From the Producer: 3/15

First, I must tell you how much your comments mean to me. When it comes to this newsletter and the program, I want to stay on target with you. Central Texas Gardener is a team effort. You are the managers, and I’m the employee. So, thank you so much for your input, ideas, and performance reviews!

Next, here’s a funny for you: Last Friday night, with freeze expected, I put the blankies on the new agaves. It was almost time for the cats to come in for the night, and I wanted to get that job done. I turned around, and bingo, 17-pound Spencer-cat had plopped on top of one of them. Since this rescued cat is about 100 years old, I gently coaxed him off, rather than hollering, “Hey,” to scoot cat Sam Jr. or Chester the cocker spaniel.

Also, I draped the Satsuma’s rowcover over its entire body, not just the roots, since it was budding like crazy. Two minutes later, Sam Jr. pulled it off for a comfy little nest. I fixed it after the “dinner bell” got them back in.

Since I left you at the cat cove last week, here’s how that happened. Years ago, I had a vegetable patch against the back fence, surrounded by grass. There were also a few trees, and mowing around all this was a pain. One March, I dug out all the grass from the fence to 15’ wide, and lengthwise, to about 30’, stopping to the left of the vegetable bed. (On the right side, there was already 10 feet of a built-up bed, longer ago for tomatoes; later relegated to primrose jasmine when it got too shady).

I made several trips to a rock place for the cheapest limestone edging. Then, I added purple trailing lantana at the front border, but since I didn’t have much money for plants, I moved around self-seeded pavonias and turks cap and dug up oxalis to divide. Later, I added inland sea oats (3, I think, now 10,000) and the crossvine to hide the chainlink until the mountain laurels grew up. Other plants, too, of course, but they’re not around to tell this story.

Over the years, I’ve given it a bit of definition. That started when the pear tree on the right died. When the guy cut it down, he left a 30” stump, saying “you might want to put a planter on it.” I was doubtful about that, but when someone gave me a square of formally cut limestone, I stuck it on the stump until I figured out what to do with it. Bang! In 10 minutes, Spencer was on it as a perch. Mainly, a garden idea was born.[photopress:Spencer_on_perch.JPG,thumb,alignright]

I’d just read The Inward Garden, and I knew that this was the promontory entrance for us. I got flagstones for a path from the stump/stone to a miniscule “patio” overlooking the creek in back. Eventually, I edged it with pavonias and tucked wedelia between the flagstones. [photopress:path_with_Cedric_web.JPG,thumb,alignleft]Lyre leaf sage seeded itself all around, and I sprinkled spiderwort seeds from the seed heads I’d cut and dropped into a paper bag to dry. I moved a passionvine to the fence to encourage the challenged crossvine. The passionvine returns faithfully every year, not necessarily in the same spot! Leucojam surrounds the cat perch in early spring.

Now, the mountain laurels at that end frame the “patio” entrance, and exuberant primrose jasmine makes a wall to its right. Farther right, in the old built-up bed, primrose, Mexican redbud, and white Lady Banks cohabit as a screen against the rental house next door. If you’re ever looking for any of us, you’ll find us at the promontory, looking at the creek. You’ll have to get past the cat that takes sentry duty on the perch.

I added flagstones for a horizontal path to the vegetable (now lettuce) bed. Gulf penstemons and larkspur, along with the lyre leaf, freely seed for a good spring show. By mid-summer, that path is covered with lantana, wedelia, butter and eggs, and the shrubs, along with goldenrod, sunflowers, and native sedges that joined the party on their own. From late spring to late fall, it’s alive with color and wildlife.

Then one day at a box store, I saw a low, slightly tinted cement bench, designed for kids, carved with a few subtle flowers. I passed it up, since I didn’t have money for such frolics, even though it was cheap enough to fit my budget. I got home and was spreading the mulch I’d gotten, when I realized it was the perfect—and cute—accent for the left side of the central pine to offset the stone cat perch. Best, I figured a second perch would alleviate cat competition. Indeed, it is perfect there, but not one cat has ever parked its tail on it. Recently, we placed the foundling milk can on the other side of the pine. Wonderful–a perfect way to break up the flora!

Finally, to get to the cat cove. At that point, I had a stretch of grass between the vegetable bed and the storage shed, which again, was a pain to mow. A yellow Lady Banks framed its back fence, and I had an idea: Put a rose arbor at its entrance, and make this a secret cat cove! This revelation took off when I got lost on a wintry wet day, and stopped into an import house for directions. A cat statue on a table beckoned me through an allee of beautiful furniture. This wasn’t a cute or silly cat. This was a regal black cat, born in Mexico, with royalty in its simple lines. And it was cheap! In the rain, I placed it under the Lady Banks, and later made a little river around it with Mexican black stones (thinking to imitate the creek, you know). Very often, one of the live cats faces it, same pose, in some special communion. Can’t say if the nearby catnip plays a role in this spiritual moment.

Greg wanted a simple metal arbor, and it had to be inexpensive. We’d about given up, when on Christmas Eve that year, Greg hauled me into the night because he thought he’d heard Santa.

In my haste to dig up the grass, I went through years of pain in my right knee and ankle. Passalong lesson: For serious digging, especially in drought-hardened soil, sharpen the shovel or get it sharpened. Wear boots with thick soles, not the garden clogs! It was still worth it, since the cats, and now the dog, love the secret room.

Until next week, Linda