Cats and catmint: a great pair (nepeta x faassenii)
October 21, 2016
Last year I built an outdoor enclosure for my cats. It's kind of like a separate yard within the backyard. There is a ramp that allows my cats to enter the enclosure from a bay window, although I need to open the window for them. I prefer it this way, as it allows me to keep an eye on them. In March, I finally summoned the nerve to allow my cats outside. Keep in mind it had been over ten years since my cats, who were born feral, have last been outdoors!
Since the cats are getting on in years, I thought it would be nice to let them enjoy some of the sights, smells, and sounds of the outdoors again. I figure there's not much mischief they can get into at their age. In fact, one of the three siblings passed away earlier this year, and so I really want to do as much as I can for my cats these last remaining years.
The first few days, my cats would step onto the ramp and then want to come back inside after just a few minutes. After a few days they started adventuring down the ramp and exploring. These days they usually come back inside after about half an hour, which is fine with me as I’m usually watching them the whole time. Recently, watching my cats romp about the yard, it took me back in time to when my cats would keep me company in the garden. I guess you can say I got bit by the garden bug (or maybe nostalgia). So I decided to break out the shovel and remake the garden beds, but just within the cat enclosure, which is pretty large at approximately 1,200 square feet and encompasses some of the old rose beds.
My primary goal is to create a garden that will delight my cats’ senses, but I also aim to create a garden that is ecologically sound. The first plants I’m putting into the ground are kinds that I’ve been curious about for many years though I eventually plan on putting in more native flowers as well as butterfly-friendly plants, including milkweed. From Klehm's Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery, I bought several peonies as well as the lilac, ‘Beauty of Moscow’. From Bluestone Perennials, I bought Amsonia hubrichtii and two cultivars of catmint. (Of course!) I had seen the blue star (A. hubrichtii) growing around the campus of Stony Brook University and was fascinated by the wonderful texture of its foliage so I knew it had to be one of the first things I planted.
I might eventually add a new rose or two to the existing beds, but for now I’m satisfied keeping the ones that survived their years of neglect. The superstars are James Galway, Quietness, Scarlet Meidiland, and Tchaikovsky. Some of the survivors that are just hanging on, and which I might replace next year, are Albertine, Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale, Clotilde Soupert, Ginger Syllabub, and Marquise Boccella.
You can read more about the new cat garden project here.
March 26, 2016
Last July I posted about receiving *an unexpected visitor to the garden, but I also lamented about the constant noise in the neighborhood, and how man-made noises seem to have crowded out the sounds of nature. One measure of a healthy ecosystem is biodiversity, and one measure of biodiversity is what's called the soundscape, something that we quite easily take for granted. Check out this fascinating story from WNYC last year about the silencing of the songbirds.
* Postscript: The big and majestic bird that came for a visit in our pool was a heron, not a pelican. Thanks to Kathleen from England for pointing this out. What she wrote was so interesting and well-written, I thought I would share it:
Thanks for the info, Kathleen! Also, here is a link to the Historic Rose Journal of the Royal National Rose Society, of which Kathleen is a member: www.historicroses.org
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A Long Island Rose Garden