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Friday, March 18, 2005

Voles & The Queen of Backhanded Compliments

There is a woman I know from one of my garden clubs who is the "Queen of Backhanded Compliments". You know the kind, as a group of people tour your garden and wonder out loud at the beauty she steps up and says "oh yes, Melanie's garden is beautiful, for an amateur".

Yesterday I was granted a phone call from the "Queen of Backhanded Compliments". It's a wonder how this woman can know so much about everything there is to know. She's just a fountain full of knowledge and will gladly spill out and flood you with more information than you could possibly desire. In a highpitched, artificial voice (imagine Dame Edna with a nasally New York twang) the pearls of wisdom just come streaming out. Funny thing is most of the things she spouts are wrong! When talking to her in person, my favorite moment comes when she looks astonished that you didn't know the fact that she has just shared with you.

So here we were, talking about pets and I mentioned that ever since our cat died we've been noticing vole holes in the garden. I was promptly informed that she never has any voles in her garden because she incorporates daffodils with her daylilies. Did you know that Daffodils keep the voles away? Well, amazingly so, neither did I. As a matter of fact, I thought it was frittilaria that kept Moles away but no, I was wrong. All you have to do is plant lots and lots of daffodils around your daylilies and the voles won't come near them.

Imagine my surprise yesterday as I cleared the leaf debris around some emerging daffodils only to find a vole hole not more than 2 inches from the daffodil foliage. It turned out the ground was around those daffodils was riddled with vole holes, not unlike a piece of swiss cheese. Somebody should really educate those stupid voles.

Voles are little mice-like creatures that tunnel thoughout your garden and munch their way through the Hosta and Daylily roots all winter long. I've read of many different ways to rid your garden of these pests but have always found having cats was the best way. Another method that sounds reasonable is to put some peanut butter on a mouse trap, place it near the hole and cover both with an upside down clay flower pot. It seems to work for others but I just can't imagine removing the pot and finding a vole in the trap. What am I supposed to do with it then? Yuck! And what if the poor creature is not dead but only crippled. Or horror of horrors, you are in the garden and hear the trap snap? Nope, can't do that one.

How not to get rid of voles is something I'm an expert on. I thought I had it all figured out. Voles have several tunnel entrances and exits. My husband Don had a new leaf blower with an attachment that fit over the end. The attachment had a long pointed tip, kind of like an elongated funnel. Ok, I could place that long tip into one hole and turn on the blower. Surely the terrified vole would come running out of one of the exits. But what was I to do then? I knew my instinct would be to run in the other direction.

Ah Ha! At the time we had a wonderful cat named Olive who was a fantastic hunter. She had only missed this one spot in the garden. I could hold Olive under one arm and blast the hole with the leaf blower with the other arm. As soon as the vole popped up out of the exit I would release Olive and she would take care of the final extermination.

Ready...Set...Go.... On when the blower, Olive freaked out, clawed her way up my side, shoulder, neck and tried to perch on my head. I ran around the yard shrieking like a banshee and the vole never even popped up for a look. Stupid vole.



Pat said...

Hi Melanie,
I've been plagued by voles for many years. I'm at my wits end. My shade garden is a mess with all the undermining they do. I've tried everything. The only things that have worked for me was my cat when she was young (15 now and retired from vole catching) and the visiting pair of Cooper's hawks that stay from March until June. They eat them by the bucket! Anyone else hae a solution?

M Sinclair Stevens said...

We don't have voles down here in Austin. I'm guessing the daffodil trick has to do with them being extremely poisonous. Possibly if they're mixed in with other bulbs, the voles might nibble the wrong ones by mistake and die.

Apparently in your garden, natural selection has taken care of the voles that were too stupid to tell a daffodil from something tasty, leaving you with--super voles.

DWPittelli said...

I've never heard of a rodent ignorant enough to eat a daffodil, although I read that, "all parts of the daffodil are harmful. Dogs sometimes eat the bulbs and even a small portion of a bulb can kill an animal." (From That said, rodents will eat bulbs less than a foot away from daffodils, in my experience.

David Pittelli

louise said...

Voles!!! I've tried it all. the only thing that keeps them at bay is RepelsAll - it's organic, but made from a nasty list of ingredients that includes DRIED BLOOD and PUTRESCENT EGG SOLIDS. Still, it does work. Otherwise I've had to dig a trench around my veg garden and flower beds and put in fencing (8" below and 6" above ground). As for the daffodils, I've got loads of them - the voles won't touch them.