As I set up my compost pots and plant my seeds for the coming season I am pondering the rabbit issue. The word paradise is derived from the Persian word for a Garden. A garden is the ultimate symbol of man’s dominion over nature. We build a fence or a wall to surround a patch of land. Then we drive out the wild influences and cultivate what lies within. The vegetables are larger, fleshier and sweeter than what grows out in the wild. The fruits are more succulent and delicate. The flowers are bigger and brighter.
To create this wonderful space is a statement of the control of man. This control is represented at its greatest in the gardens of the Augustan period (early 18th Century), paved walkways, symmetrical and geometric layouts, neat box hedges, espaliered fruit trees, pulses supported by cane frames, clear boundaries between the area under control and the wilderness outside. During the Augustan period this control was celebrated as beauty. Wildness was represented as ugly. It was not until the Romantic period that wild spaces and unregulated nature were appreciated.
Control of a garden also involved control of pests. These can be very small pests, like greenfly, wireworms, codling moth larva. They can also be much larger pests such as rabbits, dogs, deer and even certain types of people.
The poem below is the sad tale of a dog who had a good thing going until he made the mistake of becoming a garden pest.
A Dog’s Mistake: by Banjo Patterson
He had drifted in among us as a straw drifts with the tide,
He was just a wand’ring mongrel from the weary world outside;
He was not aristocratic, being mostly ribs and hair,
With a hint of spaniel parents and a touch of native bear.
He was very poor and humble and content with what he got,
So we fed him bones and biscuits, till he heartened up a lot;
Then he growled and grew aggressive, treating orders with disdain,
Till at last he bit the butcher, which would argue want of brain.
Now the butcher, noble fellow, was a sport beyond belief,
And instead of bringing actions he brought half a shin of beef,
Which he handed on to Fido, who received it as a right
And removed it to the garden, where he buried it at night.
‘Twas the means of his undoing, for my wife, who’d stood his friend,
To adopt a slang expression, “went in off the deepest end”,
For among the pinks and pansies, the gloxinias and the gorse
He had made an excavation like a graveyard for a horse.
Then we held a consultation which decided on his fate:
‘Twas in anger more than sorrow that we led him to the gate,
And we handed him the beef-bone as provision for the day,
Then we opened wide the portal and we told him, “On your way.”