Sandy’s Garden ... Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit ...

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

Gardeners do tend to go rabbiting on about their problems.

“Aye, those long days of sunshine we had earlier in the summer played havoc with my herbaceous perennials.” “You’re complaining! This has been a disastrous year for my potatoes; I’ve hardly got one that’s bit enough to eat!” “And this rain we’ve had recently … ruined my chrysanthemums, just ruined them.” “You should see my turnips, starting to rot in the ground!” “Aye, the nights are fair drawing in; we’ll soon not be able to see to spend the evening doing wee jobs in the garden.”

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit … on and on we go! Nothing ever seems to be just right and that’s before I start going on about my real-life rabbits. As regular readers know, my garden backs on to the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway line, the rails of which run through a shallow cutting behind my house. This means that, behind the boundary wall which separates Network Rail’s property from my ground, there’s an area of sloping nature reserve in which rabbits and other wildlife can make their burrows, setts and dens. And rabbits do take up residence there; they breed there, a practise for which rabbits are justly renowned; they raise their families there; and they feed there. But rabbits are inquisitive feeders and are not content to remain in what one might call their nature reserve. They must venture forth to discover how they might enhance their diet. And in this quest they visit the gardens in the neighbourhood, including one of the closest of them all – mine.

This quote from Wikipedia may well seem totally irrelevant, but bear with me. “Compline, also known as Complin, Night Prayer, or the Prayers at the End of the Day, is the final church service (or office) of the day in the Christian tradition of canonical hours.” And Compline includes these words, taken from 1 Peter 5.8,9, in the Authorised Version of the Bible, completed in 1611: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” I trust I will not be regarded as a heretic if I misquote these wonderfully poetic words to read: ‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary, the rabbit, as a ravening try-on, walketh about, seeking what it may devour.’ And, as proof of the rabbit’s willingness to taste any plant, here are the despairing words of an unknown American gardener: “Bergenia species (elephant’s ears) is listed as suitable but this is our rabbits’ favorite in the whole garden.” And yes, Bergenia is indeed listed in the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) list of what they describe as ‘rabbit-proof plants.’ Here is a selection of plants from that RHS list: Aster novae-angliae (Michaelmas daisy), Bergenia species (elephant’s ears), Colchicum (autumn crocus), Dahlia (dahlias), Euphorbia (spurges), Fritillaria (fritillaries), Galanthus nivalis (snowdrop), Helianthus (sunflowers), Impatiens (busy Lizzie), Kniphofia (red hot poker), Lupinus (lupins), Mentha (mints), Narcissus (daffodil), Orchids, Paeonia (peonies), Rhubarb, Sedum spectabile (ice plant), Tulipa (tulips), Verbena, Weigela hybrids, Xerochrysum bracteatum (everlasting flower), Yucca and Zinnia elegans … species beginning with every letter of the alphabet except J, Q and U.

Now one might assume that rabbits would not seek to taste artificial plants: but now I am wondering about this truism for, realising that the artificial grass which forms my front lawn is looking rather in need of a clean… and yes, since the mosses, liverworts and few blades of sickly grass which once grew there have been replaced with artificial turf I call it a lawn … I discovered that the reason for the discoloration is rabbit poo! Have the rabbits been nibbling my expensive pasture seeking to establish whether it is suitable for grazing? Surely not! But if they are, I’ll rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit them!