Snakes’ paradise


Finally, I’ve discovered the secret to keeping my wife from meddling in the garden. Most recently she hasn’t been much of a problem, but when she has a bit of time on her hands, there’s trouble.

I made a bit of a stink several years ago when she purchased overpriced, undersized pruners, but there are times when she can put them to good use. The low growing bamboo along the front walk requires regular taming to keep it in bounds, and I admit that the ivy along the path to the back deck looks best when it’s neatly shorn. I’m not good at keeping up with such things, so my wife and her pruners and I are not at complete odds.

But, if it were possible in this life to have your way without argument, I would ask that my wife leave the rest of the garden to me. Too many nandina branches have been chopped, too many magnificent hosta leaves cut out for the simple offense of daring to lean over one of the garden’s paths a bit. And this is where my new found revelation comes in.Snake in the stewartia

A few days ago my wife was prowling about during the day while I was working. She’s off for the summer, though taking online classes that keep her busy. I think she takes more breaks than she admits to, and on this one I suspect she was looking for trouble with pruners in hand. She stopped by to sit for a moment on the granite bench by the oldest of the garden’s ponds. The bench is overhung by a large variegated Chinese dogwood and a Japanese stewartia that until recently was quite small, but has grown to be quite a nice tree.

The branches overhang the bench so there is adequate headroom, but if you were to suddenly look up and a black snake happened to be climbing through the tree it could be nearly looking you in the eye. Which is exactly what happened, and now the seed has been planted to be worried that a snake is lurking behind every leaf, climbing through every branch. I encouraged the lurking part, since in cultivating the proper amount of concern it’s important to believe that the snake is out to get you.Snake by the front pond

While I was traveling last week my wife happened upon two other snakes in different parts of the garden, so now there is a likelihood that one is around every corner, beneath every leaf. And so, for the near future my wife will hesitate before reaching for her pruners, and perhaps a few nandina branches will be saved.

In fact, I’ve not made too much of it, but through the years I often run into snakes in the garden. Usually, these are small garter snakes, but there have been plenty of larger black snakes. There are copperheads in the neighborhood, though if I’ve run into one it scurried away before I could identify it. I’m not looking to get too close to any kind of snake, but they appear to be more afraid of me than I am of them, so I don’t mind them roaming about as long as they don’t cause too much trouble. It’s never been my intention to scare my wife or anyone away from strolling through the garden, but this snake in the stewartia might just be the thing to save me considerable aggravation.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Jenny says:

    My country uncle always said every farm (or garden) needs a black snake.

  2. Miha says:

    Yes, there are plenty of snakes in the Warrenton area. I ran into two huge black (rat) snakes the other day. Both trying to climb a 75 foot tall oak tree at the edge of my garden. They were easily 5-6 feet long. Huge! I also ran into a copper head last year and saw from some distance a rattle snake a few months ago. An unsettling experience, to say the least. All of them are to be found in the woods around my house. I heard somewhere that guinea fowls are good at eliminating snakes (probably baby snakes only). I wonder if there is any truth to it…

    1. Dave says:

      Perhaps we should bring some guinea fowls indoors. After I wrote this update a black snake appeared in our kitchen. Unfortunately, the poor fellow refused to leave without a struggle.

      1. Miha says:

        I would not want to find any of the two I described above in my kitchen. They scared the heck out of me and I am not usually afraid of rat snakes. As I said, I have never seen such a long and thick rat snake. I at first thought that they were some other type of snake and ran into the house to get my camera and capture the image for later examination.

    2. John McMann says:

      I seriously doubt that you saw a rattlesnake near Warrenton. The timber rattler is most likely the rattlesnake you will find in Virginia and it lives in the Western part of the state. Some non venomous Virginia snakes do shake their tails when alarmed giving the appearance of a rattler. I suggest you pick up a copy of Snakes in Virginia from the Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries. It cost $5 and has a photo and description of all Virginia snakes.

      1. Dave says:

        Yes, no rattlesnakes in this garden, but a growing number of black and garter snakes, and possibly an occasional copperhead.

  3. Kathleen Webber says:

    I’ve noticed a lot more snakes around when there are nests containing baby birds. I try not to get too attached to the nestlings even though their parents make their homes right under our noses. When I worked the help desk for Fauquier master gardeners we were always getting teeny little decapitated snakes in baggies to I.D. Lots of folks get panicked at the sight of a worm size snake! The baby copperheads are actually easy to identify as they have day glo green tail tips.

  4. Ruth says:

    Haha! Love the commentary Dave! Your fans love your garden, although we’ve never been lucky enough to step in it! You should do a video for all of us sometime! Thanks as always. 😀

    1. Dave says:

      I’m working on a video for parts of the garden. Hope to have it in the next few weeks.

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