Groundcover project update

June 30, 2021

How We Beat The Rabbits

This article is the culmination of a lengthy search. It begins in the post “ How To Find A Low Maintenance Ground Cover That We Love And The Rabbits Do Not.” It’s us vs the rabbits that is the issue!

Stating The Problem

It was not a terrible problem, but yet an annoyance in the garden. Normally, a family with varied interests, we can put up with a little garden problem. But this is a pandemic year; we are as isolated as we have ever been. I came from a family with religious rituals, and as a kid, I attended prayer retreats with nuns, which offered a far better social life than we have now!

I’m hoping we’re done with grocery delivery, hands fried from sanitizer and washing while humming “Happy Birthday”-and doing the whole song, including “speech, speech! But you never know. What I have learned is that in a time of self-imposed isolation a little annoyance in the back yard becomes a burr under the saddle! We no longer wanted to but-needed to dig up the turf and build a walkway and seating area for cool winter evenings. (Now this is May in South Florida.)

What’s The Problem

I don’t care where you live or what you do for a living, but a little improvement project of any kind makes you proud for a bit, but it eventually leads to the quicksand of more improvement projects.

We moved to this “downsized” house and immediately “upsized” everything about it! We built the pool in the screened room you can barely see in the photo. (This provides the “bug-free” indoor-outdoor lifestyle that Floridians love.) Roll out of bed and into the pool!

Behind the new pool, the backyard abutted a pleasant pond that attracted wading birds and was altogether a benefit. However, our backyard was extraordinarily boring, “green, on green, on green” community landscape and hot as the dickens with no shade beyond three palm trees.

The Butterfly Garden

We built this little butterfly garden, only 12′ x4′, and with three small trees. Then we added, large shrubs and some more trees, and finally tied together two planting beds into one long serpentine of flowering shrubs and trees. Four years later; maybe a little too much shade in some places for the turf. St Augustine is, by far, the most popular turfgrass used in Florida. It is a bouncy substance, nothing like the temperate climate lawns we are accustomed to. It likes the sun, it’s not much for shade,

Then we planted the Littoral Shelf. This was my husband’s project and he added grasses and flowering plants to the edge of the pond. The view became more attractive, we saw more wading birds and the little waterside bench we installed was suddenly not enough.

Let’s tear out the turf between the pool and the serpentine beds and have another place to sit on cool evenings. That was the plan. Add Covid-19, isolation and a fairly good idea becomes a necessity, do it yesterday!

The Specifics

  • Make a rustic walkway to enter the seating area
  • Build a seating area with pond views
  • Find a pleasant groundcover and some plants for scent and sight
  • This is a small backyard, we will plant vertically as well as horizontally
  • We are moving into the Marsh Rabbit’s territory (also deer and a pretty big paw print we found, one morning!)
  • We need plants we will love and nobody else wants to eat
  • The back of the house is pretty much glass-we need everything we do to improve the view
  • Do the whole thing in a way acceptable to our HOA

From Concept to A Real Backyard

The first post discusses the groundcover choices, we included plant material we have used before and loved. But do the rabbits love them? Rabbits and deer are pragmatic creatures. They don;t like strong scents. Under normal circumstances they will avoid them. In times of true hunger, all bets are off.

We have decided on the ground-covering materials we love, and we are going to use other plant materials to discourage grazing animals.

The Result

So far so good. The plants are taking root, we put them in during our hot wet summer moisture and everything seems to grow with enthusiasm.

The Plants

Around the stepping stones we planted shiny, dark green dwarf mondo grass. Our stones are closer together and our plant material younger but this will give you the general idea.

The Rustic Idea

We wanted this area to have a rustic feel, as if we were sitting out along a rural pond, so pavers were not the right idea. We found this wonderful stone yard in our town.

This is how it works. You drive into the stone yard, get in line behind the huge trucks. Drive onto the scale, they weigh you and the car. Then, go pick out some stones.

They are in huge wire bins, in long rows, sorted by colors. Red stones, green stones black stones, ours are silvery with shiny dots. You pick out the ones you want (foot size) and fill your car.

They weigh your car on the way out and you pay for the difference. In our experience, beautiful material and not very expensive.

Along The Sides

asiatic jasmine

This stuff is Asiatic Jasmine. It is a low growing, low maintenance ground cover that creates a green bed over the ground. It doesn’t care if it’s sunny or shady, and you trim it a couple of times each year. It is hardy and evergreen in zones 7b-10.

We added a little dark green liriope around the edges.

Our summers are hot and sticky, and we did all the planting ourselves early in the morning. The plants did seem to thrive in the warm heat.

Discouraging The Rabbits

The Marsh Rabbits are cute, and mostly they are amusing neighbors, grazing in the grass as we take morning walks. They eat the new hibiscus blossoms that drop from the little trees every morning as we have coffee outdoors.

They can be problematic, one neighbor grows wonderful, huge petunias but only in tall pots. Too tall for the rabbits who stretch to get them every morning.

They will eat the ground covering materials if really hungry. Here is what we planted to discourage them. It seems to be working.

Herbs With Strong Scents

We like the scent of our garden herbs, they are fun to cook with. The rabbits and deer are not so happy with them. This pretty one is Cuban Oregano and whenever I put out a pot of it the rabbits leave.

They live under the shrubs in the back yard but they graze in the turf. So our cordial relationship is able to continue!