06 January 2011

They're Cute and They're Trouble - Rabbits

Our neighborhood is often frequented by rabbits, or is it hares?  They're cute and white (read camouflaged) in the winter but brown in the summer.  They are voracious feeders, the reason gardeners dread seeing them, and if hungry enough, will eat anything.  For several years, we had a local rabbit who loved to sit under our trampoline during the winter months where it could absorb the heat from the sun shining upon the black mat.  For hours it would sit there.  Then the trampoline was taken down (I know, you aren't supposed to leave it up the entire winter, other than the frame, but sometimes winter catches you off guard here) a couple years ago and our visitor moved on to other pastures.  

I've never had problems with them destroying anything in my garden, luckily, and the plants have benefited from the extra (ahem)  fertilizer.  I have used tree wraps to deter them from dining on the bark and also as a protection for the birch against sun scald during the winter.  On the market, one can find products that may be applied to the surface of a plant (bark) to deter rabbits and deer.  This works until it gets wet and then it has to be reapplied.  It all sounds like a bit of work, doesn't it? 

There are, however, some plants that most rabbits will avoid.  Keep in mind, some rabbits will avoid some plants while another will devour it.  So, it's kind of a hit and miss.  Here are 19 plants that are notable for being undesirable to rabbits and sometimes deer.  (Zonal ranges vary within each, depending on variety.)

Allium (Allium) - zones 3 - 10.  Grows 6 inches to 6 feet tall, depending on the variety.  Full sun and well-drained soil.  Great as a cut flower.  Ball shaped flower head atop a thin but sturdy stem, colours of white, pink, lavender or purple.  Whether it's the short rock garden type allium or the giant six foot plant, allium is rabbit, deer and even squirrel resistant.  Long-lived and easy care.

Anise Hyssop (Agastache) - zones 4-10 depending on variety.   Grows 2-6 feet tall, depending on variety. Full sun and well-drained soil.  Easy care.  Blooms mid-summer to fall with spikes of violet blue flowers.  Anise scent (similar to licorice scent) leaves and blossoms. North American native plant.  Rabbit resistant.

Astilbe (Astilbe) - zones 3 - 8. Grows 1-3 feet tall. Lovely hardy plant for part-shade to shade.  Moist, not wet soil.  Green to bronze-green foliage, depending on the variety.  Feathery plumes of flowers are white, pink, red or lavender depending on the variety.  Blooms early summer.  I love this planted with ferns and hostas. Thrives if mulched with shredded bark and leaf compost, mimicking its natural habitat in the forest.  Rabbit resistant.

Baptisia (baptisia australis) - zones 3-9.  Full sun.  Height - 5 feet.  Heat and drought tolerant, making it one of the toughest plants for the garden.  It has spikes of violet, blue, yellow, or white flowers in early summer.  One of the toughest plants in the garden, baptisia bears spikes of violet, blue, yellow, or white flowers in early summer. Rabbit resistant.

Bee-balm (monarda) - zones 3-9.  Full sun.  Grows 1-3 feet, depending on the variety.  Moist but well-drained soil.  Highly scented and colourful blossoms of pink, violet or red summer to early fall.  Long-lasting blossoms can be cut for indoors.  Attracts hummingbirds.  Be sure to allow adequate air flow around this perennial as they can be prone to mildew.  Rabbit resistant.

Catmint (nepeta) - zones 4-8.  Grows 1-2 feet tall. Full sun and well-drained soil.  Heat and drought tolerant.  Gray-green foliage with clusters of flowers in blue, violet, pink or white throughout the summer.  Looks great planted with roses.  Rabbit resistant.

Daffodil (narcissus) - zones 3-9.  Grows to 1 foot tall.  Sun or shade, well-drained soil.  Plant bulbs in fall for spring blossoms.  Blooms are red, orange, yellow, white and pink, sometimes a combination of two colours.  Long-lived.  Rabbit resistant.

Daylily (hemerocallis) - zones 3-10.  Grows 2-6 feet tall, depending on variety.  Full sun, well-drained soil.  Easy care and tough.  Blooms in a variety of shades from yellow, to orange, to red, almost black or lavender.  New varieties offer new colour combinations.  Like irises, they will spread over the years and require division.  Rabbit resistant.

Foxglove (digitalis) - zones 3-8.  Grows 2 - 6 feet tall, depending on variety.  Partial sun.  Moist, well-drained soil.  Tall beautiful spikes of flowers in pink, rose, white or yellow.  Some are bi-coloured.  Sometimes a biennial, this flower will self-sow if not deadheaded.  Caution:  toxic to humans and animals.  Rabbit resistant.

Fritallaria (fritillaria) - zones 3-9.  Grows 6 inches to 4 feet tall, depending on variety.  Plant in fall for spring flowers.  Full-sun to partial shade, well-drained soil.  Available in a wide variety of colours, forms and sizes.  Well-known for their unique flower structure.  Quite showy in the garden.  Rabbit resistant.

Hellebore (helleborus) - zones 4-9.  Grows 1-2 feet tall.  Early spring blooming plant.  Flowers are available in black, red, pink, white, cream, or green flowers. In many climates, the plants are semi-evergreen (not in Edmonton).  Tough little plant.  Poisonous to humans and pets.  Rabbit resistant.

Iris (iris) -zones 3-9.  Grows on average 3 feet tall but some varieties grow about 1 foot tall (ie.  blue flag iris, water iris).  Full sun to part-shade, well-drained soil (with the exception of the water iris which grows with roots submerged).  Flowers early summer.  Some re-blooming varieties will bloom again in the fall.  Sweet fragrance.  Rabbit resistant.

Lamb's Ears (stachys byzantina) - zones 3-8. Groundcover growing 18 inches tall.  Full sun.  Prefers a dry soil; drought tolerant.  Sporting soft fuzzy silvery leaves and light lavender/pink colour spikes of flowers in late autumn.  Many people remove the flowers as they are not showy.  Grown for the leaves which everyone, including children love to "pet". Rabbit and deer resistant.

Lavender (lavandula) - zones 5-8.  Full sun, well-drained soil.  Grows 1-2 feet tall.  A showy, clumping perennial with scented leaves and flowers.  Flowers, in shades of light purple and white, can be dried and used in crafts and sachets.  Our local garden center sells a French lavender and an English (munstead) lavender.  Rabbit resistant. 

Peony (paeonia) - zones 3-8.  Full sun, well-drained soil.  Grows 2- 7 feet tall (tree peonies - 7 feet tall).  A long living, tough perennial with colourful, usually fragrant blossoms in late to early summer.  Colours range from white, yellow to pink, red, burgundy.  Some varieties have large full blossoms, while others sport single cup-shaped blooms with showy stamens.  Perennial peonies require staking to support the full heavy heads of flowers.  Leaves are shiny green and deeply lobed.  Rabbit resistant.  (In zone 3, plant with eyes 1 inch below the surface of the soil)

Salvia (salvia) - zones 3-9.  Grows 1-5 feet tall.  Full sun, well-drained soil.  The blooms range from bright red to shades of purple and blue, again depending on variety.  Some are good for cut flowers, too. Rabbit resistant. 

Siberian Iris (iris siberica) - zones 4-9.  Full sun to partial shade, well-drained soil.  Grows 1-3 feet tall, depending on the variety.  It blooms a little later than the tall bearded types, featuring grassy foliage with smaller blue, purple, pink, or white blooms. The flowers are great for cutting and the plant looks good and neat even when it's not blooming.  I have about three of these plants around our pond and they always look great.  Rabbit resistant.

Veronica (veronica spicata) - zones 3-8.  Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil.  Grows 1-2 feet tall.  Blooms all summer long with flower spikes in blue, pink or white.  Easy to grow, adding terrific texture to the front of the border.  Rabbit resistant.

Yarrow (achillea) - zones 3-9.  Full sun; well-drained soil.  Grows 1-2 feet tall.  Often seen growing in ditches in the prairies.  Self-sows.  Blooms may be yellow, pink, white, or red, sometimes two-toned.  Very hardy.  Long lasting blooms through the summer.  Rabbit resistant.

So there, 19 plants that one can use in the rabbit-prone garden.  I've noticed a commonality amongst most of these, with the exception of the astilbe.  Most of these are drought tolerant.  I wonder if that has a bearing on their allure.


Shyrlene said...

This is a GREAT post! I'm going to 'borrow' your list of plants if you don't mind?!

Bunnies inspired the name of my blog - with an ongoing 'war' as they mowed through my gardens in the winter (yes, winter) - taking out Arborvitae, Red-Twig Dogwood and even Golden Privet. My gardens now look more like an exercise yard for a "state pen" with all the fencing around the bushes (but my plants are 'safe'!).

Shirley said...

Shyrlene, go right ahead! Sounds like you have your hands full with those little rascals! Good luck!

Rambling Woods said...

This is a great post for me..I do have some of these planted...I love the bunnies...I leave rabbit food out near the ground bird bath here. It's a tough place to make a living and many get taken by owls or hawks as I see in my yard....Michelle

There are several differences in the physical features of hares and rabbits that allow us to distinguish between the two.

* Hares are generally larger and faster than rabbits.
* Hares have longer ears and larger feet than rabbits.
* Hares have black markings on their fur.
* Rabbits are altriciali.e. they having young that are born blind and hairless. In contrast, hares are generally born with hair and are able to see (precocial). Young hares are therefore able to fend for themselves very quickly after birth.
Rabbit kittens soon after birth.
Rabbit kittens soon after birth.
* A young hare is called a leveret and a young rabbit is called a kitten or a bunny.
* Hares have very long and strong hind legs, more so than rabbits.
* Rabbits and hares both molt and then grow new hair. This happens in both the spring and in the fall. Rabbits' brown summer fur is replaced with fur that is greyer. Hares, especially those living in cold, snowy regions, turn white in the winter.
* Hunters say that hare has a much stronger, gamier flavor than rabbit (which actually does taste like a milder version of chicken).
* Both rabbits and hares have short tails.

Shirley said...

Thank you for clarifying this for me Michelle. They are definitely hares then!

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