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Vile Creatures

I once had a thriving collection of Asiatic lilies in my perennial garden. Sweet-scented and often bold-colored, there are few flowers that delight more than Asiatic lilies in full bloom. Each July, I anticipated the opening of the buds and reveled in the first explosion of color and perfume when at last they unzipped their snug, green coats.

Five years ago, I noticed several of the lilies failed to arise from their winter beds. I probed the soil, trying to locate the bulbs and was dismayed to find there were no bulbs. Voles, those voracious rodents, had invaded the garden without detection. Over the last five winters, they have slowly and successively destroyed the bulbs. I expect the last three surviving pilgrims, patriots of the noble country of YARD, brave though they are, will also be gnawed to death.

Stinkin’ critters. I learned about voles the hard way. It’s as if they know which virtuous flower to attack and attack it when and where it is most vulnerable. The destruction occurs beneath layers of obfuscating dirt and through deceiving trenches. One vole attracts its kind which attracts more of its kind and soon a pleasant garden is turned into an unwholesome latticework of communicating treachery. The network is deep and impenetrable, constructed by a single-minded colony ever marching, ever expanding. It dominates a nether world, driven by an enormous appetite, devouring fair delights and reducing my little piece of paradise to barren, unwholesome earth.

Voles are actually rather cute. Short-tailed and plump, they are also called field mice. They wear innocent expressions and will take full advantage of your inclination to see them as benign. In fact, they could carry around banners and sling slogans without raising suspicion of their true intentions. They’ll girdle healthy, fruiting trees beneath snow and pop up in spring without the slightest bit of remorse for having killed an orchard. Foolers, they are, hiding sharp little teeth beneath a look that dares one to question their true purpose as they scurry to sate themselves on all manner of growing, thriving enterprise. Nothing, it seems, is sacred or safe from the onslaught.

Is resistance futile? I’ve not found a cure for the unseen enemy, rather, I shake my fist and shout words of displeasure at the taking of my hard work and careful planning. With no ready solution to the subversion of my pleasant oasis, I plant flowers that voles find inedible, and having taken away that which feeds them I expect they will either starve or move on.

Pink, burgundy and orange lilies, July 2016.

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