My friend and colleague Julie Orr came to visit last week, to interview my obliging cats for her terrific blog on petscaping. Haku the extrovert was happy to demonstrate one of his favorite garden pastimes for her, rolling in the crushed-rock path (he now wants an agent!) This got me thinking about how much I love watching my cats in the garden, and how many of my design choices were made with their habits and enjoyment in mind.
Not to be outdone, Haku's sister Zen has her own favorite 'cat wallow' under the Red Umbrella (where she is always assured of an appreciative audience). Such places are just one feature of a cat- friendly garden. Others are quite simply 'things to lounge on' and 'things to lounge under'
This picture was taken several years ago, in my last garden, which was created using many large granite boulders from the Sierras, a specialty of the landscape architect we hired. They made an ordinary flat landscape a much more interesting place to look at, and, evidently, to hunt in (their sights were set on a fat squirrel in the birch tree, who was never in the slightest danger.)
The boulders were ideal for hiding behind, or lounging and looking handsome upon: cool in the summer, warm and dry in the winter.
Shy Zen has always been good at tucking herself picturesquely into the garden, preferring to observe her domain from the safety of a leafy bower. Evergreen shrubs, trimmed up and well mulched, are natural shelters year-round.
My favorite plants to use in a cat-friendly garden, however, are grasses and sedges. These tough plants are beautiful and resilient. Many, like this Carex divulsa (Berkeley Sedge) are nearly evergreen in California, only needing a good winter trim to prepare them for a burst of new growth in spring.
In my last garden I had several large clumps of this obliging sedge in front of my office window. The cats seemed to like that area better than any other. They would hide under the arching leaves, lounge atop them, even use them for wrestling practice.
Plants that take this kind of abuse with no ill affect are a wonderful foundation for a cat-friendly landscape. More than once I have encountered a pair of big green eyes observing me from under one of them as I work in the garden. Here Zen takes refuge beneath the glossy orange/green blades of Carex testacea.
And the only thing better than one kitty in the sedge is two kitties in the sedge. If I were a cat, this is where I would be on a warm summer's day.
A garden that everyone in the family can enjoy without worry and concern is a treasure, and to see my happy critters so at home in the landscape we share makes me happy too.