Pests & Diseases

Rereading Peter Rabbit

I’m turning into Mr. McGregor. Somewhere along the course of my 72 years, I made the transition from childhood to adulthood, but I’m not sure when this occurred. Every child is on the side of Peter Rabbit while every mother delights in Peter Rabbit. I was still in childhood when reading Peter Rabbit to my four sons but now I am the perpetually crabby Mr. McGregor—with whom I sympathize 100%.

I firmly believe in the philosophy of live and let live. It is only when copperheads threaten the welfare of my three terriers that I put my foot down. Otherwise I’m perfectly content to step on them by mistake and then to recoil in horror—but let them live. Rather than massacre perpetually hungry deer—although that would be frowned upon in downtown Chapel Hill—I put up a handsome fence so we could live in peaceful coexistence.

I dislike mousetraps, as the sight of a decapitated mouse is more than I can face first thing in the morning. Fox enter my front yard, which is okay as the terriers dwell in the backyard, which is a heavily fox-proofed fenced in area. In other words I am a fairly peaceful person I like to think.

Two years ago the rabbit arrived by chewing a hole through the part of the fence that isn’t visible from the road and consists of a heavy-duty deer fence. He chewed miniature lilies down to the nubbin, gnawed on a couple of hostas, and was around all summer but generally he and I decided upon détente and ignored one another.

However, this summer has been a different story. Whether it was the same rabbit is hard to tell, as frankly all gray rabbits tend to look alike to me. However this one was ravenous with a fetish for young rose leaves. Now newly planted roses like their leaves, as they derive their food from photosynthesis. By de-leafing many of the roses, the rabbit managed to kill seven young rose bushes (I’m in the midst of a rose mania); consequently my builder is now making cages constructed out of some type of chicken wire. Yes, my caged-in garden is about to house miniature cages.

If you remember The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Peter ends up in bed with a dose of chamomile tea while Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail “had bread and milk and blackberries for dinner.” Well, this year my Peter, after ruining the roses, chewing off stalks of Phlox and lilies, and generally making a big nuisance of himself, got his comeuppance—at least I think he did.

The other day, while gardening, I came across some bones that looked about the size of bones that could have belonged to my Peter. I think the fox finally caught him. I am pretty sure he isn’t around as a few of the roses are (slowly) producing some leaves. Do I miss the furry creature? I’m sorry he’s gone until I look at the carcasses of young roses—and then I am inclined to say, “Hurrah for nature.”

A serious gardener for the past twenty years, Kit Flynn resides in Chapel Hill. She is also a Durham Master Gardener.

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