YOU MIGHT think a superb long-eared hound and two mop-like Lhasas would keep raccoons out of a small town garden but they don't. The coons soon learn the dogs do not chew them up.

There is no way to rid a garden or a house of coons except to physically remove them, which is easier said than done. There are traps that catch them without injury, but the gardener will discover it is far more trouble than seems likely to manage this. Needless to say, the trap must be examined early each morning to release any cat that has wandered in.

The main damage of coons is to water lilies. They not only chew off the unopened flower buds but pull the leaves off. They leave much floating debris behind. They also love to knock over the pots in which aquatic plants are growing. They are a notable pest.

Once I saw a "coon tree," which was in an enclosed outdoor plot. The centerpiece was a dead tree on which stubs of branches had been left. The coons lived in artificial dens around the edge of the plot, and the masonry was treated to resemble stone. There was a shallow pool for the coons to splash in.

Commonly the coons scrambled up the tree and sat there. You could see 20 at a time in the tree and since it was bare you could see them well.

It was all very attractive, though of course there were no plants in the pool or anywhere else.

Well, that is one solution. It does not easily commend itself, however, to gardeners.

Turning to other matters that do have a reasonable solution, I dread lugging in the tropical plants from outdoors.

The house here is very small. The ceilings are only a little over eight feet. It is not the sort of house that easily absorbs large rubber trees, dracaenas, agaves and so on.

Nevertheless, every winter it does. The alternative is to get rid of the plants or to let them freeze. I cannot bring myself to do either.

All the big ones were once pitched out by their owners and dutifully brought here by our son. They were pretty moth-eaten and decrepit, which is why they were thrown out. A mere year of reasonable care brought them right around, and now you would not know they were once abandoned orphans.

The house looks a bit odd with them. Some of the small ones live under serving tables in the dining rooms. One (of many) advantages of a small house is that even in the center of the dwelling you get a lot of light. There is a long table back of the sofa in the middle of the living room, which ought to have a lamp, a couple of magazines and a framed photograph on it, but which does not. Instead, it holds a veritable jungle of tropical aroids, palms and the like.

Sometimes people sit on the sofa, not realizing it is sacred to the hound who gets up there and leans over the end, from which she has a commanding view out the door and windows.

But if you do sit there, not only do you get a hound in your lap but you also have a wall of tropical leaves starting at your shoulder and going up to the ceiling. It is alarming until you get used to it.

All tropical things should be brought indoors at the end of September, though it is usually mid-October before gardeners get round to it.

Things like agaves can go two months without watering. I try to remember to water them once a month. Once the agave settles in on a large desk in the corner of two walls, the inside shutters do not open and close without moving the plant, and since the plant does not readily move, the shutters stay closed (the louvers open to admit sun) all winter. Agaves are quite prickly along the length of their succulent leaves. You learn to give them wide berth. What you do if you don't have a large desk in a corner, I don't know.

Outdoors the spiders eat any bugs that appear on the plants. You want to go over the stems and leaves before bringing them in, to dust off the spiders. Thus far I have never had any mealybugs or other varmints during the winter.

If you have such plants, it saves wear and tear on the soul to resign yourself to purchasing a lot of 12-inch or 14-inch saucers to set the pots in. Otherwise, watering the creatures from October to May is traumatic.