I’ll take a squirrel any day | Home Again

By Joanne Peterson | Mar 23, 2016

I bought tulip bulbs in late January. Spring-flowering bulbs appreciate being tucked into the ground in the fall, not winter, though later they like a sharp cold spell to prompt their best growth. Living in a condo, I’ve seldom planted bulbs. But then I saw the rack of packages showing brilliant exotic tulips – at 75 percent off. Why not? I bought two packages, 12 bulbs each.

My mother and grandmother planted traditional Red Emperor tulips, yellow King Alfred daffodils and purple-blue grape hyacinths, which poked up faithfully every year.

After my marriage, I planted those bulbs, too, and was successful – after the first year, when I planted them with bone meal. The neighbor dog watched me, waited an hour and dug them up.

Decades later, my husband and I built a house situated above a public golf course. From our lot, a curving path led down to an old wooden bridge, which crossed a narrow creek and led onto the course. Tall wild mint grew from the bottom of the creek, rising a foot above the water. A low sloping hillside anchored with rocks bordered our path.

Daughter Lisa, home from college for an October visit, accompanied me to our unfinished house on a chilly Saturday afternoon to plant bulbs on the hillside. Our vision? A hundred spring flowers blooming in random clumps among the rocks. It took a long time to plant those bulbs that cold day, fingers stiff inside our garden gloves. But the vision kept us going.

Come spring, when the house was finished and snow a melted memory, we moved in. The flowers? Nothing sprouted on that rocky little hillside except three or four daffodils and the odd bit of sagebrush. Otherwise, every place my daughter and I planted bulbs, little hollows showed where animals had dug them up.

So, nearly 25 years later, I made my January 2016 purchase of 12 tulip bulbs named “Monsella” – cup-shaped ruffled red and yellow beauties – and 12 named “Nightrider” – sleek tall blooms of purple and green stripes. You can guess what happened, can’t you?

Squirrels (or – God forbid – rats, if rats dig up bulbs) have devoted their nights to kicking dirt all over my deck, leaving half-empty pots, brown bulb husks and ruined pale sprouts in their wake. (Could it be a raccoon?) It’s a mess.

I haven’t seen a squirrel on the deck in daylight this season – which is unusual. In past years, I’ve watched a squirrel and a blue jay – both fairly tidy – hiding things in my pots. I once watched the pesky blue jay bury a cigarette butt, presumably for the disappointed squirrel to find later.

Why the rat suspicion? I haven’t recovered completely from the summer night when a rat entered the open door from deck to bedroom and meandered into the living room. I am suspicious of that rat, but today, cleaning up the mess, all 20 tulips lost, I found a peanut shell. I’ll take a squirrel over a rat – or a raccoon – any day.





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