Gardening Amongst Squirrels

Squirrel perched atop St. Francis, patron saint of animals!
Photo by J. Stanton, Backyard 2012.

I’m not an avid gardener, but I do enjoy a variety of plants and flowers in our backyard.  A red maple tree occupies much of the backyard landscaping, a tree majestic in its strength and umbrella-like appearance.  Our yard would not be the same without it.

Located behind our red maple at one time was a hosta garden, full and green, but as the red maple grew over the years its

The Red Maple tree that squirrels love to play in!
Photo by J. Stanton, 2012.

roots began to consume most of the ground’s nutrients, and each year the hostas became smaller and smaller, until some of them looked more like weeds than full-bodied plants.  Though a few hostas are managing to survive, we decided we needed a new strategy for that area.  Actually we needed three strategies.

Strategy One:  Set out pots for planted flowers.  We purchased impatiens for each pot, sat them on tarp-covered soil, and filled in with rock.  It’s a way of working with we have, we thought, not what we wish we had.

A new problem, however, developed with this plan: the squirrels.  They love to play in and around those pots.  They have dug up some of the impatiens, making a return trip to the nursery necessary to buy replacements. This could get expensive!

Strategy Two:  Cover the plants.  The clerk in the store suggested “bird block,” a netting that fits over the plants.  This seemed like a great temporary strategy, until the plants filled out and got stronger and could survive squirrel-digging.  So when the plants grew taller, and blossoms poked through the netting, we removed the bird block, but as soon as we did, the squirrels returned.

Strategy Three:  Buy a marigold plant for each pot. We’d heard that squirrels don’t like the smell of marigolds and tend to avoid them.  One marigold plant in each pot–a perfect deterrent.  Wrong.  The tell-tale signs of squirrel-digging have returned.  Back to bird block, I guess.

This morning I sat by an east window and looked out into our backyard, as I often do, and spotted four squirrels running, jumping, and climbing the red maple tree with agility, energy, and joyful abandon.  In spite of the damage they’ve done to our flowers, I could only smile.  I was captivated by their playfulness.

Cute squirrels.   Beautiful impatiens.  I’d like to enjoy both!

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