Coffee in hand, I surveyed our tiny garden from the back deck, in the shade of the burgeoning cherry tree. I didn’t expect a call to battle.
The peony I found it in a plastic grocery bag at the side of a busy highway four years ago is finally thriving. Shoved among the other perennials in the back garden in sub-optimal soil, it flowered for the first time and over-sized blossoms thick with crinoline-like petals tipped the stems over.
A foot away from this buxom dowager is a yellow iris, a starved waif with broadsword leaves and another foot beyond it is its skinnier purple Siberian cousin armed with rapier leaves that I wish would dispatch the gout weed that thrusts between the rhizomes. Occasionally I lop off the gout weeds’ heads to slow down their advance.
Behind the peony is a hefty, broad-leafed hosta, an overall-wearing gardener with a big bum and a low center of gravity. He’s been there for 22 years, long before the upstart peony invaded his space and eclipsed his plain August flowers, simple and soothing in the late summer heat. To the left are a trio of aggressive lilies that will soon blast us with laser beam blooms of yellow and orange.
Phlox, philosophical, leans against the fence, casually observing the monardas heads attracting bees, thinking about making a move into her turf but worried about being stung.
Languishing under the cherry tree are the astilbes, breaking my heart because they fail to thrive, never producing the foamy white flowers that remind me of crashing surf. Meanwhile, the gangster day lilies take over the patch with the most sun, opportunists in the crappy soil pushing aside the quiet bellflowers, like a chain gang.
As I considered the garden mayhem, I watched a baby bunny forage in the fallen cherries speckling the ground like drops of blood. Distracted by a spitting sound, I looked into the cherry tree and saw swaths of empty branches where yesterday loads of cherries gradually turning yellow and pink, soon to be red, hung. Then I saw him – the squirrel – staring down at me, a pink globe in his mitts, defiant. Bastard! He and his ilk have been eating the crop, emptying the tree.
I ran to the front, out the door and grabbed the nearest rock, raced back to the deck and hurled it at the thief. I wished him stomach cramps and diarrhea and a cherry pit blocking his anus.
He was unperturbed.
Despite the pilfering, enough cherries were salvaged to make treats and to freeze, and we left those at the top to the damn squirrels.
I’m told coyote piss is a good deterrent and it’s available at garden centers. I think a squirt gun loaded with it might work, too. Next year.