Waging a Cold War…On Bunnies

The French Idea of gardening…
I have recently returned from a wondering holiday in southwestern France.  The villagers produce an altogether charming effect, comparable with our own cottage gardens at home.  The village street is lined with pots, standing grouped around the doorways or rising step by step up the outside staircase when there is one pots filled with pink geraniums, zinnias, begonias, nasturtiums, carnations marigolds, all mixed and gaudy.

-Vita Sackville-West
The Joy of Gardening, 1958




I’ve been in a 1950’s mood lately (I wonder why), so I decided I was going to plant marigolds this year in some of our pots around the yard.  For some reason these little annuals of orange and yellow remind me of the by-gone era of cold war and rockin’ music.  Don’t ask.  Upon telling people this they would relay to me fantastical stories about the benefits of marigolds.  “They deter bunnies, and deer and bad insects. Oh my!”

I’ve since looked this information up and there seems to be mixed opinion on this.  Some even complained that marigolds brought spider mites into their gardens to reek havoc on everything in sight.  Other sites however, say that marigolds attract good insects like lady bugs (a gardener’s best friend), and that they’ll deter moles, and sometimes deer and bunnies.



Well, I have a bunny problem.  They sneak in at night and eat all of my coneflower, and black-eyed susans, and they ate all of my pussy toes those -“beep-beep-beep!”

So, I’m waging WAR!  A sun-shiny yellow, friendly war, but a war none the less!   I’m going to take my chances on the spider mites and plant these 1950 lovelies as a border like sentries flying their colors of yellow and orange.  They’ll create a picket line around my garden and hopefully keep the enemy out.  Those bunnies will be sooooo sorry when they get a load of what I’ve got in store for them.

Readers out there; have you ever planted marigolds to deter pests?  If so please let me know how it worked out for you! Thank you!


Toxic Beauty

It is perhaps too ordinary to appeal to the real connoisseur- a form of snobbishness I always find hard to understand in gardeners…
-Vita Sackville-West
January 1st, 1950

I’ve often thought Vita wouldn’t approve of my growing pussy toes.  After all, they’re just an ordinary wildflower.  But then I read the above passage.  Of course she wasn’t referring to these little creatures of delicate structure and grace, she was actually referring to an autumn-flowering cherry.

Anyway, most people would consider pussy toes a nuisance, but I’ve always loved them.  Spring is their season and they are popping up now.  Perhaps you’ll see them growing under trees in the park.  They like shade or dappled sun and grow in large mats that spread rapidly along the ground from year to year.   I planted these for my daughter so she can pick them freely and offer them to whomever in her clumsy but precious bouquets of varied sizes.  Some gardeners might consider my planting them a grave mistake, because despite their innocent name, pussy toes are toxic.



If you study wildflowers, their hairy little stems and pale color almost avows their toxicity.  But these qualities also make them irresistible to curious children and adults like.  The name alone can bring back memories of sitting on your mother’s lap reading Beatrix Potter.  Also, they look rather artful in a bud vase.  But these little beauties are indeed toxic. Pussy toes emit a poison into the soil which assures nothing will grow alongside them.  So if you do plant them make sure they are somewhat isolated.  I will probably find myself digging them out in the future, when my daughter has lost interest in flowers growing in the grass, and has instead moved on to making bouquets from the zinnias in her garden.