A territorial dispute threatens harmony in the garden. No, the conflict is not with the neighbors, who have been eternally understanding while our garden harbors wildlife that regularly raids their veggie patch. I wonder if they quietly curse us (me), but a few years ago the kind fellow next door reacted to a persistent groundhog that lived in a hole beneath the wide spreading plum poppy (Macleaya cordata, below) by constructing an impenetrable fortress around his little garden of tomatoes and peppers (and weeds).
Our current dispute regards a boulder perched at the edge of the koi pond that my wife claims as her sitting rock. It is smooth so as not to scratch her bare legs, and it’s angled to provide a perfect spot for her to sit while visiting the koi. The problem is, a Northern Brown snake has the same idea, though he is regularly curled just beneath the boulder. More than a few times he’s poked his head out to cause a fright, and I expect that no agreement will be reached to share this space.
I’ve had a few run ins with this snake and his kin (or buddy), who had a confrontation with my wife earlier in the spring. She screamed for help on the path just below the pond, and I had no choice but to dash to the rescue. The problem was resolved with extreme violence, which I prefer to avoid, but occasionally it can’t be helped. I’m more tolerant than my wife, and snakes in the pond, in the garden, and even in the garage don’t bother me much. A large black snake discovered in the kitchen a year ago was more than I could tolerate, but otherwise I’m not worried by them until my wife cries for help.
I suspect that this is obvious, but it is the cycle of life created by the ponds and garden that attracts such beasts. A bigger creature eats a smaller one, on up to the black bear that visited a year ago. Snakes are somewhere on the lower end, by size, but there are small fish, frogs, and toads for it to eat, and I don’t know if Northern Browns eat field mice and chipmunks, but we have those also.
Over the weekend my wife had a run in with a black snake on the driveway, and an hour later with a groundhog digging out from under our garden shed. She then proclaimed “I hate nature-y things”, and who can blame her in such a dangerous place. She claims the groundhog charged her, which is a little hard to believe, but I assured her that if I ran across the furry little beast I would do my best to be certain he never dared to confront her again. Of course, this is much more drama than a garden should be, and I suggest that it is probably safer for my wife to remain indoors.