|Mrs. Rabbit goes vegetable shopping|
(Apologies to Beatrix Potter)
“My dears, I’ve got to dash around to the Ancient Gardener’s vegetable garden and get some food for dinner,” Mrs. Rabbit said to her two children, Peter and Cottontail. “While I’m gone, you two stay under the bleeding heart plant or in the liatris and don’t venture onto the lawn or a hawk or a fox might get you.”
|Peter snacks on a penstemon petal|
Peter and Cottontail were obedient bunnies—though occasionally when they got hungry while their mother was away they’d venture forth to nibble on a hosta leaf or fallen penstemon petals. Today, though, the weather was ugly—cool and misty—so they huddled close and settled down for a nap.
Mrs. Rabbit checked the area for danger and then hippity-hopped, hippity-hopped up the sidewalk and around the end of the house toward the Ancient Gardener’s vegetable garden. “I wonder what veggies will be available today,” thought Mrs. Rabbit, as she slid under the arching leaves of stella d’oro daylilies and stopped at the wire fence surrounding the vegetable garden.
Mrs. Rabbit had to wiggle to get through the fence. “I’ve got to call Weight Watchers, or one of these days I won’t be able to get into this garden,” she mused.
|Cottontail samples fescue seeds|
Ah, what luck—fresh tomato plants,” she observed after looking around. “I’ll eat a leaf or two and then take the rest home in a bunny bag for the kids. I’ll make tomato-leaf salad and serve the stem pieces as an entrée.”
Mrs. Rabbit hopped through the muddy garden and onto the straw mulch and bit off the main stem of a plant about an inch above the ground. She had just bitten off a leaf when she heard a frightening sound—the squeak of the door hinge that warned that the Ancient Gardener was coming out of the garage.
Mrs. Rabbit dropped the leaf, hopped over the decapitated plant, wiggled through the fence, and raced past the garage to the safety of the frontyard perennial garden.
|Evidence on the asphalt|
“Oh, no!” shouted the Ancient Gardener as he surveyed the Tomato Patch. “Those rabbits! When will they what a fence is for? And look at the evidence—severed tomato plant lying on the straw mulch and muddy rabbit footprints leading from the garden across the asphalt driveway.”
The Ancient Gardener was steaming. “Of all the luck,” he said to himself. “A rabbit decapitated one of my test varieties for this year—a Solid Gold. They should have named it Rotten Luck.”
But as the Ancient Gardener calmed down, he had an idea. The severed but fresh top of the plant reminded him of reports that some gardeners start new tomato plants by planting the suckers they prune from larger tomato plants. They water them regularly for about two weeks to keep the soil around the stems moist until they root, sort of like rooting African violet leaves in a glass of water. Tomatoes are naturally great at adventitious rooting, as it’s sometimes called.
And that’s what the Ancient Gardener did. He pinched off a lower leaf or two from the freshly severed stem and planted the cutting so the bottom half was in the soil. And then he watered it regularly—a 16-ounce soda bottle of water every morning and evening on regular spring days and a third bottle mid-day on hot days.
|Re-rooted tomato plant after 28 days|
The plant didn’t look promising the first day or two but soon began to signs of life. In about 10 days it looked like a new but small transplant. At about two weeks it began to put out new leaves, and the Ancient Gardener stopped watering it.
The “new” tomato plant probably will grow happily ever after because Mrs. Rabbit no longer visits the tomato garden. Maybe she’s expecting and no longer can squeeze through the fence, or maybe she forgot to call Weight Watchers.
Mrs. Rabbit, Peter, and Cottontail still live among the front-yard perennials. The Ancient Gardener and the Mrs. occasionally see Mrs. Rabbit through a window in the late evening when they suspect she’s coming to tend her kids.
The last time the Gardeners saw Cottontail, she was dining on the seeds of a Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ plant. Peter the Braveheart sometimes does hopping practice on the sidewalk while the Gardeners sit on front-porch gliders just 10 feet away. Peter thinks nothing of nibbling on fallen flower petals or hosta leaves while the Gardeners point and whisper, “There’s the bunny.”