Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

GBDW/ABC Wednesday 4 - F is For...


... Felines in the Garden

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.

25 comments:

  1. Oh what fabulous furry friends :)

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  2. Great looking furry friends! Lovely garden! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I love the way the cat on the floor is sleeping. It reminds me of my own ginger tom: lazy to the bone, yet occasionally very mischievous (I never know how to write that properly). The worst thing they come home with is a toad. It always screeches and it sounds like nails on a blackboard! I'm shivering thinking about it now...

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  4. I thoroughly liked this post, being a cat- and gardenlover myself. Big smile!

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  5. Mine don't generally bother any plants except some of the grasses. They either nibble off the tips of the apparently tasty ones or lie in the middle of some others. One in particular which should be waving gently in the breeze is always as flat as a pancake.
    Like yours my cats are also good at lying around doing nothing (lol)

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  6. VP, I wish I could let my sweet boy into the garden...that's where he and his mom found me. She hunted in the yard and neighborhood and he would stay with me...Thank you for sharing your sweet furry friends with us...they are the best whimsy in a garden~~gail

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  7. I love the way Jess and Skimble drape themselves so elegantly over your garden. I really enjoyed this post, but was interrupted by my daughter in the middle, so I misread naturalists as naturists and wondered why someone who liked to wander round with no clothes on would dislike cats. The mind started to boggle, until I realised my mistake.

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  8. I 'm a bird lover so cats are very welcome if they behave.

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  9. There is a big surprise for you at my blog.

    I love cats but I'm allergic to them. I do welcome all the neighborhood cats cause they keep my critter population in check. I even bought some cat grass this week to thank for the hard work.

    Your babies are precious.

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  10. I just love your kitties. Kitties make gardens SO much better. I love thier purrs and their fur : ). So sweet. Yours are beauties.

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  11. A wonderful job of combining these two memes, VP. I've been too busy to write about pets in the garden, but I think you've captured everything I would have said about my cats anyway:) I can relate to the cats being nearby when you're trying to work in the garden--that's the time they want to rub against me and get petted. Mine also don't bother the plants other than to temporarily flatten a few. And the nepeta I have--which one catalog said would not attract them--is their favorite plant of all!

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  12. Kitties do love the garden. :) I had a cat when I was in high school that had a regular sleeping spot in my Mom's tiger lilies -- it was all flattened down like a little den. :)

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  13. Mine don't bother the plants, but they are hard on the butterflies

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  14. I'm a cat lover so cats are allowed in my gardens anytime.

    MY ABC Wednesday post is at
    More of Me - EG

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  15. That was a good one for the F. Love it. Have a fun abc:)

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  16. Good morning VP,
    Great story and thank you 4 a new F word. Felidae is the biological family of the cats . I didn't know that! But I haven't got the previleged of owning one.

    FFFabulous

    Tyra

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  17. The only animals less useful that cats in the garden are hens. They trash everything.
    Have I told you about the Cat Mine? it is a very entertaining way of keeping cats off newly raked seedbeds. It involves burying an inflated balloon just below the surface and waiting for the inevitable contact between sharp claws and taut rubber.
    There is then a loud bang and a startled cat.

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  18. I did not know about lilies pollen and I have both kitties and lilies in my tiny garden. I have to warn the wee beasties.

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  19. We never had a mouse problem until we got the cat!

    Ceefer frequently brings them into the house to play with (in which case I capture them and release them back up the garden)or he brings the torso in for me to find - yuk!
    He likes to lie on the large rocks in the Japanese garden once they've warmed up in the sun. He doesn't tend to lie on plants much, but does like to nibble at the bamboo - perhaps he was a panda in a former existence!
    Thanks for the warning about the lillies - I didn't know that. One of my friends will now be getting some lillies from my garden!
    I love the photo of your cats - they make very good garden ornaments!

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  20. VP ... I loved seeing this post .. my two favorite subjects together .. gardens and cats : )
    They are so contented looking it makes me smile hugely ? .. or cat grin on the sly ?
    My 'kids" are indoor ones but they love to have the door open, screen door closed of course to watch and listen to me in the garden .. but then the HEAT takes over and it is only from the glass that they can watch .. I'm sure Emma would be in everything but Sophie would lay contentedly over seeing my the quality of my work ? LOL
    Great post girl !!

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  21. My goodness, I did not know that about lilies being toxic to cats! And lilies are something I have had some mild success at growing. Well, when I move, no more lilies. I love my cats. We are down now to two outdoor cats, who help me, as you said, but when I can finally get moved south, I shall once again be getting kitties. I love cats!

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  22. I love nothing more than watching my boys sunbathing in the garden, having a roll in the dust on the patio, or skitting across the garden chasing blades of grass, leaves or goodness knows what! Sping Fever is definately here!

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  23. Great stories about your companions, VP. It was interesting to see that you were the only blogger participating in the GGW Design Workshop to bring up the issue of cats hunting birds and other wildlife. I guess that can be a serious problem in some areas. I don't have any cats myself, but I can't say that I get too upset about my neighbors' cats hunting for mice and voles around my barns and gardens.

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  24. Hi everyone. I'm so glad to see Skimble and Jess have so many admirers :) I'll hop on over to your place for a gander and a comment.

    James - you are very naughty ;) I know you're a cat lover really, GM told me so ;P

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