, unusual, rare, or gorgeous plant in your yard gets eaten to the ground, or lower. This species gets designated the plant of 1st preference. To protect any remaining morsels that may be left, you erect protective fencing around that plant, and then record the next plant that gets eaten into oblivion. This species gets designated the plant of 2nd preference. And so on, and on, and on.

Now perhaps many people would be quite satisfied to have labored so long and so hard producing a botanical smorgasbord for little bun-buns, but the fun is seeping away. This is partly the fault of the plant purveyors who neglected to tell you that the newest, neatest addition to horticulture happens to be a rodent delicacy. Aren't they supposed to run field trials? And here are some results.

Mukdenia rossii 'Crimson Fans' does indeed grow well in the shade and it looks quite striking, but it is even preferred over Campanula takesimana ‘Korean bellflower’ previously ranked number 2. Number one, Callirhoe involucrata ‘prairie poppy mallow’, is no longer participating in the experiment (RIP).

Here foxy, foxy, foxy. Nice rabbits. If the Phactor were not so committed to ecology he might be fixing them one of Aunt Pearl's bitter pills.

Now, what preys on fox squirrels?

1 comment:

Larissa said...

I bet T. Bear will serve as a more efficient bunny chaser than good old Rocky. We'll see if he's interested.