Friday, 15 November 2013 19:01

In the eye of the beholder?

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It was 'Wild about Gardens' week in the last week of October and, even though I didn’t do much about it because I had just published ‘Reflections on water and wildlife’, it did make me study the wildlife in and around the house again. I filmed foxes around my streets at night and a sawfly larva eating leaves on my Graham Thomas rose – both classed as garden pests, but both beautiful in their own way.

This has caused me to reflect on beauty in the garden. A perfectly formed, scented  rose is an obvious beauty.

Indeed, any perfect example of a flower or plant would have to fall into this category. But I contend there are other, less obvious, beauties too - like the fox.

Foxes can be aggressive, destructive and what they leave behind stinks to high heaven. But I admire their looks and agility and admit I find them beautiful. I just don’t want them in my garden.

In 2003 I had a major war with foxes when I first moved into this house and garden. I won, of course, eventually but only after a series of major battles.  They became so bold that they were facing me off in between the beds. They dug up my newly planted plants (I’ve not used bonemeal since), they poo-ed everywhere and two of the younger ones tried to make a den in my hot bed.

I tried all the known remedies including a disgusting smelling tar put on rags and sticks, and dried lion poo (because the fox is more closely related to cats than dogs and is supposed to shy away from larger cats). None of these had any effect whatsoever. Eventually, with the agreement of most of my neighbours, I had to resort to a professional fox man, baited humane traps and daily morning removal.  12 foxes were removed from our gardens over 14 days.

Like any well-waged war it was meticulously planned, expensive and effective – with some casualties. Quite rightly, foxes are not allowed to be in a trap for more than 24 hours. I bought the meat (cost) and baited the trap every night. In the morning, before going to work, there was almost always a fox in it. The man had to be called, arrive, deal with the fox and go, before I left for work. Each fox cost £45 to be removed and the humane trap had a rental cost for the 14 days. The major casualty was my outdoor lighting. Whilst in the trap, the foxes decimated the wiring which ran underneath, so that cost a pretty penny too to replace.

Anyway, they were gone. I sorted it. Even now they are few and far between and I am sure that having dogs now helps to keep them away. I see the occasional one looking over the fence at the end of the garden but they are no longer a problem.


But all this doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the beauty of the urban fox.  Pickle, Lottie and I meet them almost every night as we do our ‘final pee and poo’ walk around the nearby streets before bed.

So, the other night I went out and filmed them in the dark. Fabulously healthy foxes are all over the streets and especially around the bins of a nearby housing estate – as you’ll see in the video. And they are beautiful to watch. I just don’t want them in my garden.

In complete size contrast, but also a pest, I have also been fascinated by the sawfly larvae that are now eating the leaves of my Graham Thomas rose.

They too are destructive, but they’re easily removable by hand unless you have a serious invasion. No major war needs to be waged. No humane traps or sawfly men are required – just remove the leaves with them on, and take them away to the dump.

But, like the garden-destructive fox, the leaf-stripping sawfly larva is also beautiful  - as you’ll see in the video. I watched them first with a magnifying glass. To begin with I wasn’t sure which was the front and which the back but, under the camera, it has become clear where the eyes and munching mandibles are. The roses are still repeating but they are also going over. They are deciduous. The leaves will fall so I don’t really care if sawfly larvae take their fill now. Perhaps I should – for next year - but I doubt it.

Both these creatures are characterised as pests but they also have a beauty, all of their own, which I can’t help revelling in and I hope you will too.

Coming to appreciate the beauty of your garden pests is an interesting place to be, but one I am getting to. The macro lens on the camera is helping.

Read 14768 times Last modified on Wednesday, 01 October 2014 09:18