However, not all of our visitors are quite so welcome. The lush new growth produced by plants in late spring is irresistible to rabbits...
A new planting of astrantias in one of the lower shrubberies looks as though someone has driven a lawnmower over it, but the rabbit droppings on the nearby lawn give the game away – Peter Rabbit and his extended family have been feasting on Astrantia ‘Roma’ for breakfast and supper.
Fortunately, if we take steps now to protect the plants, they should recover over time. We could erect some temporary rabbit netting around the group of plants, but the most practical answer in this case will be to spray them with an animal repellent, such as ‘Grazers’, which is safe for pets and wildlife. Another approach to avoiding rabbit damage is to use plants that are relatively resistant to rabbits.
Meanwhile, down near the stream an exotic-looking red beetle has been causing us problems. The lily beetle and its larvae feed on lilies, fritillaries and Cardiocrinum, and can cause considerable damage to the stems, leaves and seed pods of those plants.
It’s a good idea to keep an eye out from April onwards; you can then pick off and destroy any beetles, eggs and larvae that you find. A word of warning: the adult beetles are sensitive to disturbance and, as you approach a plant, may drop to the ground and lie motionless on their backs, rendering them virtually invisible. To avoid this, you need to move swiftly and try to catch the beetles before they fall to the ground. For tips on dealing with lily beetle, see the RHS advice pages.