My fair city of Saratoga Springs, NY really feels like a city in the Adirondack woods. We are very close to the southeastern border of the Adirondack Park, and the city is old enough so that there are numerous giant trees along the streets and in the yards. Many of them are evergreens. So when it snows, and the roads are whited out, and the spruces and white pines are draped with brilliant crystals, it feels as if I live in a forest.
All this may explain a squirrel population that verges on obnoxious. There are excellent places for them to nest. There is a rich diet of nuts that they eat out of the pinecones, as well as the banquet provided by gardeners—crabapples, feral raspberries and mulberries, beans. I’ve even seen squirrels raid the lemongrass in my garden—just yank out a small plant and take off up a tree. There is also a squirrel highway among the branches and the utility lines. They can run along a line and land right in my biggest peach tree, ready for dessert.
The squirrels do a lot of gardening. I see it mostly with my bulbs, which are, of course, often a large plant wrapped up, in the off-season, in the neatest, most compact, rodent-movable packaging. My tulips, which I always plant in groups of five of a kind, get scrambled. The lilies are even worse. This year, I wound up with Asiatic lilies from my backyard—orange, pink—in my front yard, where the Asiatics are strictly red, white, and purple-black. I also have two giant ‘Scheherazade’ lilies as lone wolves in spots where I’d never have planted them.
Though I wish the squirrels were fussier in their color schemes, as gardeners, they do provide some valuable services. I have a few beautiful Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frosts’ in places where I didn’t plant them. I don’t know if the squirrels moved seeds or a bit of root, but these are beautiful, expensive plants that don’t necessarily love being divided. I’m glad for the extras.
And I have sunflowers in my yard. I have never planted sunflowers in this garden. Again, I wish the squirrels were a bit stricter about tall plants in back, but nonetheless, the sunflowers’ arrival is an unexpected act of grace. I smile every time I walk by.