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Sunday
Jun152014

Cat Walk

Our cat Autumn loves the garden as much as we do, though maybe for different reasons. She dreams she is a tiger, slinking through the jungle and stalking her prey. While she stays inside most of the time, we do let her out a few hours each day so she can be a cat.Being a cat.

We no longer put up bird feeders, not wanting to give her or our resident hawks easy targets, nor wanting to encourage our pesky chipmunks to hang around. (We have an over-abundant chipmunk population. In the past they built a condominium underneath one of our bird feeders and then sent out fliers advertising its amenities, including free meals. Now a vast underground chipmunk city stretches beneath our garden.) Both the hawks and Autumn hunt chipmunks, but since she has a home and doesn't depend on her prowess for food, Autumn is likely to catch chipmunks simply for play. I watched her do this one day. She repeatedly captured and released a chipmunk just so she could chase after him. I began to feel sorry for him; but apparently she wasn't actually biting him, and in the end he got away. 

Autumn often accompanies me on my garden strolls. I call these our cat walks. We make frequent stops to gaze into space for prolonged periods. I am mentally assessing the garden, while she has her eyes on some imperceptible movement amidst the plants.Clockwise from upper left:African daisy; An old Easter lily that blooms faithfully every year; Hydrangea 'Lady in Red', named for its red stems, not its blooms; Gardenia, whose wonderful fragrance fills the woodland garden each June.I can see the tension building in Autumn's body as she stares. Then she pounces, hoping to catch a chipmunk; but not all movement is made by chipmunks. The other day a snake did not appreciate her aggression and decided to fight back. Autumn made a hasty retreat and stuck close to me for the rest of our walk. I like snakes and leave them alone, because they like to dine on chipmunks, too. I hope that with all these predators, the chipmunks will abandon the area.

The cat and I pause at the top of the steps leading down into the woodland garden.Pink gumbo azaleas are blooming across from Autumn fern. (I named Autumn after the season, not the plant, because she came to us at that time of year and also because of the autumn colors in her fur.)

Down the steps is Carex 'Everillo'.I adore this plant! It keeps getting better and better and doesn't mind Autumn's occasional nibbles.

Next is Pilea glauca, or Red Stemmed Pilea.I love how the steel blue foliage contrasts with its red stems. This is a tropical plant that will come inside for the winter.

Now we come to the weirdest plant in my garden, Amorphophallus konjac, also called Voodoo plant, Devil's Tongue, and Corpse plant. All of these names are appropriate.The spotted stems feel like human skin. The great leaf opens up like an umbrella and looks a lot like a tomato plant. I have two of these growing in pots in different parts of my garden. They are four years old. It takes about five years till they bloom, so I am looking forward to that experience next year. The blooms are giant maroon things that smell like rotting flesh.

Well! Just below the Voodoo plant is much nicer Eucomis, or Pineapple lily.I recently discovered this plant and was thrilled to learn it is hardy in my area (zone 7b/8a). It is my favorite plant of the month. It is just beginning to open its blooms.

We continue our cat walk into the woodland garden, where dark shadows and light beams play across moss covered paths.This woodland side path leads around the main planting area in the woodland garden.

Bicycle shadow in the woodland gardenThe woodland garden is a quiet place, except for the shrieking hawks who built their nest in a pine tree earlier this year. The hawk babies are out of the nest now, but the fledglings are still hanging around, while their parents teach them how to catch chipmunks. All these hawks are talking to each other. It is a hard language to listen to. I tell Autumn they are fussing at her and she had better stay close. She does.

After we leave the woodland garden, Autumn and I make our way back toward the patio. I pause to examine the Confederate Jasmine growing on the new arch.Look on the left side of the arch, and you can see the recovering jasmine vine.The jasmine was severely damaged by winter freezes this year, and we cut it back nearly to the ground and took the opportunity to replace the old dilapidated arch. I miss the mass of jasmine that covered the old arch, but the vine is putting out lots of new growth. A new jasmine vine on the other side of the arch is also growing quickly, so I think by next year they will meet in the middle atop the arch.  

The cat walk is over, and Autumn and I head into the house. Autumn curls up for a nap. In her dreams she is a mighty tiger on the prowl, and the chipmunks don't stand a chance.

You may also enjoy these previous posts:

Under the Spell of the Voodoo Plant 

A Cat Tale

The Cat is Back

Confederate Jasmine For a Fragrant Layer in the Garden

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Reader Comments (18)

I, too, am thrilled with your pineapple plant. I didn't know such a beauty existed. Thanks for the introduction. Thoroughly enjoyed your walk through the garden with Autumn. I love cats.

June 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Jones

Wow, that Voodoo Plant is fun! It's good that you don't let the cat stay out all day and that you make adjustments so she doesn't affect the songbird population much. Sometimes I feel bad that my cats are indoor cats, but I think Ginger would run away. And Oreo would probably eat something poisonous (she eats everything). Plus, they spend most of their hours in the sunroom, which is almost like being outside. Lovely, lovely scenes in your garden! I especially like the Moss path!

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBeth @ PlantPostings

I loved my walk with you and Autumn. I used to take my cat, Ming, for walks as well - it truly does make a difference in how you see your garden. Ming is gone now but I know he loved his walks despite his ill health and I'm sure they extended his life. I think my other cat, Pipig, would like her own jaunst outside (she managed a brief excursion just yesterday when a visitor left the front door ajar) but, unlike Ming, I'm afraid she'd actually catch something (beyond the lizards she sometimes brings me from her screened porch) - and I don't think she has the delicacy your Autumn exercised with the chipmunk. Still, as you say, I expect she'd like the opportunity to be a cat.

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

Autumn is a gorgeous cat Debs! And how could she not enjoy her walks when she is in a stunning garden territory! I dream of a garden similar to yours in the future :)

The Amorphophallus brings a touch of exotica to any garden, and even the eucomis which can be planted out. A lovely look at your garden as always!

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

Quite right - you don't want a chipmunk fast food restaurant in your garden. We don't have chipmunks here, which is fortunate as we have a large enough cute furry pest population as it is.

I particularly enjoyed this walk. Not least because I managed the whole stroll without spilling a drop of my cup of tea.That Carex looks like a stunner - I will look out for it.

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Shoesmith

What a lovely walk we had with you and Autumn, it's lovely having an animal beside you as you wander, my old dog was good company, but sadly gone now, I have to walk by myself.
I always like your woodland, no matter what time of year it is, it looks so peaceful to me, but then I can't hear your hawks!

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPauline

I always enjoy our walks together Deb! I suppose the Eucomis (Pineapple lily) might just be hardy here, but perhaps it needs a moister summer than it would find here. I love your prunned Box,it gives just the perfect contrast to all the wilder areas of your garden.

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

I also love that Carex. Our old cat phoebe loved to slink through the "tall grass", hunting tiny critters. She did kill her victims, though, and would often proudly present them to us as a gift, sometimes lined up by the back door.

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjason

You will have to laugh. I just added a chipmunk to my garden and I posted on June 12th on why too. It was a hawk that took my little friend a few years ago. I had a friend bring me a captured chipmunk. She has a real problem like you do with many of them. So does my cousin who lives in the woods.

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

We have gravel paths, which the cats don't like. They prefer when the gardener is keeping up with pruning to walk on the brick borders - which my mother called the catwalk. I get pointed dirty looks - you missed this bit, I have to walk on the EWW gravel!
My Eucomis needs something, I've never had a flower?

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Studer

Thanks for letting me take a walk with you and Autumn, I take the same type of walks with my own cat every day, although my cat, at the age of almost 13, is no longer interested in chasing anything, he is quite content with just having a walk and stop to gaze out in the air now and then, pondering about things cats ponder about.

Lovely to see you have a Vodoo plant! I have seen it at Kew Gardens here in London, but would not have considered having it in my own garden, although I can see the fascination with it. And pineapple lilies are on my wish list too, I love their unusual shape.

June 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHelene

I'm still giggling over your giddiness about the Voodoo plant, only a gardener could love a plant that smells like rotting flesh...lol. Can't wait to see if you get a bloom next year, but hopefully smell-a-vision won't be popular by then.

Jen

What a pleasant walk, Deb!

This may be a foolish question, but may I ask what is the ferny, billowy plant at the base of the right side of the Confederate Jasmine arch?

I agree that your pineapple lily looks super!

June 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Dalton

Hi deb, lovely post. Feral cats are responsible for numerous mammal extinctions here, so I don't usually like cats, but Autumn seems very tame and un-ferocious. It's very funny how the chipmunk eventually got away, to Autumn he was just a toy!

June 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercatmint

Hi, everyone! I read every comment, and each one is much appreciated. Aaron, no question is foolish! That plant is rosemary, just as it is putting out a flush of new growth. The arch is between two of them. Deb

June 18, 2014 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

Glad you have Autumn to accompany you, Deb. Every area has its pests (regardless how cute they are) - we have rabbits, you have chipmunks, lots of folks have deer. They feast on our hard work and it's difficult not get annoyed with them. Anyway - I enjoyed the tour as always.

June 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAstrid

What a wonderful walk with you and Autumn. We also don't have feeders for many of the same reasons although cats in our yard are trespassers who are looking for rabbits, birds and will settle for frogs to catch and release for play....they are promptly chased. I adore the Red Stemmed Pilea and the Voodoo plant.

June 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

Autumn is quite stunning. And nothing beats gardening with a pet, does it? Somehow I think cats might be better gardening companions than dogs, though - my dog says he wants to keep me company in the garden, but what he really wants is to stand guard at the front of the house and bark at everyone who passes by. Inevitably, he gets tossed back inside, then plasters his face against the glass begging to come out again.

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