Gardening With Groundhogs in Massachusetts

We’re visiting with Beth Britt today.

I have been gardening on a tiny lot (about an eighth of an acre) in a western suburb of Boston for the last 25 years. I had helped my parents and grandparents in their vegetable gardens when I was a kid in North Carolina, but I didn’t know anything about ornamental gardening when my husband and I bought this house. Very few of the plants I started with remain, with the exception of several trees.

My biggest challenge has been dealing with the scores (no exaggeration!) of groundhogs who live in the stone wall behind our house and throughout the neighborhood. After years of trial and error, I’ve now mostly learned which plants they do not eat, although sometimes the newest additions to the groundhog clan will try things that the older generations shunned.

This series of photographs shows a partial view of my front garden peaking in spring and summer. All the plants in these photographs have proven unpalatable to the groundhogs in my neighborhood.

small front yard garden with tulips of various colorsI plant about 500 tulips in the front garden each year, treating them as annuals. This photo from the middle of May shows Mazus reptans (Zones 5–8) blooming in the lawn. The two low evergreens on either side of the steps are Thuja ‘Mr. Bowling Ball’ (Zones 3–7).

front yard garden later in spring with a large shrub in bloomAnd here’s the front garden in late May. The star of late May is Viburnum plicatum ‘Summer Snowflake’ (Zones 5–8), which I’ve trained as a tree. I planted it in 2009. At its feet you can see the early dark foliage of Continus coggygria ‘Velveteeny’ (Zones 5–8). On the left trellis is Clematis ‘Elsa Spaeth’ (Zones 4–11). Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis, Zones 3–8), daylilies (Hemerocallis hybrids, Zones 4–9), catmint (Nepeta sp., Zones 5–9), peonies (Paeonia hybrids, Zones 3–8), lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina, Zones 4–8), Heuchera (Zones 4–9), Sedum, and Geranium are leafing out; groundhogs do not eat them! Overhead are a few leaves of a Constellation dogwood (Cornus × rutgersensis, Zones 5–10).

front yard garden in early summer with lots of greeneryHere is the garden in early June. One of my earliest mistakes was planting peonies (Paeonia hybrids, Zones 3–8) with little fragrance, as I didn’t realize yet how gardening in a small space demands that every plant do double or triple duty. I added the beautifully fragrant ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peony a couple of years ago (middle of the photograph). To the far left is ‘Kansas’ peony, and to the far right is ‘Kelway’s Glorious’ peony; Allium ‘Gladiator’ (Zones 4–7) is in the foreground. Lady’s mantle, catmint, and Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ (Zones 3–8) are also in bloom.

front yard garden in summerLate June is the time for ‘Happy Returns’ daylily, Monarda ‘Bee-You Bee-Free’ (Zones 5–9), Rozanne geranium (Geranium ‘Gerwat’ (Zones 5–8), and self-seeding rose campion (Lychnis coronaria, Zones 4–8). Blue grama grass ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’, Zones 3–10) is in a pot.

front yard garden at peak summer bloomIn mid-July, more daylilies (‘Jolyene Nichole’ and ‘Strutter’s Ball’) follow, along with ‘Becky’ Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum × superbum ‘Becky’, Zones 5–9) and ‘Miss Manners’ obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana ‘Miss Manners’, Zones 3–9). I didn’t notice at the time I took the photograph that a birch tree across the street is reflected in the front door. How’s that for a borrowed view?

close up of white Viburnum flowersViburnum ‘Summer Snowflake’

close up of bright pink peony flowerPaeonia ‘Kansas, with Iris ‘Caesar’s Brother’ (Zones 3–8) and Clematis ‘Elsa Spaeth’

close up of lage, light pink peony flowersPaeonia ‘Sarah Bernhardt’

close up of light pink peony with light green foliage in the backgroundI just learned the Hildene Star method of supporting peonies, shown here on Paeonia ‘Kelway’s Glorious’, with hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra, Zones 5–9) and Allium ‘Gladiator’ in the background. 

pink, purple, and white flowers in the gardenMonarda ‘Bee-You Bee-Free’ with ‘Miss Manners’ obedient plant, Geranium ‘Rozanne’, and Cotinus ‘Velveteeny’

light pink daylily flowers with purple flowers in the backgroundDaylily ‘Jolyene Nichole’

container planting with colorful foliage and orange and white flowersThis deck planter contains begonias (Begonia hybrid, Zones 10–11 or as an annual), coleus (Coleus scutellaroides, Zones 9–11 or as an annual), salvia (Salvia guaranitica, Zones 7–11 or as an annual), and Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire’ (Zones 8–11 or as an annual). Next to it is Clematis ‘Arctic Queen’ (Zones 4–9).


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Originally posted 2022-10-29 19:17:11.