Rabbits might be cute and cuddly, but for gardeners who live close to a rabbit population the sight of just one of these small creatures anywhere near our precious patch can send us into fits of rage. These, as we all know, are rapid reproducers, which means there are lots of mouths to feed. Rabbits are fearless munchers, nibbling leaves, flower stems and digging around the base of plants to get at young tender roots.
The best way to stop rabbits from invading the garden is to severely ring fence it with strong wire fencing. The wire should be buried six inches into the ground to prevent the devious diggers from tunnelling under. The well-wired garden gate also needs to be kept firmly shut. But doing this is not only time consuming, it can be expensive and difficult. The next best thing is to avoid growing plants rabbits like.
Whilst rabbits might try a wide variety of plants, they tend to turn their noses up at certain ones. Perennials with soft, furry leaves such as Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s mantle) and Nepeta (Catmint) are usually off the menu, although I have known the ‘never-touched by bunnies’ Stachys byzantina to have the odd leaf nibbled. Like humans rabbits sensibly don’t go for anything poisonous so Digitalis (Foxgloves) and Aconitum (Monkshood) can be safely grown. Plants with thick leathery evergreen leaves are fine, including spring flowering Bergenia (Elephant ears) and Epimedium (Bishops mitre), and late winter blooming Hellebores. Some softer leaved perennials such as Campanula (Bellflowers) and Aquilegia are also avoided, which is strange because many varieties of these plant groups are native to our countryside. Later blooming perennials such as Aster, Japanese anemones, Eupatorium (Joe-pye weed), Helenium (Sneezeweed) and Sedum (Ice plant) are also left alone. Best of all rabbits don’t like plants with large, blousy flowers. Irises, peonies, Lupins, Kniphofia (Red-hot poker) and Oriental poppies can be grown without fear of loosing the leaves, roots or flowers. Generally speaking rabbits do most damage in early spring before the grass in fields and long road-side verges has grown lush. After this rabbits tend to leave most garden plants alone.
Helleborus × hybridus