Easter's coming in a month or so; is your rabbit laying eggs? That might make the overpopulation problems in Calgary and surrounding areas easier to control! Unfortunately, many Calgarians are having to contend with cute bunnies destroying their gardens, landscaping, and in some extreme cases, even the foundations of their homes! Rabbit problems in residential areas are common across Canada and they're usually caused by irresponsible pet owners releasing their un-spayed/un-neutred domesticated bunnies into the wild when they no longer want to take care of them.
Given how quickly bunnies multiply, it doesn't look like it will be very easy to bring down the rabbit population. So, in the meantime, how do those of us who enjoy gardening (and want to preserve our home's curb appeal) deal with these pesky things pulling up our prized petunias? There are ways, and the bonus is that these tactics also help safeguard your landscaping against other pests, too.
The first method of defense is to create a physical barrier against bunnies. Because these rodents are known for their digging and jumping skills, it's important to remember several key points:
- A rabbit's greatest skill is chewing, so you can bet that it will chew through just any material other than metal. Chicken wire is a popular choice for rabbit barriers.
- Fences and barriers need to be of a small enough gauge that rabbits can't squeeze through. Choose a grid that is no larger than 1.5" x 1.5".
- Digging is a time-honoured tradition for bunnies. Bury your fence to a depth of 6" and forming an L shape so that there are 8" of fencing laying horizontally on the ground, away from the gardening.
- The most effective barriers use a back-up method to keep rabbits out, usually an off-putting scent.
Of course, erecting a fence or barrier to keep bunnies out is sometimes not an option. They can be visually off-putting, expensive, and/or take a lot of time to build. If that's the case for you, here are eight perennial plants that are attractive and naturally rabbit-resistant, as well as some information about growing them:
- Veronica (AKA Speedwell): Grows to 25cm and produces very attractive purple/blue flowers in the summer.
- Echinacea: This plant, with its daisy-like flower comes in purple and yellow hues and can grow up to 1.5 metres.
- Bee Balm (AKA Bergamot): The flowers of this plant can be quite showy (often a beautiful deep crimson), and attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Size ranges from 70-150cm in height and diameter.
- Salvia: With various scents (pinapple being the most exotic), this plant also has a wide range of flower colours. It can be found in many different sizes.
- Daylily: Beautiful daylilies are easy to care for and can grow into large mounds. They make great cut flowers
- Siberian Iris: Can grow up to 120cm tall and has a wide variety of colours and shapes of flower. Generally flowers from late spring to early summer.
- Anise Hyssop: This plant is a member of the mint family and can grow quite large. Pretty purple flowers attract insects and birds, while leaves produce a light anise scent.
- Allium: The allium grows from a bulb with a distinct onion flavour that is thoroughly unappealing to rabbits. This plant produces very unique-looking globes made of tiny (usually) purple flowers.
Calgary hasn't experienced an all-out plague of rabbits, yet, although the residents of areas including Erlton and Bridgeland might argue otherwise. Keep these pests out of your garden and keep your home looking its best by using the techniques we've outlined above. Domesticated rabbits belong with a family to take care of them. Besides, it's a well-known fact that the Easter Bunny despises having competition!
Krista Kehoe, Calgary real estate agent & REALTOR®