ingrid_vc

The Twilight of the Garden

ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9
September 3, 2019

I haven't posted here lately because the state of the garden has left me feeling hopeless. The ongoing and continuously more severe predation by roof rats and bunnies has brought the garden and me to our knees. Even the 12 roses out of 55 that are still attempting to grow and bloom have less foliage with each passing day, and it's entirely possible that before the year is over I may not have any roses, bushes or trees left. other than perhaps the junipers, rosemary and cypresses. They are also now attacking the penstemons and milkweed It's almost wholesale destruction and all the preventive measures I've employed have failed. There is no barrier that will stop the rats, and even clamping the barriers to the ground has had no effect; they simply climb over any impediment.


I continue to hope that before it's all gone there will be a resurgence of predators to bring back a balance, but it is a faint hope at best. With so many prey animals available there should be an abundance of predators. The new normal is unfortunately very abnormal, and I'm trying hard to accept this. In some of the pictures below it may seem that there is still some beauty to behold, but the reality becomes bleaker every day, and it's all just so much artful cropping. I've had to turn my eyes away from the garden, because I don't want to focus on the negative when there is still goodness to be had in life. In light of hurricane Dorian I'm so much more fortunate than so many people.


Continued below........

Comments (45)

  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9



    Marie Pavie



    Wild Edric still has some blooms on top. Duchesse de Brabant, the bush behind it, except for a few spring flowers, has not bloomed at all.



    SdlM is systematically being eaten from the bottom up, but bravely has a few flowers near the top.



    Bishop's Castle retains a few of its blooms for which I'm very grateful.

    Unfortunately only four of the nine pictures I tried to load actually appear here.

  • roseseek

    It IS horribly disheartening, Ingrid and I'm sure we all hurt with you. I'm so sorry. Unfortunately, after a wet winter, the "pests" explode and it requires a year or two for the predators to catch up. Once things start to level out, then we "get" to suffer their starvation as there are so many more predators than prey. The wood rats have been horrific for some time. Lyn from Help Me Find, who used to frequent these forums, has battled them in her garden for the past year and a half up in the Northern California mountains. There is nothing to be done other than just endure it. You can't poison them as that leads to the loss of the predators who happen to eat the dying or dead prey. And, they EAT EVERYTHING. Unfortunately, there just isn't anything to be done. They are everywhere and they climb and burrow. Just look at what's pretty and ignore what isn't, remembering, "this, too, shall pass..." Good luck.

    ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9 thanked roseseek
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  • Lola Tasmania

    I live on an island that has only two native carnivorous animals and they both prefer carrion to killing fresh meat. The Tasmanian Devil was nearly wiped out from a facial cancer that spread very quickly, and our Quolls have never been very numerous. The problem we have is with introduced animals like rabbits that have no predators to keep their numbers down. We have the calicivirus to help but it isn't released in enough areas to make much of a difference. Do you have access to the calicivirus where you are? My place is covered in rabbit holes and my sheep are always limping from falling in them. Our native wallabies are currently full of worms which is killing them off, and feral cats are spreading toxoplasmosis among the other native animals. The natural world is out of kilter and I don't think it will go back to what it was even a decade ago.

    ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9 thanked Lola Tasmania
  • titian1 10b Sydney

    Ingrid, I have noticed that you've been quiet. I'm so so sorry that you are losing your garden. Maybe it is the right thing for you both to move north.

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  • Michele

    Hi Ingrid. Don’t know if you remember but I have swooned over your garden pics many times. I too have noticed you haven’t posted much lately.

    I’m sorry. Roseseek said it better than I could right now. (I’m up having coffee at 5:30. I’ve been awake for hours.)

    Good luck Ingrid! The rose pics you did post are beautiful

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  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

    Thank you all so very much. Your words have helped me greatly because it's made me realize that we're all in this together, even if there's nothing we can do to change what's happening. Trish, I'm afraid it's too late for us to move north because I just don't have the strength any more, but that's okay. I'm sure there are life lessons in whatever fate puts in our way, and at this point it's best to accept whatever happens. The rats seem to have proliferated greatly in California in the last year or so, and the wet winter after years of drought may have been at least partially responsible. I hadn't thought of that, Kim, but that sounds eminently reasonable. I would never use poison because of my fear of hurting other animals. I'm content to let nature take its course, even knowing that these days that course may be an aberrant one, as Lola sadly describes in her part of the world. I'm afraid there will be hard lessons to come in many places, and my loss in the larger scheme of things is a relatively minor one. I do still have a few roses, so all is not lost.



    One of the areas where someone has had the munchies.



  • Plumeria Girl (Florida ,9b)

    Ingrid, your last pic with the rose is very well protect. I can't see any damage and it looks great .

    I am sorry to hear about roses and plants eaten but Kim is right. I remembered Lynn and she does have a beautiful garden.

    Kim said it so well that even I could not think of anything better. I am also drinking coffee but with deprived sleep. Hurricane just went by us. Near Daytona about 30 mins from us. It is 90 miles away in ocean. Thank Goodness !!
    Ingrid, don't give up. I still see tons of beauty and colours. If you didn't write about rabbits or rats, one will never know. It is still beautiful. Your roses will grow.
    I have to go work now...bye :)

    jin

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  • BenT (8a Dallas, TX)

    I’m so sorry to hear this is happening Ingrid. We really are quite powerless against nature, and as Kim explained so well, nature gets out of balance. Sadly, mankind’s abuse is exacerbating the issue. Just doesn’t seem fair (and quite ironic) that it should happen to someone as considerate and respectful of nature as you are. I would certainly be very upset if critters were destroying all my garden happiness and hard work, but I do think your garden is still very beautiful.

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  • oursteelers 8B PNW

    Oh, Ingrid. I had hoped all the wet weather was a gift for you after the drought periods. It seems so unfair that even the precious rain the roses love so much can cause nature to be out of order in other ways.

    There are no words to fix any of this but I’m sending you many hugs and I hope nature finds some balance, for everyone.

    I have really, really enjoyed your pictures this season and hope all of your plants are able to recover. Next spring I want to drink my coffee/tea first thing in the morning and see your beautiful gardens.

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  • Rekha A 9a Houston area

    Ingrid, hang in there. When the worst is summer passes, hope things look better. YouYour garden looks 100% better than mine. Most of my roses are completely defoliated, and one of my beds is overgrown with weeds as I have not been able to get to it with other things in life taking over. Some of my other shrubs are not doing well either, but I try to not to worry, if thethey dont make it, I will find a replacement that will tolerate our conditions. Just wanted to say your garden is still very beautiful and hang in there and dont let it drag you down.

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  • Lilyfinch z9a Murrieta Ca

    I’m sorry too Ingrid , but am happy to see you post and your beautiful roses . I thought maybe the heat was keeping you in , not sure exactly your temps but we have had 100 for what seems like forever now . I don’t even bother to look I just know it’s roasting !! I hope you still find Beauty in your day today dear Ingrid :)

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  • Stephanie, 9b inland SoCal

    Ingrid, I was wondering about your absence from posting here. So sorry to hear about the worsening devastating. Yes a wet winter does help the prey animals. I hope the coyotes in your area start coming back. But it might take a year or 2 for that. According to NextDoor discussions here, we have too many coyotes and many people are losing pets. It has gotten so bad they are organizing a session with a wildlife expert at the local library to help people understand the issues. Many people here just want the city to get rid of them, but many people chime in with “living in harmony with nature” and just keeping pets inside. I think the Burbank fire in the Verdugo Hills from 2 years ago may have wiped out prey and their habitat so pets are now on the menu. It is such a delicate balance, but nature is very robust and will always find balance. It just may not look like what we hoped and wanted. Some species may go extinct and others take their place. Humans have caused much ecological disruption around the world over the last 100 years and nature is still in flux finding that balance. And may be for some time to come. I wish we could relocate our abundant suburban coyotes to your area! Sending you a big hug!

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  • catspat

    This time of the year, the garden always looks a bit bedraggled, after some weeks of heat and drought that keep the roses, especially, in a moribund, dormant state, with crispy-edged leaves or few leaves at all. The cooler weather will bring new leaves and flowers that I always so look forward to, even if not as exuberant as spring's show. Hopefully that will be coming soon to your garden, Ingrid -- I'm starting to see some new growth here.


    The roof rats here were particularly bad last year and the year before that. Last year they took probably a third or fourth of the oranges from our huge old orange tree (plenty left for us, but still) and more than half of the tomatoes. The year before that, they took every last fig, both crops, from a very large Black Mission tree and had even desperately gnawed the bark off a number of branches, girdling and killing them. I began trapping them out of the fig tree that year (wiring traps to the branches) and caught at least 2 dozen rats that way. Last year I caught 32 rats (in the fig and tomatoes, primarily -- for some reason I've never had success getting them in the orange tree). Plus, my young male, later-capture feral cat, who only goes out on a leash for walks in the garden and otherwise stays in the house, caught and killed one that ran out from the tomato patch, while on leash! Now there's a good cat! So, 33 rats total. The feral cat who spends nights in my yard used to catch a fair number, too, but she's now 16 years old and has lost an eye and doesn't seem to catch as many as she did before.


    With all that trapping, I seem to have tamped down the local rat population for the time being. We lost only a half-dozen oranges last winter and few or no figs or tomatoes so far. I caught 7 rats, all youngish and maybe of the same litter, this year in the fig tree just before fig season started and none since (I set traps every few weeks, just to see what's going on), even now that the figs are ripe (losing a few of those to the very annoying squirrel, though, and the inevitable mockingbird). There certainly are still some rats around (I saw one scamper across the patio on my wildlife camera the other night, and a fox, too, not much later that same night -- maybe after the rat), but in far fewer numbers than before.


    So, it is possible, in my experience, to diminish rat populations without poisons (which I would NEVER use) with trapping. I use the black plastic Tomcat snap traps, which are easier to set and a vast improvement over the old wood-and-metal rat traps that were also prone to snapping on fingers as one tried to set them -- ouch! Rabbits, fortunately, I don't have here, but at least they can be fenced out, unlike rats.

    ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9 thanked catspat
  • jacqueline9CA

    Thank you, Ingrid and Kim - we have had problems here with roof rats eating things they never ate before (like 100% of my tomato bushes, all the way down to the dirt), and the squirrel population seems to have at least doubled. I did not think about last winter's rains as being the reason, but that does make sense. We got 50+ inches here, about 15 inches more than "normal". I was blaming myself for feeding the birds, but I am not doing anything different than I have been doing for the past 30 years. So, now I realize that it is not just our garden which has this over abundance of critters! (interestingly, we have fewer deer this summer - I see some droppings once in a while, but have not seen any actual deer for months & months).


    Jackie

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  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR

    Ingrid, I had missed you posting. I am so sorry it is such a struggle with nature right now. I think this could be the nadir of your gardening season. I love the catspat rat trapping tips, but I'm not seeing you and Cecil up in the trees setting traps at this point probably. We might have to keep posting inspiration until the predators and rains come.

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  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

    For some reason (thank you, Houzz) I can't post pictures at all now to show you the large areas where the situation is pretty bad, and really the only place where the roses are halfway decent is the front square garden, as shown in the picture above. Poor Jesse Hildreth is almost completely gone, although right next to him Mme. Franziska Kruger, who is encased in a different type of cage, is happily putting out new growth and buds.


    Whatever happens, the wonderful, caring responses from all of you have helped immeasurably.. I can't tell you how much it means, and how it's brightened my mood and given me renewed hope.



  • Perma n’ Posies/9A FL

    I very much understand your frustration and wish you didn’t have these challenges...everyone has made such good suggestions, so I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your posts and photos, and how much I’m rooting for you. Your garden is even more beautiful because of these challenges. We all have varying versions of highs and lows, but your sharing always inspires me! Thank you for your openness and authenticity, because this is the real story of gardening, how we try to enhance nature with successes and failures. :-)

  • jjkOC zone 10a/22, SoCal

    Very sorry to hear about your garden Ingrid... I hope that with the seasons change, there will be some respite to decline.


    DH has set up traps for rats/mice since last year when we had a night rat eat the skins off of four lemons in one night! The night rats only like the skins and the entire fruit was just left hanging on the tree! What a strange sight that was!


    I know it’s not the same as growing outdoors, but before I had a house with land, I grew orchids indoors. There are many genera that can be grown in low light. I was a windowsill grower but many orchid-enthusiasts use grow lights as well.


    Here are a couple of pics of a few I’ve grown to pique your curiosity...






  • Plumeria Girl (Florida ,9b)

    JJ, your orchids are beautiful. I was looking at a few to order on line yesterday.
    They are so unique.

  • jjkOC zone 10a/22, SoCal

    Thanks Jin! I grew mostly paphiopedilum and phragmipedium orchids. Phrags grow much faster than Paphs. Key thing with these are to use RO water. If you or Ingrid are interested, I can share some great nurseryman for plants and culture information!

    ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9 thanked jjkOC zone 10a/22, SoCal
  • seil zone 6b MI

    I don't think I can add anything more to what's already been said but just want you to know that I'm thinking of you with hugs and good wishes!

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  • K S 8b Seattle

    Hang in there Ingrid! It sounds like a bad situation, but hopefully the weather will change soon and there will be an abundance of other foods for these animals to focus on. :(

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  • totoro z7b Md

    Sending you my thoughts and prayers too, Ingrid. Dont give up hope.

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  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

    I'm afraid I won't be able to say this without it sounding too maudlin or emotional, but the support and caring you've all shown is overwhelming me. You are dear and wonderful people.



  • Plumeria Girl (Florida ,9b)

    Ingrid, those are beautiful bouquet of roses. I always enjoy seeing pics from you.
    You always inspire me too. Hugs from Fl.

    jin

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  • noseometer...(7A, SZ10, Albuquerque)

    Losing my garden would be a tragedy to me also. I cried when I lost just one of my orchids to root rot, the one that I waited 9 years for it to bloom. Losing a whole garden would be just horrible. It sounds like you are hanging in there, though, and for that I applaud you. Whenever I lose a plant to the devastations of my locale, my spouse says that it is an opportunity. He gets the evil eye for a while, before I admit that there is some truth to that. Some. Still, it's a reminder to me to dwell on the positive. I've never been to your garden, and yet I miss it, too. Things change.

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  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

    Over the last few days I'm noticing gopher mounds everywhere, and this after not having gopher activity for some years. Today my largest milkweed plant suddenly toppled over, and who knows why. However, there are still some stalwart roses hanging in there for me.


    Aloha, now more pink than peach and only half as large as in spring but still so pretty


    Bishop's Castle



    Milkweed and salvia


    This is just about the entirety of my blooming roses, but so much better than nothing.


    The ever-faithful Souvenir de la Malmaison


    A slightly different view



    Mr. Toad is not giving up on his kingdom

  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

    I just lost a post with eight pictures so I'll just quietly bid you good night my friends.

  • Kristine LeGault 8a pnw

    Yay, Ingrid, your post showed up.

    You may not have a lot left but everything that you posted is so pretty

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  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR

    Ingrid, rest up and keep trying. The houzz nonsense is so annoying, but your photos are gorgeous. The Gopher Hawk that Lisa suggested really works if you decide to go to the dark side.

    ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9 thanked Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR
  • katyajini

    Ingrid I thought you were on vacation. I had no idea you were going through this. You are a strong chin up woman. I admire you so much. There are ways to handle this. You have gotten so much right you will figure this out too. I feel how over the top challenging this is because you (we) have invested your soul in your garden. I will be thinking of you and sending positive energy for you. My love to you!

    ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9 thanked katyajini
  • Stephanie, 9b inland SoCal

    Ingrid, I see a post with 7 very lovely pictures. SdlM is most charming!

    ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9 thanked Stephanie, 9b inland SoCal
  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

    What a surprise! I saw no pictures last night and here they are today. Not only that, but now, as if by magic, all the pictures are at least twice as large as they've been over the last week. I can't pretend to understand what's going on, but I won't question it and will just hope that it continues.

    jjk, I can now really appreciate the beauty of your orchids. My sister-in-law grows them beautifully but I've never attempted them. They have their own kind of exquisite beauty.

    I went outside again around midnight, and as I went toward the front door to go back in a three-foot rattlesnake emerged from underneath the bush of SdlM. I won't pretend that my adrenaline didn't spike, but he continued calmly on his way and I wished him well as a fellow creature on this earth who has his place in the larger scheme of things, and probably more deservedly so than we destructive humans.

  • Stephanie, 9b inland SoCal

    Ingrid, I am glad Houzz is working for you, hope it continues. Scary about the rattlesnake! Could a big enough rattler be going after the rats? In that case it would be a start toward a more balanced nature. But still a little scary that your rat population could be attracting large rattlers. Be careful!

    ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9 thanked Stephanie, 9b inland SoCal
  • Perma n’ Posies/9A FL

    I was thinking the same thing, Stephanie...this could be nature balancing things out. But you do need to very careful with rattlers in the garden, Ingrid. Be vigilant about making plenty of noise as you move about to alert them. Probably once they get their fill they’ll move back out to the wilds. :-)

    ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9 thanked Perma n’ Posies/9A FL
  • Perma n’ Posies/9A FL

    And he sounds like a very savvy guy, with great taste in roses, to choose SdlM to protect!! :-)

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  • Plumeria Girl (Florida ,9b)

    Ingrid, be careful. My thoughts are same with Stephanie. Wishing it was just garden snakes only .
    It is better to be walking in your garden with a huge hiking stick just in case you need to make space but that's me.
    This brings up a bad memory for me. I was chase by a huge water moccasin. I ran so, so fast with my infant in my hands. That darn snake chase me all the way to my duplex. But unfortunately , the next morning my husband found it dead when he return from overnight shift.
    We had 7 neighbours but we never ask who did it. For all we know it could be the owner who lives across the street by the lake.

    By the way, your garden looks beautiful.

    jin

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  • Stephanie, 9b inland SoCal

    Yikes! water moccasins must be very different temperamentally! Rattlesnakes want to stay away from people and you only get bit if you step on, or almost step on them. So you just have to pay attention.

    ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9 thanked Stephanie, 9b inland SoCal
  • Perma n’ Posies/9A FL

    Water moccasins are definitely different. They are very aggressive. As a child I was chased by a pair who I’m sure wanted my bowl of strawberries.

    I spent a summer in a state park in the hills of Nebraska once, and was amazed at how shy the rattlers there were. They really did try to stay away from people. That summer there was a big fire that drove them down into the park and we were surrounded by rattlers, but no one ever got bit.

    I think a stick is a great idea to make noise. You probably scared him more than he did you, Ingrid! :-)

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  • Plumeria Girl (Florida ,9b)

    I rather take rattlesnakes anytime over water moccasins because they are extremely territorial Bec they defend their area. Rattlesnakes will warn you . Water moccasins will bite more than once and several times , they won't think twice about it.
    You are so right about rattlesnakes. You have to be on top of them .

    jin

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  • Lisa Adams

    I think seeing that rattlesnake is a good sign. You have no outdoor pets, or small children to worry about. I know you’re careful about where you step, or reach. As you already know Ingrid, rattlesnakes just want to be left alone. They don’t usually bite people unless provoked or startled. Those water moccasins sound terrifying! I had no idea they were actually aggressive. Rattlesnakes are completely the opposite. They want to get away from humans as quickly as possible. I’m sure your snake is feeding up on those rats. It will take a while to balance out, but all sorts of predators will eventually be drawn in by the large population of prey animals. As you know, I’m dealing with a huge population explosion of roof rats, as well. They aren’t eating my roses, but it’s unsettling nonetheless. There aren’t many natural predators here in my neighborhood, and they are really out of control. Many people in town have been experiencing this. They’ve taken the joy out of my nighttime visits into the garden. I know they are afraid of people, but I have a phobia of rats and mice.

    I’m sorry that you’re seeing gophers, after such a long reprieve from them. I’m noticing an increase in gopher activity again, after having cleared most of them out with “The Gopher Hawk”. This hot weather has them on the move, looking for irrigated plants. Snakes will also crawl into gopher holes and get them, but you might not want to wait that long. It sounds like there’s no shortage of food for the snakes. If you decide to go that route, the “Gopher Hawk” really is effective and easy to use. I’m able to set and dispose of my catches by myself, and I don’t have much strength. I’m sure it would be child’s play for Cecil.

    If you hadn’t let on that the garden was in trouble, I wouldn’t have known by the pictures. I know you’re showing the “best” parts, but they’re beautiful. I hope you received some of that rain on Wednesday afternoon. I had about 20-30 minutes of hard downpour. It was wonderful, and it smelled so good afterwards. My parents only got a few drops in Escondido, so it was a very hit and miss thunderstorm. They had a hard time believing that I actually got a good soaking here.

    Cooler temperatures are predicted for next week. That would be welcome, wouldn’t it? Hang in there, my dear friend. Let’s hope for an early and cool Fall. Lisa


    ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9 thanked Lisa Adams
  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

    I would be terrified of water moccasins. As you've mentioned that's a completely different behavior, similar to the black mambas in Africa. Still, I'm more careful now going out at night. The daytime temperatures right now would kill them, so they're probably ensconced in a gopher hole, no doubt to the disgust of the gophesr. Lisa, I'm so happy for you about the rain, that's a good soaking with no need for you to water for a few days at least. Not a drop here, unfortunately. Like you I'm looking forward to cooler temperatures. Everything seems easier then.


    In just two days there's been an appreciable loss of branches and leaves on the roses and everything else. It's happening very quickly now but I have the attitude that what will be will be. Nature will take its course and the measures I've taken to guard the plants have failed. On the other hand, nature is resilient and who knows what will be six months or a year from now. We all live in hope.

  • Michele

    I never cease to be amazed at Nature’s ability to heal. With help from someone with your know how I’m sure your beautiful garden may be a bit different but it will be gorgeous again.

    ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9 thanked Michele
  • Krista_5NY

    That's a good way to describe it, Ingrid, nature is resilient. Your photos look lovely... I hope you'll see plenty of blooms in the future. Mr. Toad is a charming gardener.

    ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9 thanked Krista_5NY
  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

    The foxglove normally has a barrier around it, but isn't it lovely? Since it's poisonous I suppose the critters might not eat it, but who knows?




    One of our garden visitors.

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