If you regularly read this space, you might remember a column from a few months back about my (rather successful) rose hospital. Well, I have some significant updates.
First, all are blooming both literally and figuratively. Long stems are bearing clusters of about-to-open roses and even the one that looked terminal has started sending out a brand new shoot, its only one to date.
Apart from the almost terminal one, they are just about ready to be deposited back in the terrestrial possies whence they came.
But the more significant news is that I think I have discovered the cause of their earlier malaise. I took a couple of ailing young newcomers to a garden shop to show to A Lady Who Knows About Plants And Who Also Writes A Gardening Column. Even from a distance, she said with some authority, "You've got rabbits."
I was quick to jump to their defence. "No, these are roses," I said.
But what she said made total sense. The hospital roses and the ailing newcomers were all small, low to the ground or new. The reason they weren't growing was that the rabbits were nibbling away at the tender new shoots as they appeared. Yum.
It was a rabbity revelation. Transferring the others to my hospital pots had given them just enough altitude to escape the rabbits' nibbling.
Suddenly I also knew what was happening to my sweet peas. I felt it might be worth displaying a blackboard menu amongst the foliage.
- Tender young sweet pea shoots with curly tendrils
- Meltingly tender young spring rose shoots
- Fish of the day
Perhaps I could trick them into helping me by adding:
- Today's Special: Lovingly sun-warmed dandelion leaves garnished with oxalis and chickweed
Naturally, I sprang into action. I could have bought rabbit deterrent at a cost of $28 but last time we used animal deterrent our dog loved it. "Yum," she said, "unspeakable smelly waste with wasabi on it!" As a first step, I put up a sign: No rabbits.
I knew that in the lower reaches of our property was an overgrown, ivy-entwined roll of chicken wire. I dragged it out, cut it into 2m lengths, rolled them into cylinders and carefully placed them over the low-altitude, affected plants. I then milled around waiting for my plan to work.
During my period of excessive milling, I visited the vast region known as "online" and happened upon a "thread" contributed to by people whose roses were being eaten by rabbits. I also learned that if you put inverted commas around lots of words they can start to look "really silly".
On the rabbit-rose thread, one contributor suggested planting onions around the bushes because rabbits don't like the smell of onions but it seems silly to overpower the fragrance of roses with the pungency of onions.
Another suggested sprinkling fox urine (it was a US thread) around the base of the plants.
But the contributor who worried me was the one who said he tried placing cylinders of chicken wire over the plants but the rabbits burrowed under the wire and ate the young rose shoots. One rabbit even ordered the fish of the day.
I won't start panicking yet but if that does happen I have a back-up plan which I am currently formulating. At the moment the costs are just too high so I'll need to find a reliable source of cheap fresh fish. My theory works on the principle that if they have other tempting stuff to eat they will be too full to eat rose shoots.
If that one fails, I could look into importing fox urine.