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  • maxcrisfield

There's this fox

Updated: Nov 14, 2022


So, there’s a house on our street. At least I think there’s a house; it’s hard to tell what with the dense thicket of oversized shrubbery that’s slowly ingesting it. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the garden had in fact eaten the house, swallowed it whole and spat it out in a different suburb altogether. It’s like the Boo Radley house or a suburban Manderley. No one goes in; no one comes out. Except for the foxes. They come and go as they please, and believe me, they are extremely pleased with themselves.

They sit on our wall and stare us out – in broad daylight. In the morning they help themselves to our Riverford boxes. They leave the hummus. They swagger around like they own the place, which they pretty much do these days. For appearances sake we still act as if it’s our neighbourhood, but deep down we know it’s a lie. Deep down we know we are in Fox Town now.

There’s this one fox – thinks she’s a garden designer. It started out innocently enough. Sometimes in the morning, wandering the garden in my dressing gown with a bowl of granola, I’d discover that a pot or a plant had moved. First it was the pond plants. A Caltha palustris lifted and set down by the veg beds. Initially, I thought it was me: another senior moment, like when I put the remote control in the fridge. So I put it back where it belonged, and thought nothing more of it. Until the next morning when the same thing happened. Then there were other interventions: an astrantia uprooted and deposited in the sunny border; a lychnis cast among the pelargonium pots. It was the foxes. Had to be. And they were nothing if not persistent. But still, I thought, they’re just playing; it’s kind of cute really and no harm done. I must say, I was very grown up about it.

These early episodes were clumsy and amateurish – I mean who plants astrantias in full sun! But over time she began to gain confidence; a tweak here, a revised colour scheme there. (I’d concluded by now that this was a one-fox operation, so singular were her aesthetic choices). This was all slightly disconcerting as you can imagine, but many of her horticultural decisions were sound, and it’s important to be able to take constructive criticism.

But then she started getting above herself. First, she crown-lifted the Pittosporum tenufolium without so much as a by-your-leave. Granted, it let more light into the border, but still! And then the shrub roses. If I wanted them pruned into standards I’d have done it myself. She staked the peonies, which I was going to get round to eventually. She completely removed the dahlias. Too blowsy for her refined tastes. The final straw was when she topiarised the Yew hedge – canine themed.

I have heard the neighbours moaning about the foxes: about the litter, the noise, the brazen way they’ve insinuated themselves into our lives. That’s nothing, I say. I can live with all of that. But there’s a line, and when your horticultural decisions are undermined by a quadruped, well let’s just say that line has been well and truly crossed.


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