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The Rose Whisperer: Public enemy No. 1

Photos courtesy of Lynn Hunt.

(Read caption) Sturdy wire cages protect tender rose leaves from hungry bunnies.

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They may look innocent. They may even look cute. But when bunnies, deer, raccoons, dogs, cats, and other pests damage your plants, you may want to ring wring their furry necks.

Of course, there is no totally foolproof way to keep animals out of the garden. I’ve heard experts recommend erecting an eight-foot-tall fence trimmed at the bottom with chicken wire that’s firmly planted six inches into the ground. An electric fence is supposed to be better yet.

But for those of us who don’t want to (or can’t) go the fencing route, we must keep searching for new ways to keep critters at bay.

Everyone who has the problem knows that deer can destroy a garden in one evening. Deterring their destructive visits isn’t easy. One school of thought is that deer don’t like walking through bushes with thorns. Some say a hedge of rugosa roses, holly, or other prickly plants will discourage them. Others say these eating machines will devour any rose, no matter how thorny.

I don’t have a deer problem – yet. I didn’t have a squirrel problem either until hurricane Isabel sent a few floating over to my street in 2003. Now they're everywhere. They tip over the veggie seedling trays my husband is hardening off on the front steps, then they tear up my newly planted pots on the balcony. Evidently they hide nuts and forget what they’ve done with them. My containers seem to always be the first place they look.

As maddening as squirrels can be, bunnies are even worse. Every year those wascally wabbits defoliate my new rose bushes, then stare at me defiantly as if challenging me to do something about it. I must say I’ve tried just about everything including dried blood, bone meal, wood ashes, and mothball crystals – without much success. (One suggestion I decided against was dragging a piece of liver around the perimeter of my yard.)

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