It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a gardener in possession of flower beds and dogs must be in want of good sense. Or at least, must be prepared for disaster.
Earlier this year, we cleared a new flower bed in front of a section of our wooden fence. I carefully planted multiple gladiolus bulbs (my first foray into the fine art of growing gladioli), set up a small powder-coated steel garden fence in front of the bed to keep the dogs out, and sat back with eager anticipation. I watched the tiny shoots emerge and kept track as they grew, and was finally delighted to see the first spike beginning to bloom…
… and then I did two things that sealed the fate of that gladiolus and all its sisters. First, we built a patio, raising the level of earth (and patio) in front of the gladiolus bed. Meaning the distance from the ground to the top of the small steel garden fence protecting the gladioli was now shorter (just above knee height), with no way to compensate since the steel fence was set in lower ground. Second, I tidied up the garden after the patio was finished and attended to some long-neglected duties, including refilling the bird feeders for the first time in months. Within a day, the sounds of birds chirping filled the garden and I looked upon the scene with great satisfaction. And then the squirrels arrived.
Here is a photo from last year, which sums up the situation quite nicely:
If there is one thing that drives our dogs (Schnauzer 1 and Schnauzer 2) to utter distraction, it’s s-q-u-i-r-r-e-l-s. Yes, our dogs recognize the word. In fact, they almost may be able to spell it by now, too. The gladiolus bed was (note use of past tense) in front of the wooden fence to the right of the bird feeder; squirrels hoping to get close to the feeder have to scramble across the top of that section of wooden fence. For our dogs, this is akin to waving a red cape in front of a mad bull. They go nuts. A day or so after I took the photo of the gladiolus, Schnauzer 1 (the smaller of the two dogs but the most zealous squirrel chaser) saw a squirrel dancing along the top of the wooden fence and immediately realized the new patio allowed her to clear the small steel garden fence quite easily, putting her within jaw-snapping distance of the squirrel. After an elegant leap landed her squarely on top of the gladiolus plants, she crashed through them, launching herself against the wooden fence in the hopes of shaking the squirrel off.
The gladioli survived this first game of rodent roulette, but just barely; they were all knocked over. So I propped them back up with stakes, set up a barricade of patio chairs in front of the flower bed, and yelled at the dogs. But instinct trumps all. Within another day, all the gladiolus plants were shredded; Schnauzer 1 went around, under, and over the chairs, or simply leapt the garden fence a bit further down the garden and trampled her way to the gladioli. Schnauzer 2 offered abundant vocal support. Here is a photo of the sorry scene–a couple of lilies were also leveled:
And here are the culprits, scanning the trees and fence lines for more enemy combatants. Wretched dogs…. I’m not quite ready to go the electric fence route, though each decimated plant moves me closer in that direction. So for now, it’s a choice between moving the bird feeder or filling it up only in the winter (which many people advocate anyway). I hope that with these additional precautions, I might actually see a gladiolus in bloom next year.