A New Garden (And Living with a Celebrity Cat)

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With MUCH fanfare, happy tears, hugs, and rejoicing, I am ecstatic to report that my garden buddy George the cat is home safe.

That little fuzzy-faced muppet walked 12 MILES back to our old home after slipping out during the move across town.  This is a cat who regularly locks himself in the bedroom when he accidentally nudges the door shut.  This is a cat who had never been outside of St. Johns until the move.

I consented to an interview with The Oregonian; the next day the AP picked up the story, nicknamed him “George the Comeback Cat”, and the tale was retold online in the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, ABC News, the New York Daily News, Fox News, Time, the Houston Chronicle, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Miami Herald… well, you get the idea.  He’s a celebrity!

george at the window 620

George has not expressed much desire to go outside since his return.  He likes to sit on his cat tree, though, and watch the world go by.


boo the cat has something to say

The other two cats are picking up the slack in the garden help department.  Here Boo is complaining about the working conditions and the lack of suitable napping quarters on the jobsite.

bubba the cat punches the clock

Bubba punches the clock, too.  He doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about over that damn ginger cat.

Starting over with a new garden usually means inheriting the remnants of an old one.  There isn’t much of a garden here, but I am not starting completely from scratch.

ivy hedge

A low chain link fence on the east side was long ago taken over by English ivy.  It’s lumpy and awkward, but serves its purpose pretty well.  Tearing it out and putting up a cedar fence would be ideal, but we’ll economize and I’ll just shape it up and plant some sexier shrubs in front of it.


ivy foliage juvenile

English ivy is interesting in that it changes form as it matures.  Here is the usual juvenile foliage that you may be used to seeing.

ivy foliage mature

But when it reaches a certain age, the new leaves emerge diamond- or heart-shaped, and extra-glossy.

mature ivy hedera helix shrubby

The mature ivy plant also begins to morph from a vining habit into a shrub.  It will flower and fruit when it has reached its mature form, and this has helped it become a terribly invasive pest in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.


stone wall exposed

I’ve exposed the rest of the old stone wall.  It goes along the whole south property line!  Check out the big, beefy fern growing there on the left.


lawn repair lumpy bumpy

I’m not keeping a lot of lawn, but the swaths I am keeping need major repair.  Apparently the previous tenants here kept a horse in the backyard.  It is so lumpy-bumpy I feel like I’m walking on six-inch heels in a room full of ball bearings when I’m back there.

I’ve been roughing up the low bald spots with a hand cultivator and filling them in with soil scraped from the corner of the property.  I will steal some plugs of grass from the future mixed border site and give the bigger holes a head start on filling in.


wood piles

The only tree on the lot was an ugly old Norway maple that had to go.  I have been splitting and stacking firewood, and I cut all the brush by hand.  I’ve become quite the lumberjill.


norway maple diseaseSome of the pieces are vibrantly colorful inside!

Mark House of the Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati informed me, “That’s a phenomenon called ‘spalting’.  Some woodworkers specialize in spalting lumber by incubating it on the ground under damp leaves for a specified period of time.  Depending on the fungi cultured in this process, they can encourage veins of blue, green, and orange.”  Who knew?!  Kind of a shame to burn these in the fireplace.

Organic purists may want to avert their eyes now.

organic purists avert your eyes roundup

I’ve killed a 23 × 24′ plot of grass where the vegetable garden will go using glyphosate (Roundup).

As much as I hate to come to the defense of Monsanto, the hype over the dangers of Roundup are entirely overstated.  It does its job and breaks down quickly in the soil.  Used according to the label, it is a safe and effective solution in certain situations.  After several weeks the turf will be rotted, and I will turn it by hand and pick out the larger rocks.  Other than the initial glyphosate and some synthetic fertilizer on small container plants, the vegetable garden will receive only organic inputs.  But that’s another discussion.

lobelia laxiflora var angustifolia

I’m also planning a 100 square-foot mixed (mostly perennials) bed bordering the vegetable garden.  I can’t wait to move some of the garden gifts I’ve received out of their temporary holding area and into a more permanent home.  I love this Lobelia laxiflora and I’m sure the hummers will, too.

anchusa azurea

This dreamy blue Anchusa azurea from Heather needs to get in the ground.

acaena inermis purpurea

I’m in love with this purple-leaf Acaena inermis.


And I have a dozen different sedums to find a place for.  Here are a few of them.

nassella tenuissima

And feathery Nassella tenuissima.

It has become a bit of a reseeding pest in the area, but it holds a special place in my heart.  As I was loading up plants from the old house to go to the new, George had great fun hurling himself into the Nassella, pouncing, rolling, diving into it.  It was very naughty and I was a little cross with him.  But while he was missing, I could hardly look at the plant.

Now he can have a clump all to himself.


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10 Responses

  1. Jane / Mulchmaid
    Jane / Mulchmaid at | | Reply

    I remember well the excitement of starting with our tabula rasa backyard eight years ago. Yours looks like a wonderfully huge plot to play in. Between you, and Patricia, and my now eight-year-accumulation of plants, I have a serious case of empty back garden envy. I look forward to the unfolding of your garden!

  2. Jenni
    Jenni at | | Reply

    So very happy to see your precious kitty back home! Looking forward to your new garden coming to life!

  3. Anita
    Anita at | | Reply

    Yep, I am aghast at the use of roundup for preparing a garden bed. How about cardboard, or even black plastic over it to bake it.

    My entire garden was over taken by bindweed and I had to find another way to work through it.

    Our county is actually the same size as Connecticut, one of the poorest in the US and we have the majority of our growers using heirloom seeds, non-pesticides and an amazing number of bee keepers. The changes over 10 years here are astounding.

    So, use of Roundup, shocks me given your talents and experience. (I know this sound harsh, especially since I so love your blogs!)

  4. ricki
    ricki at | | Reply

    You have perhaps saved me from flinching on the rare occasions when I use a spot of Roundup. The guilt is hard to bear.

  5. linda
    linda at | | Reply

    I’m so happy you have George back, he reminds me of my ginger Tom ( RIP Campbell) dearly missed.
    I’ve just spend all morning yanking the fence Ivy , it always wonders very far…

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