Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sub Rosa Surprise

While my fellow blogger Hartwood Roses was accompanied by a bumblebee in her garden this morning, I had a more stealthy companion of my own as I gave my young roses a good deep soaking during the cool part of the morning.  Caught out between 'Gallicandy' and 'Marianne', the creature pictured below was trying to lay still, silent and unnoticed, all to no avail.

Or perhaps, it was trying to invite me for a literal sub rosa meeting to discuss some important aspect of my garden chores.   This is, of course, a small portion of the caudal half of a Common Red-sided Garter Snake, (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis), whose overall length was about 3 feet and with a girth of around an inch at widest.  It was likely a female due to the short length of the tail, and that would be about my luck since the females bear up to 85 young in mid-summer.  I'm sorry that I can't show you all of it, but by the time I retrieved my camera and returned, it had moved quickly out of the open and it was obviously not inclined to introduce itself and make friends this morning.  I tried and failed to capture a better photograph than this, but once it realized that a large predator was stalking it, the snake stayed good and secure under a rose bush, not even moving when poked.  Yes, that's right, I stalked and speedily shoved the stealthy sub-rosa snake with a stick, but it slowly slithered under shelter and stayed silent.

I would be normally be very personally proud of not shouting or jumping at the first surprise sighting of the reptile, however I believe that the snake should get most of the credit for my own calm attitude since it was laying perfectly still (probably hoping not to accidentally get a cold shower from the hose).  It took me a few seconds to realize that the bright orange specks and the yellow-white stripes didn't belong among the light brown shade of the grass clippings I use for mulch.  

I appreciate the garter snakes of my garden for their control of rodents and spiders, and they are beautiful creatures, but I'd generally prefer that they perform their part of the garden maintenance out of sight and out of mind.  They certainly shouldn't feel the need to entertain me in conversation as I water.


  1. I found I actually like your "partial" photograph of your gardening companion this morning. Somehow it captures the typical view we gardeners get of these somewhat secretive, pretty little predators.

    If your 85 youngsters actually materialize and get to be problematic, I'll come relieve you of a few - I'm seeing vole holes again among my garden beds, and I'd much rather have garter snakes than voles.

    1. Yes, that's true, I don't have much of a vole problem.

  2. I too, do not like snakes. I found a dead snake under my carpet rose earlier and only because I could smell it.

    1. How did you tell it from the smell of the carpet rose :) ?


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