For my last birthday Craig gave me a new pet, a wonderful planter with insect-eating plants. It was made by his old friend Dave who has shifted from researching spiders to growing “interesting” plants. During the spring and summer we sat the planter out on the verandah table and watched as the sundews collected tiny midges and rolled them up in their sticky leaves to digest.

Then the trigger plants produced tiny pink flowers which dab pollen on visiting insects (but don’t eat them).

Dave set the plants up with a nifty watering system, where you put water in at the top that percolates to the two levels of plants and keeps it moist for several days at a time.

Unfortunately, as the weather got cooler, I stopped paying as much attention, until I suddenly realised that not only had the sundews died back, but most of the moss was missing. Not such a good look.

At first I blamed the rats and mice, assuming they’d eaten the moss, as they do many things around here, including the wiring, repeatedly. We see rats at the window going for the moths occasionally. One year when we had thousands of bogong moths bashing themselves against the glass, I later found drifts of their wings down behind the daybed nearby, where the rats had taken them to eat their nutritious bodies.

In the continuing mouse and rat saga, I’ve been trying to persuade someone, (anyone but me) to install mesh into the cracks between the house and its foundation and also in the roof, to keep the rodents out. Unsuccessfully. I’ve also been trialling peppermint oil on makeup pads which I bought at the supermarket. Unfortunately it only seems to last a few days before they’re back, and the ones I put in the kitchen acted as a pretty good repellent for me as well as the mice. I really need some sort of drip feeder that would replenish it under the house. So, a work in progress.

For a few days I looked around for some replacement moss for my pet planter, but I didn’t want to take any from the rocks by the river or anywhere else that it was already decorative and functional. Then finally I remembered the moss growing in the shade of the medlar tree where we park our cars. I scooped up some strips growing between the pavers and started my repairs.

When I’d finished, it still looked a little rough compared to its original form, but the moss is gradually settling in. The trigger plants have increased in number and are looking ready to flower again in a month or so.

I eventually realised that I might have been blaming the rodents for a crime that hadn’t actually done. Instead, the criminals are probably birds. Presumably moss is one more thing that birds find attractive for their nests. In fallen nests I’ve found everything from blue plastic string to sheep’s wool to coir. I usually lose a lot of the coir I have in my hanging baskets, so much so that I started just putting out swags of loose coir to make it easier than pulling from the baskets. That seems to have worked, but maybe they also prefer the moss. They don’t steal the moss growing from the paving, but perhaps that’s less attractive because it’s attached to the ground.

Anyway, I hope my pet sundews will be back for the next insect season.

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