What gardeners and squirrels have in common

Erin Schanen


We have a healthy population of squirrels in our yard, including a large community of overfed gray squirrels and hyperactive chattering red squirrels, all of whom delight in hiding their treasures around the garden. I dig up “hidden” pinecones every day, which causes me to question the intelligence of the squirrels that stash them. There is no shortage of pinecones here, not to mention the expensive bird seed they favor, so I fail to see the reason behind incessant need to store them.

But one look at my patio and temporary greenhouses and I’m reminded that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones, or, um, pinecones. The plant hoarding situation currently on display could serve as a model for the squirrel population.

I am at the height of the “collecting” stage of the gardening season. I like to batch garden jobs, so I plant all the containers at the same time. And I don’t like to plant a container until I have all the plants I need for it. That means that I spend several weeks collecting all the plants before any of them are put on display.

Before you cast aspersions at my plant hoarding, I can tell you that I’m not alone. In fact I have reason to believe the gardeners of Ozaukee County can collect plants better than toilet paper hoarders armed with two-for-one coupons.  

Batman aficionados know that the caped crusader is summoned by an illuminated bat image beamed into the sky. I can only assume a similar flower sign is broadcast for gardeners to signal the arrival of a truckload of fresh plants to a garden center because last week I witnessed a rush of plant buying that would rival any Black Friday sale.

By good fortune or gardener’s hunch, I ended up at Drews True Value in Port Washington last week shortly after a truckload of new plants arrived. The staff didn’t even have time to put prices on the plants when gardeners, perhaps drawn by the flower symbol in the sky, started showing up in droves. Carts overflowed with flowers of all colors and conversations between gardeners who hadn’t seen each other in a year took place without a pause in plant selection.

I came armed with the list of plants I still needed, but I’ll admit to buying a few that weren’t on that list. I don’t have a plan for those yet, but I know they will get put to good use.

I’m willing to bet that most of the plants purchased that day haven’t gone any farther than the patios of the gardeners who hunted and gathered them. Because collecting plants is a crucial part of the gardening process and, dare I say it, at least part of the fun. Where else other than a packed garden center with plants practically flying off tables would a conversation about the merits of a double lavender petunia versus a single purple petunia be met with rapt attention?

The next time I dig up a pinecone, I think I’ll just set it aside. If anyone can recognize the value of collecting, it’s a gardener with a plan.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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