El Gato and the Impatient Gardener
Spring has sprung and so has my little cottage garden. This will be the second year for the garden and of course, the question comes... what has survived from the previous year, and will I recognize it? I go out each morning after breakfast to check on the progress.
The birds are chirping and fluttering from feeder to feeder. They bring such simple joy to my life as I watch them. They are getting braver as they see me so often and are becoming a bit more trusting but there is no bird like my Lucky, the mourning dove. Lucky and I developed a relationship last year when he would walk up to me within arm's reach and we would talk. He showed no signs of fear and this interaction happened again and again.
There are a myriad of birds visiting... the mourning doves, a white winged dove, a Eurasian dove (last year), purple finches, a chickadee, a robin, cardinals, blue jays, and grackles. And of course there is a squirrel. I have named him "Quirrel" and he too is becoming braver when I am in the garden. Last year we had a toad and there are several little lizards (anoles) that call my garden home. And I get especially excited when the butterflies, moths and dragonflies visit.
There is also a cat who hides in the tall plants. I never know when he is there as he makes no noise. He always sees me before I see him, and he gets spooked when he sees me, and jumps out of the garden and runs to the fence. Once at the top of the fence he will pause and watch me for a bit and then go down the other side. I call him El Gato. He is an "illegal alien" from the neighborhood and in spite of the wall/privacy fence, he gets in and out without difficulty. I worry that he will harm a bird.
Gardening in Texas is difficult. The heat is intense in the summer months and along with that comes the drought. This spring, the wind has been frequent and strong but at least we have gotten occasional rain. I am impatient to fill in the "holes" in my garden and have it look complete and consequently, I am impulsive when buying plants. Mine is not a manicured garden but what I call a "cottage garden" filled with both natives, and perennials that hopefully will proliferate and return year after year, and then there are annuals for immediate satisfaction. But... I want to learn more so what better way than to go to the FREE classes offered by North Haven Gardens in Dallas. I love this nursery. They have a huge selection of plants, a café, an art gallery and all of the employees are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Oh... and did I fail to mention their plant lists? They are excellent!
I have attended classes on butterfly gardening, native plants, passionvines, and perennials. The class on Tried and True Natives and Perennials was given by Rusty Allen. There was uproarious laughter when he introduced himself and said "My name is Rusty and I have killed mint!" Now, everyone knows it is next to impossible to kill mint!
When you have a very small garden, you must be careful of what you plant. I do not want to deal with invasive plants. Early in the season I went to a local nursery and came home with several plants, one of them being broom. It had delicate little leaves and the most beautiful yellow flowers. It was an impulsive buy and I had the perfect place for it, but before planting it, I checked it out on the internet. Oh no! What have I done? It is extremely invasive and is highly toxic and is known to have killed cows! Now, I don't have any cows in my little back yard but I do have two dogs. I immediately returned it to the store and got my money back when I explained why I could not keep it.
Last year, an unknown plant popped up in my garden. I had no idea what it was but it was green, had nice leaves and looked so healthy. I watched it grow... and grow... and grow. It was nearly as tall as me! I was intrigued as to what it was. Finally it bloomed and much to my dismay... it was goldenrod, but it really gave a pop of yellow color to the garden at a time when some plants were stressed by the heat and drought.
This year, in the same general area, I again saw a plant growing that I wasn't sure I recognized as one I had planted. And then it was popping up in a couple more areas of the garden. It got taller and taller. I became suspicious. Had the goldenrod reseeded? I was not about to wait for it to bloom as it might take over my entire garden, so I donned my gardening gloves and started pulling it out. The roots were huge and it took all my strength to pull them out.
As I kept pulling, I suddenly saw feathers on the ground and then the remains of a grackle with only the head remaining.
I was so sad to see this and assumed that it was El Gato, hunkered down in the vegetation, who surprised the bird. And in that same area of the garden I had a metal sculpture of a cat with some birdseed in it. Little did I know that this was only adding to the problem bringing the birds into a cat's reach . So I have pulled all the goldenrod and now will replant the area within the next week.
I love all animals and wish the cat no harm, but will watch for him as I do not want the birds put in jeopardy.
There is lots of trial and error in gardening. My biggest mistake last year was planting sweet potato vine. I love that bright chartreuse color in the garden and it actually grew very well... maybe too well, as I would fill half a garbage bin weekly with trimmed sweet potato vine just to keep it in bounds and prevent it from choking out the other plants. I certainly made myself a lot of extra work!
So to all of you out there... Happy Gardening! It is always an adventure!
Check out my two favorite nurseries:
North Haven Gardens in Dallas: http://www.nhg.com/
Covington's Nursery in Rowlett: http://www.covingtonnursery.com/
Keywords: annuals, cat, cottage garden, covington nursery, el gato, goldenrod, invasive, native plants, north haven gardens, perennials
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