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Thursday
Oct152009

the good snake

A  garden needs a snake. Every year I lose plants, usually because of the heat stress of summer or some fungus or viral attack. This year an anonymous underground villain decimated one of the four planting areas in the lady garden and was making a run on the other three when at last the damage stopped.

I counted the dead the other day: four hostas, three nandina, two Persian shield plants, and - the greatest loss of all - a weeping Japanese maple tree given to me by my mother. The tree was a slow grower which had finally made it to about three feet. Each of these plants was in perfect health until death came quickly in the night. Every time, I found the top of the plant lying wilted on the ground, cleanly decapitated from its roots.

I suspect some earth-dwelling rodent, but I'll never know. The plant destruction has stopped for now. My neighbor Betty phoned me one day to report a five foot black snake in her yard. 

"That's probably a garter snake," I told her. "Let it alone. It's not poisonous, and it eats rats and voles." 

I'm thinking Betty's snake slithered into the lady garden and ate the varmint that was killing my plants. It is a reminder that there is a purpose for every creature on earth.This close-up is of the leaves of a Frances Williams hosta, like the ones destroyed in the lady garden. I haven't decided if I will replant hostas or try something different.

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