The Garden of Wrath


By Kit Flynn and Lise Jenkins

Two things incur my wrath when it comes to gardening: certain wildlife and nurseries that sell the wrong plants.

There are few serious gardeners who haven’t felt fury at wildlife. You see, wildlife has to eat — and many creatures savor the meals we unwittingly prepare for them in our garden. We call graceful does “giant rats.” We reread Peter Rabbit, only this time we sympathize with Mr. McGregor.

Deer and I share one attribute in common: We happen to enjoy the same plants. I adore roses and daylilies, as do my deer. Deer are big creatures so it takes an awful lot of daylilies and roses to satiate them, leaving very few crumbs for this humble gardener.

Rabbits are just as bad — or even worse, because they can easily hide in greenery, whereas it’s difficult for a deer to totally camouflage itself. Rabbits eat incessantly when they’re not procreating, and their destruction in the garden can be awesome.

All this leads me to voles. Now, voles would be considered rather cute creatures if they didn’t have a fetish for root systems. Have you ever had a seemingly healthy plant suddenly totter over because its roots were nonexistent? That is the magic performed by voles.

I have tried every spray out there to deter deer, and while some might work for one or two days, none really kept the deer away. Rabbits, with their sensitive noses, can respond to rabbit sprays but because their diet is so varied, be prepared to spray the whole garden, an exhausting prospect.

And, aside from putting rat poison (not recommended) down a tunnel, I have few good ideas for getting rid of voles. All this can create an insurmountable fury in the gardener: While wrath is a biblical sin, I would argue that this may be a justifiable anger. However, we are all God’s creatures so perhaps it’s better to shelve the wrath and do something about it.

The best way to handle your fury is to place a barrier between the culprits and your plants. Fences make good gardens. Adding PermaTil to the soil when planting new plants might alleviate the stress voles place on gardeners. The Internet is full of suggestions, so see what works for you.

Another item that fills me with rage are jalapeño peppers — yes, you read that correctly. I love the original hot jalapeños, but they can be hard to find due to the new introduction of mild jalapeños that have little taste and no heat. Last year I bought three plants, all of which produced bland jalapeños — and I ended up ripping out the plants in disgust.

Plant nurseries: You must identify which jalapeños are the real thing and which are not. Otherwise I will send the Fanatics of the Original Jalapeños to picket your business.

Nurseries that offer invasive plants for sale also incur my wrath. So many of us want to trust our nurseries, but how can you trust a nursery that sells Clematis ternifolia (also known as C. paniculata and Sweet Autumn Clematis)? This beautiful, exotic clematis will thrill you while it’s seeding all over your yard and the surrounding landscape.

Another plant I crusade against is English ivy, a plant that is now outlawed in Washington, Oregon and parts of Virginia. Another exotic, kudzu, is in direct competition with English ivy as to which vine is the most invasive and offensive.

To counteract my wrath, please don’t plant C. ternifolia or English ivy. As for blah jalapeños, if you like them, just don’t tell me about it.

Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email:

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1 Comment on "The Garden of Wrath"

  1. Dear Absent:

    Deer Scram works on the giant rodents! It is a grainy powder, not a spray. I can now grow roses, lantana, hydrangea, etc. in peace despite our resident herd.

    Be wsrned, however, that it works because it’s 39% dried blood, so it’s as attractive to dogs as it is repellent to deer. While it isn’t poisonous it’s definitely not a healthy snack. I keep my pooches out of my tiny garden – to me, it’s worth it..

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