Frequently, I hear gardeners refer to their passion for growing things as “therapy”. In considering this definition of gardening, I assumed they mean that playing in the dirt with plants was relaxing-like a massage, or rewarding-like a jelly donut.

A few years back, my gardening attempts resulted my own therapeutic moment – after two years, a beaten up, discarded peony bloomed into a gorgeous, healthy plant with lush, fragrant flowers creating a spectacle in my yard. The therapeutic lesson, for me, was one of “resilience”. ( For my peony blog click here)

Fast forward to the present; after lamenting the longevity and hardness of the winter, I anticipated spring with giddy enthusiasm. Then, on a morning walk I spotted some daffodils and my excitement mounted. Here was the evidence I needed that despite this unusually frigid March, April would indeed bring signs of renewed life.

And so, before the piles of gray snow was even completely gone, I was outside just after dawn, ski jacket over my flannels, sipping my coffee, searching my front yard for signs of the 110 tulips I had planted over the last couple of years. However, as the snow melted, I begin to realize that my lawn and flower beds resembled the terrain like the moon’s surface; lumpy and bumpy and covered with holes the size of golf balls. Something had taken up residence in my garden and it was not of an extraterrestrial nature.

Now, it would be disingenuous of me to say this was a complete shock. Last fall, I had seen some signs of rodent life; however, my revulsion toward poisoning wild life rendered action almost impossible. So, I made a half -hearted attempt to address the problem by distastefully inserting a few (what looked like) poisonous suppositories in a soil… and thought, “Well, I took care of that problem….”

It is a funny thing about denial- that old technique for avoiding what we don’t want to deal with- it comes back with a bite. In this case a lot of bites. After that morning of recognizing the results of my laxity, I began to rake away the dead hosta leaves to find NOTHING underneath but that signature hole- the size of a golf ball.  As I checked throughout my yard and assessed the damage, approximately 40 hosta have been eaten-not just the leaves, the entire plant from the bottom up! Same with the tulips-so far it looks as if 40 didn’t make it. There is an underground catacomb of voles and moles trafficking in my precious plants. But the worst, was the state of the peonies. Although I read these critters did not consider peonies a delicious lunch, there was evidence that mine have been attacked!

Oh no, not the peonies! The very plant that gave me my message of resilience.

And so, I did it. I called in an exterminator.

Of course, the battle will continue even after he “cleans up the problem”. It seems I am the only house on the block infested-apparently, my garden offers the most luscious menu for these critters. I feel as if the word is OUT- Eat at Donna’s: Best Hosta in Town!

However, I am now mobilized. I have spent hours googling voles and moles.  I have learned-among other things- that I can insert chewing gum, castor oil, peppermint oil (on cotton balls) into the holes monthly to discourage rodent patronage.  I can try to flush them out with the hose. I can also call in the exterminator every year. Finally, I found the cure/remedy that I am most comfortable with…a solar energy spike that is inserted in the ground and will give off a buzzing sound that will send the wild life running. I hope it works…

So, maybe it is true-gardening is like therapy and like therapy, it is not always a comfortable experience. Learning hard life lessons is, well, hard. This is not a jelly donut moment-this is a kick in the butt moment. It reminds me that denial in gardening is as problematic as denial in any aspect of our lives. Ignoring a problem or simply hoping it will go away, fixes nothing. And in many cases, like infestations of unwanted rodents, problems left unaddressed get worse and require more dire intervention.

The result of my denial is a wrecked garden, an animal population that is out of control and finally an extreme measure to fix it.

However, the worst result of all, is regret for what could have been avoided.




© 2014 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986. She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback. 


One Comment

  1. Wendy on the 21. Apr, 2014 remarked #

    This brings to mind the movie, Caddyshack (especially the part about flushing them out with a hose).
    We’re trying chickens this year. Free-ranging. Apparently they will eat mice and other small rodent type critters.
    Good luck! I hope the solar stick works.

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