Bunnies may be cute, but they can wreak havoc in gardens. Luckily there are plenty of good plants that they just won't touch: plantsman Graham Rice picks 10 AGM-winning favourites
Rabbits can be a menace. Gardeners without a rabbit problem have no idea of the destruction they can bring; and in spite of the cat population, rabbits can often be seen in suburban as well in rural gardens.
Their try-anything-once attitude can be alarming, but although new plantings are often sampled, they may not nibble them in future: and by “nibble” I might mean bite off at ground level. And, of course, the more hungry they are, the less fussy rabbits become.
Fencing the whole garden is the ideal solution – be sure to bury the bottom of the fence at least 30cm (1ft) down to prevent them burrowing underneath – but you need to devise protection for gates and driveways.
The good news is that there are some plants that rabbits dislike, so if you’re plagued by these delightful little beasts, here’s a choice of Award of Garden Merit-winning perennials that rabbits tend to avoid.
Numbers at the end of each entry refer to RHS hardiness ratings.
For containers or borders
Known for its unusually deep blue flowers, well flared to show off their colour, Agapanthus ‘Loch Hope’ makes an impressive specimen with its narrow greyish foliage setting off the flowers well. It is one of the latest to flower and well timed to grow alongside Crocosmia ‘Star of the East’ (also rabbit-resistant and an AGM plant) in September. 1.2m (4ft). H6.
Columbines are amongst the most useful of rabbit-resistant perennials and the Songbird Series has unusually large numbers of flowers in clean colours. The flowers are slightly upward facing so show themselves off well in the garden, and make impressive cut flowers. The blue and white of Aquilegia ‘Bluebird’ is one of the most effective. 45cm. H4. 57
For damper soils
In damper situations in particular and in plenty of sun, astilbes are ideal; and after an initial sampling, rabbits rarely touch them. Astilbe ‘Fanal’ is a tough, award-winning old favourite. In July, its dark green, neatly cut foliage sets off the 25cm (10in) plumes of dark red flowers well. 45cm (18in). H7.
Gorgeous globe thistle
Spines are always a help defeating animals and globe thistles are certainly spiny and are rarely favoured by rabbits. In July and August Echinops ritro subsp. ruthenicus has bright, steely blue, spiny flower heads on upright stems above thistle-like foliage with protective spines. 1m (3ft). H7.
Hellebores are poisonous to many animals (although deer will eat them occasionally, if they are hungry enough) and they are certainly unpopular with rabbits. The cup-shaped, green flowers of the Corsican or holly-leaved hellebore, Helleborus argutifolius, open in clusters of up to thirty from January into spring, and are set against bold jagged foliage. Can be short-lived but often self sows. 1.2m (4ft). H5.
A long flowering season, from June to September, is one of the appealing features that marks out Kniphofia ‘Timothy’ amongst rabbit-resistant red-hot pokers. Its pinkish orange colouring is also softer than many so should appeal to those discouraged by the harsher colouring of so many Kniphofia cultivars and is especially attractive set against its bronzed stems. 1m (3ft). H5.
All Miscanthus are unpopular with rabbits, but many are so late flowering that their display is muted; it’s important to choose one that flowers early. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine Silberspinne’ is a shorter, more manageable variety whose pinkish plumes open in August then fade to biscuit brown in autumn and early winter. The autumn foliage is gold. 1.2m (4ft). H6.
Neat and aromatic
Cats may love them, but rabbits – not so much. The aromatic oils in catmints seem very off-putting to rabbits and one of the top choices amongst catmints is Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’. Not only do its violet-blue spikes open from May to September, but the plant is bushy and rarely flops. 60cm (2ft). H7.
Vivid spring blue
Perhaps the rough and raspy foliage is a deterrent, but Pulmonaria 'Blue Ensign' usually remains untouched with its vivid rich blue flowers making a striking spring display. The generous flower clusters are held upright, showing off the flowers well, and are followed by overlapping mounds of broad, dark green leaves. 30cm (1ft). H6.