POS­SUMS for & against

It can be a bonus hav­ing wildlife in the gar­den, but it’s not all fun and games for the hu­mans when pos­sums move in, writes JACKIE FRENCH

Gardening Australia - - AT HOME WITH JACKIE -

There are times when I love our pos­sums. Ac­tu­ally, I al­ways love our pos­sums. But would I bring pos­sums with me if my gar­den and I were be­ing trans­ferred to a desert is­land? Here’s the good and the bad. For: Pos­sums nib­ble. If you have lots of roses, this can be a gen­tle and use­ful prun­ing. Our pro­lific ‘Climb­ing Ice­berg’ and ‘Climb­ing Al­ber­tine’ roses do very nicely when pos­sum pruned. The pos­sums could even do a bit more and I’d be happy.

Against: Pos­sums nib­ble. If you don’t have a lot of roses, the nib­bling will be­come a ma­jor and even a fa­tal feast. The an­swer is to grow more roses.

For: When you have too many fruit trees, as we do, pos­sums are re­ally use­ful for help­ing to con­sume un­wanted fruit and so help pre­vent fruit fly. They es­pe­cially love lo­quats. We can never quite make enough lo­quat jam to cope with our crop.

Against: Pos­sums are gourmets. We grow 132 kinds of ap­ples but our pos­sums only eat the old-fash­ioned Jonathans, which are my favourite too. So far, the tally has been pos­sums 6821, Jackie nil.

For: Pos­sums are hi­lar­i­ous, slid­ing down the roof, peer­ing in the win­dow. I’ll never for­get the well-grown baby pos­sum leap­ing onto its mum’s back in fright when we shone the torch on it. Mum col­lapsed un­der the weight, stood up and punched the baby so soundly that it rolled down the hill. No, it wasn’t hurt – it just marched back and be­gan to eat the or­ange leaves. Against: Pos­sums are not so hi­lar­i­ous when they are slid­ing down the roof at 2am.

For: Ter­ri­tory de­fence. The grumpy old male who lives in our ceil­ing stops rats in­vad­ing, and de­ters other male pos­sums from set­ting up res­i­dence. Against: You can­not toi­let train a pos­sum. Mostly, un­less they’re scared, they use the out­doors as their dunny but none­the­less there is a grow­ing stain on my study ceil­ing. Also, al­though a pos­sum’s growls at 8pm are hi­lar­i­ous, the growls and shrieks at 2am are not. For: Pos­sums love to eat the ju­ve­nile leaves of the blue gum fam­ily, which are soft blue and slightly floury look­ing, and beau­ti­ful ei­ther fresh or dried in flower ar­range­ments. Grow th­ese and your pos­sum will gorge on them and have less room for eat­ing your fruit and roses. Keep them low-grow­ing and you’ll have them for your vases, too.

Against: If you or the pos­sums for­get about your cop­piced blue gum it will be­come an enor­mous for­est giant and be hard to get rid of. Plant one of th­ese only if you are sure you and the pos­sums will be able to keep it un­der con­trol.

For: Your gar­den may not be a na­tional park, but you’ll have wildlife. Re­ally ‘wild life’, es­pe­cially at 2am. Against: There’s no ‘against’ to this one. Learn to live with pos­sums. Af­ter all, they were here be­fore we were. Plant ex­tra food for them. Use pos­sum re­pel­lent on new fo­liage, or fruit bags to pro­tect your favourites. And just en­joy the wildlife – even at 2am.

“We grow 132 kinds of ap­ples but our pos­sums only eat the old-fash­ioned Jonathans”

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