Rabbit Rage When good plants are eaten by bad bunnies, don’t get mad – outsmart the varmints!

By Kim Reiss, Sugar Creek Gardens

Rabbits fall into two categories: 1. Fuzzy creatures that define the word “cute,” or 2. Demons of destruction that eat expensive plants. If you identify with the “fuzzy, cute” definition, then read no further. If, however, you see them as the truly evil creatures they are, then join the club! You’re not alone…

I’ve seen rabbits eat rose bushes, thorns and all, down to a stub. I’ve had prized (and expensive) hydrangeas disappear completely. And this is in a fenced backyard with a dedicated Corgi on patrol.
What options do we have for protecting our plants without resorting to harmful chemicals or Elmer Fudd’s shotgun?

There are many deterrents available that should be your first line of defense:
• Erect rabbit-proof fencing or chicken wire. You can fence individual plants or an entire bed. The downside is if you have an extensive rabbit population, they’ll go to outrageous lengths to get at food, even climbing or digging under fences.
• Apply blood meal. When sprinkled around plants, it makes a smelly deterrent. The downside is it has to be reapplied after heavy rains.
• Consider using a motion-activated sprinkler. These can be purchased for $50-$100 and are very effective for protecting prized beds. They’ll also keep birds away from strawberries and other fruit plants. The downside is you might need multiple hoses and sprinklers to adequately cover your yard.
• Apply a rain-proof, organic repellent. My favorite is Plantskydd, which is a blood-based liquid that we’ve had good luck with. The downside is its foul smell, but most of that dissipates after 24 hours. There’s also a granular form of the product that has no odor, but may not be as effective as the liquid form for serious rabbit infestations.
You can also garden smart by selecting plants that rabbits tend to not eat. Here’s a list of our favorites for sun and shade.

Sun: Achillea – yarrow; Asclepias tuberosa – butterfly weed; Baptisia- redneck lupine; Delphinium-larkspur Iris; Lavendula-lavender; Nepeta- catmint; Perovskia-Russian sage; Perennial geranium, bloody cranesbill; Stachys-lamb’s ears.

Shade: Aquilegia-columbine; Bergenia – pigsqueak; Cimicifuga- bugbane; Dicentra, -bleeding heart; Digitalis- foxglove; Hellebore; Polygonatum-Solomon’s Seal; Pulmonaria-lungwort; Stylophorum-celandine poppy; Tricyrtis-toad lily.

If the first method you try isn’t successful, then work your way down the list. Gardening is such a rewarding experience, I hate to think of rabbits ruining it for anyone. Even ol’ Elmer Fudd didn’t give up…

Kim is a manager at Sugar Creek Gardens in Kirkwood and is president of the St. Louis Hydrangea Society. She also battles rabbits at home and work. Contact Sugar Creek Gardens at 314-965-3070 or visit www.sugarcreekgardens.com

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