I'm doubling up on a couple of my regular memes this week, to tell you a little more about Skimble and Jess and the role they play in my gardening. As you may have noticed, I call them my 'garden helpers': that's because as soon as I start to do anything in the garden, such as weeding or digging, they're always there, shoving their noses into anything that's going on, trying to lend a paw and generally approving anything I do, particularly if it means they can thoroughly get in the way. Whilst it usually ends with me, gently pushing them to one side and shouting 'gerrrrroff!', I do enjoy their company in the garden. They certainly take more interest in my activities than NAH does!
There's plenty of advice around about pets and gardening, but I have to confess I haven't read much of it. My garden's design didn't really take them into account, because when we made it they weren't here and their predecessor was rather old and ill at the time. However, they do like its nooks and crannies, especially during the heat of summer when there's usually a cooler, shadier spot for them to find somewhere. At other times they'll seek out the warmer spots - like the patio and stone bench they're adorning at the top of this post. One thing I've learnt since we've had them is to be a lot more relaxed about my gardening. I can guarantee a different part will become the must-have spot each year, so of course the plants there get rather flattened. And whilst I might feel a little annoyed at the time, I know from experience that the plants will bounce back eventually and next year it'll be the turn of another to become their 'summer bedding'.
I haven't really borne them in mind when choosing plants for the garden either. In their first year here I did plant some Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' for them and that was one plant that did succumb to their attentions. They both absolutely adored it and spent hours rolling around on it in sheer ecstasy. I haven't planted any since then. The only other planting change I've ever made is not to grow lilies as these are toxic to cats. I wouldn't usually worry about toxic plants as apart from grass from the lawn (and the Nepeta!), they don't eat any plants. However, lilies are rather profuse with their pollen, which can be easily transferred to fur as they brush past the flowers, which would then be licked off when grooming. That could be sufficient to make them very sick cats, so regrettably lilies have been struck off my planting list.
Keeping cats can be controversial with non-cat owners or naturalists - and here's some advice for you if you do have a cat problem in your garden. The former are usually concerned their neighbours cats may use their garden as a loo. We've been lucky with our neighbours thus far, they've either been cat owners themselves or haven't had any trouble from our two on that score. Naturalists are rather concerned about the impact of cats on wildlife, particularly small mammals and birds. Admittedly ours are rather good at catching mice and voles (usually when NAH is away, so I have to deal with them), but I've seen plenty others scurrying about the neighbourhood for the local owls to hunt at night. They do bring in frogs from time to time too, which we have to chase round the kitchen in order to catch them. Birds are bought in to us about once or twice a year, so they don't really hunt them that much. Jess is usually too busy chasing butterflies and Skimble is very lazy - perhaps we feed them too well? The only other notable catches in their 8 years here have been a bat (which recovered and flew off) and a large ginger hamster. Luckily this wasn't next door's as we'd initially feared. Of course we could give them collars with warning bells fitted, but we know our two would be able to get them off again within 30 seconds flat. Then they'd run out into the garden, laughing at us.
As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, they're rather a good design feature in their own right- adding to my garden's other whimsical objects.
For other fantastic ABC Wednesday fun, click here.
Garden Bloggers Design Workshop is hosted by Gardening Gone Wild.