by Charlene Burgi
I recently woke up in the middle of the night to hear something banging around in our bedroom. My cat, Kiki, decided this would be an appropriate time (for her) to attempt disengaging the lid from the container of catnip that I had placed in the closet. Her persistent activity brought back thoughts of our nursery cat, Bareroot, who could destroy the flats of herbs containing Nepeta cataria (catnip) faster than we could unload the order from the delivery truck.
These memories led me to thinking about Nepeta—even at 2:30 a.m. There are about 250 species of Nepeta. One of my favorites is Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low.’ It is a tough, water-conserving plant for the sunny garden. Purple or lavender flowers bloom from spring through fall. Rabbits and deer seem to avoid the plant since it has that herbal taste that is not appealing to them. Hummingbirds are attracted to the nectar, and, aside from cats finding it irresistible, it is a perfect plant to set off with double-blooming orange daylilies. If you are considering this for your feline friend(s), provide plenty of room for the plant to grow understanding that cats could find it the perfect place to frolic. The bonus is you can dry the leaves to share with your indoor kitty. Be certain when storing the dry leaves to close the closet door or storage cabinet behind you. A cat’s timing doesn’t always coincide with ours!
Our feline friends also love to dig for sanitary reasons. This habit can be hard on large house plants. The roots of your greenery can be traumatized by the experience. Line the top of the soil with fine mesh wire cut to the shape of your container and cover the mesh with a layer of sphagnum moss. The method of using mesh wire can also work to protect outdoor plants and sandboxes.
Gardening with cats isn’t always exasperating. There is also the delight of having my kitties with me while working in the garden. Their curiosity is always amusing. Dragonflies and bumblebees seem to be of great interest to them. They feign interest in my activities while really scoping out what mischief they can get into if left to their own devices. They are good gardening buddies that bring such joy . . . even at 2:30 in the morning!