Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
April, 2008
Regional Report

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The emu in the background creates an attractive mound of greenery and yellow blossoms.

The Return of the Rabbits

I just restocked the rabbits' pantry, once known as my front flower bed. Emboldened by their seeming indifference of late, I planted without chicken wire. Battalions of bunnies materialized to graze gallon-sized lavender, coreopsis, and gaillardia down to the ground, thus demonstrating that a list of "rabbit-proof" plants is only effective if chicken wire comes with it!

On the positive side, the rabbits haven't shown any interest in a new emu planted at the same time. I snapped it up at Boyce Thompson Arboretum's spring plant sale. I first saw this emu in a fellow Master Gardener's landscape. Most of the familiar emu are shrubby, but this one is an excellent ground cover. Its deep green foliage shows off yellow flowers that bloom from spring to fall.

The rabbit problem is partly my own doing. I allow a rather hideously out-of-control artemisia to remain near my front gate, where leaves from an overhead acacia tree drop amongst the artemisia stems, creating a soft little nest. A little bunny makes its home there. Occasionally when I sweep the sidewalk, we startle each other and it dashes out, making a 90-degree turn to race down the sidewalk. I don't have the heart to cut the messy plant back to regenerate it, although anyone coming to the front door may think they've found the Addams Family at home.

Bunny Acrobatics
This little bunny keeps the lone remaining angelita daisy near its hideout sheared like a crewcut. I let this pass. Everyone's gotta have a treat now and again. However, I do have some limits when it comes to plant destruction. Yesterday, I watched my furry nemesis precariously balance itself on the narrow lip of a small pot containing an agave (no mean feat) so that it could reach up and nibble penstemon flowers! Penstemon appears on the rabbit-proof plant lists, and so far, the critters have left foliage of the established plants and numerous seedlings alone. Evidently, the flowers are too tempting to pass up if a rabbit will perform Cirque du Soleil balancing acts to obtain them.

Somewhat reluctantly, I opened the door and startled the rabbit away, then propped up the leaning penstemon flower stalks with perennial stakes so they are out of reach of acrobatic bunnies. Everyone knows that penstemons belong in the hummingbird pantry!

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