by Andrea Laine, EMGV
A juvenile Eastern Cottontail (common name: wild rabbit) calls my garden home. He’s bigger than four inches yet well under 12.5 inches, the low end for an adult rabbit.
Rabbits build their nest in low, dense vegetation … like this stand of Eastern Columbine marching down my perennial bed (see photo). I’ve not seen the nest, but I always see the rabbit in this general area and when s/he senses my presence s/he jumps into the thicket of columbine. You may not think of columbine as making a thicket, but my plants have reseeded so profusely that that is precisely what it looked like in April.
The first couple of times I startled the rabbit, s/he dashed into the columbine (Aquilegia spp.) so swiftly that I heard but did not see it. I suspected a rabbit, but all I had to go on was a swoosh of plant leaves and the crunch of dried leaves underfoot. I spent a lot of time in my garden this spring, and eventually s/he stopped jumping away. While I went about my business of putting in new plants or pruning established shrubs, s/he was cautiously content munching on the leaves of a big patch of creeping jenny (Lysimachia N. Aurea). I have a lot of it so, I didn’t worry. I have a lot of columbine, too, so I wasn’t concerned about one bunny living in and feeding on it either. As a precaution, I sprayed the hostas with a commercial rabbit deterrent. I didn’t think to spray the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ I planted in March and which was looking really good until suddenly it wasn’t. Now I know that succulent plants provide rabbits with water. Glad(?) I could help.
A common food for the Eastern Cottontail is blackberry but s/he hasn’t touched any of mine. It seems s/he preferred some young phlox (gone) and a new aster. The hardy begonia also mysteriously disappeared. Hardy – ha!
I became more diligent with the commercial rabbit deterrent spray and soon after I realized that the rabbit was the least of my garden critter worries and probably not the cause of my disappearing phlox and begonia, nor damaged sedum. I noticed a vole hole. Ugh! My gardening season is off to a rough start.
More on voles in an upcoming post.
Sources & Further Reading
I’ve heard rabbit stew jokes aplenty, but hunting season doesn’t begin til November 17. http://www.eregulations.com/northcarolina/hunting-fishing/small-game-seasons/#rabbit