My passions are wildlife and gardening. My challenge is having the two peacefully co-exist in the same place!
Three years ago, the herb garden that I had excitedly planted and lovingly tended for the previous two years was finally coming into its own. Lush aromatic plants of tri-colored sage, chives, rosemary and oregano perfumed my garden and enlivened my cuisine.
But I’d have to say that the unqualified star of my herb garden that summer was my angelica, a tall herb native to the Northeast, very ornamental and aromatic, with large white flowers. And, of course, I delighted in the fact that even experienced gardeners had never seen one before!
Unfortunately, my “delight” was very short-lived! One early fall day as I was about to pick some fresh herbs for an omelet that I was about to whip up, I could not believe my eyes … there in the middle of my what-was-once a prolific herb garden, was a huge mound of dirt encompassing almost my entire herb garden.
The herb garden was fine in the morning. Who could have done this dastardly deed? And how could he or she have done it in such a short span of time? On my hands and knees now – no easy feat for arthritic me - I followed the “dirt trail” until it led me to a rather large opening below my kitchen window. Very interesting …
Still on my knees, I carefully brushed the dirt away from my herbs, trying to salvage what was left so that I would still have some sage to season our Thanksgiving turkey.
Suddenly, I realized that my entire angelica was gone … without a trace … no leaves … no stems … no roots … absolutely nothing was left of my five-foot plant. Quite a mystery and one which I was certainly going to solve!
The next day I was extra alert to every movement in my garden. And, finally, I saw the culprit … a chubby little new-guy-in-town who meandered out of my enclosed vegetable garden with a piece of a bright red pepper dangling from his mouth. I watched in amazement as he nonchalantly sauntered over to my herb garden and quickly disappeared down the hole.
Okay! So now I knew the perpetrator was a groundhog. I’d never had one in my garden before so, angelica destruction aside, I was quite excited!
When I went online to do some research about my new “wild-friend,” I learned that groundhogs are part of the rodent family, closely related to squirrels. They can weigh anywhere from ten to thirty pounds and I think my guy tipped the scales very close to the thirty pound mark – he was that huge!
Groundhogs are well adapted for digging, with short but powerful limbs and curved, thick claws and can move about seven hundred pounds of soil when excavating their burrows. And I think those seven hundred pounds sat in the middle of my herb garden creating a berm of sorts at the entrance to his McMansion!
Groundhogs primarily eat wild grasses and vegetation, including berries and vegetables, as well as grubs, grasshoppers, insects and snails … and they love angelica! So, happy to have a new visitor, I watched in fascination as my groundhog, who I named “George,” raided my vegetable garden and demolished my bowls of cracked corn.
In October he disappeared, presumably burrowing deep under the earth for his long winter’s nap.
Over the years, we have developed quite a relationship – he thinks that he is the owner of my garden and he gives me quite a stare when I am in his way.
Last year, according to nature’s plan, along came Mrs. Groundhog. I could tell the difference between the two by their different sizes and by the fact that Mrs. Groundhog has a circle mark on her back. And - ta da – of course, I was thrilled to welcome a baby groundhog. He was so fat that it looked as if he would roll down my walkway if I gave him the slightest push!
This year, in late April – long after Holbrook Hal and Malverne Mel were yanked from their burrows for Groundhog Day ceremonies – Mr. Groundhog appeared and actually let me take a picture of him exiting his burrow.
And yesterday morning I enjoyed watching Mr. and Mrs. Groundhog romantically share a bowl of cracked corn. So far, though no little groundhogs have been spotted running around my garden but I’ll keep you posted!