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.


Rocking Along in the Lady Garden

I bought some rocks for my garden the other day. The man who loaded them into my vehicle was from Mexico. 

"In my country," he said, "Rocks like this are everywhere. No one would ever pay for such things. In America," he paused and gave me a big smile, "People will buy anything."

Well, I've already scavenged all the rocks from my own yard, and I needed some to give structure to an area I am developing down from our patio. I call it the lady garden, because I have a pot there shaped like a lady's head.Last year a carpenter built me an arbor to one side of the area, and I have a swing hanging from it. There is a large urn in the center and a flagstone path and four separate planting areas. I am outlining the planting areas with the rock. 

My oldest son dropped by today, and I roped him into helping me haul the rocks down to the garden. I still need more rocks, but it is beginning to take shape. Most of my yard has a natural, informal feel to it. The lady garden is a bit more formal, though still woodsy. I enjoy sitting in the swing and watching the wildlife. 

An owl family lives in the area. They are huge birds, and their hoots have an otherworldly, haunted quality. I recently saw one of them sitting atop the arbor, and it was creepy to watch it swivel its head from front to back without moving its body. This spring I sat in the swing and watched the mother owl teach her baby to fly. She flew from branch to branch, calling the young one to come. Baby finally took off, following her on short hops at first, and then finally mom and baby soared together from one side of the lady garden to the other, a distance of about forty feet.  

I felt like a proud godmother.