Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cats In The Garden

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.


  1. Awwwwwwhh! So cute. My fave kind of cat, too. Tabby. Love the one where they are bookended beneath the grass.

    I love seeing my kitty in the garden too. There's a spot where the ornamental catnip is continually squished.

  2. Looks like my cat, Roxy. Wish I was allowed to have her in the garden, but it's husband's baby and he wants them to be in the house.

  3. Enjoyed your pictures very much. Darn it, my dog won't let me have a cat. He's just not that into them.

  4. @Sarah oh yes, there used to be a nice patch of Nepeta right next to the C. testacea (didn't survive new porch construction) and it was always in some state of happy disarray...

    @Jennifer, too bad! Wouldn't hostas be lovely to lounge under?

  5. Your pictures make me think of my cats. They are cute too. But when we move to new house they did not come with us and a dog of our neighbor does not like cat so we cannot have cat now. tasana.

  6. Awww the pictures of your kittens are so beautiful. Love their coloring with the sedge grass. I have two bichons that also are my favorite gardening partners. My garden is their second home and I wouldn't have it any other way. My Cooper often acts very similar to a cat and we call him catboy. Your blog writing always has me wanting more. I now have to ask... how did you get your blog linked to facebook ... seamless integration. You are so smart!

  7. I love your cats! Such playful and fun pictures that you have captured- great job. My cat loves to munch on Calamgrostis 'Karl Foester' but it never seems to stay in her belly for long. Yep, gross but true.

  8. Plantanista (Maureen D)July 10, 2009 at 1:23 PM

    Love the photo of Zen in the Carex divula. That is ultimate serenity!

    I can just feel the live and love they bring to the garden. I wish that Miss Charlotte would allow felines in our garden, but alas...

  9. OH! What utter CUTENESS! I love your cats - they are truly movie stars. This was such a fun read! All I have are two french bulldogs, which are the cats of the dog world.
    How wonderful that you make your garden a place for the whole family to enjoy. I feel the same way - even though Dexter 'enjoys' some of my favorite plants way too much. He has a huge appetite for Verbenas 'Polaris' and bonariensis - they never make it to bloom from all his snacking. Another cherished component of the Dexter's salads are Echium wildprettii - which I love! But he nibbles them to nubs!
    Do you ever have problems with your cats munching on plants? I know others do - what is your advice for them? I'm not asking for myself, you understand ... just for others... ahem..

  10. LOL Germi, you crack me up. The cats regularly nibble on the grasses, but doesn't make much of a dent. When the Korean Feather grass blooms, however, all bets are off...not for eating, but for play. Those big plumes are just too much like a feather cat toy. Luckily they are targeted for destruction one at a time, not en masse, with plenty left over! Catmint, on the other hand, is toast.

  11. We just got 2 kittens and they are ADORABLE to watch romping in the 'wild' that is known as my yard. The seed heads from my bunch grasses are a big hit! Just like nature-made cat toys.