Making a list, Checking it twice!

Finals are over.  I’m just a part time student so that doesn’t mean I have the full headache of some of the full time students at the university, but I still suffer from a mild case of pressure and jitters.  All passed, all doing well, and looking forward to just one class in the upcoming winter semester.  I like studying this way!  There’s no pressure and it’s for fun, a way to challenge my brain and keep myself stimulated.

But winter break, a two week period, now becomes the time that I sit down with my newly received seed catalogues.  Again, I’m reliving one of those events that my father used to revel over in a way I couldn’t understand until now.  This is like the Sears Christmas Catalogue for children and some slightly twisted yet fun adults (I’m referencing the vast bulk of my cousins here, some of which have introduced me to the idea of rum, egg nog, and a splash of coke…ok another blog post).

Before I write about what I want to grow, I want to talk about a couple of plants from the same family that I initially loved, then became irritated by, then simply grew to distain.  It is a thriving green, leafy plant that encourages bees and has beautiful pink flowers that cone in heads from about late May right through until the first killing frost…and I’ve seen them continue to bloom after the killing frost right into the first snow.

Need a hint?

Catnip-and-Pit-BullsI snagged this bad boy off of google, so if you’re the owner of “Pit Bull”, I tip my hat off to you for an awesome picture!  This, my friends, is the bane of my gardening existence. Lamiaceae Nepeta, otherwise know as pussy-crack, kitty coke, fuzzball acid, or catnip.

When I first began growing in my two beds, one of the things I wanted to do was not only grow a few things to make the ground functional for producing food, but also herbs.  One of the places I clean had a cat, and in order to properly set the alarm in the building the cat had to be coaxed into the basement.  As he didn’t like being picked up as a rule (and I have the scratch and bite scars to prove it), we had to come up with a low calorie alternative that would both work for us, the cat, and the owners of the building.  So I grew catnip and catmint, thinking that I could use it to coax him into the basement.  Well it worked.  Unfortunately for me, the catnip and catmint also worked in the garden.  At first, it reseeded itself among the perennials and lilies like the dill and it seemed to be a nice contrast to the long spike leaves of the day lilies.  The bees loved it, and being conscientious of the bees I thought I’d just encourage the catnip.

My first mistake.

Two years ago in an attempt to make the front flower bed as low maintenance and beautiful as possible I let the bed tell me what it wanted to do, and it wanted to grow hollyhocks.  So I let it.  And they were impressive, some of them after fertilizing were almost nine feet tall.  Thinking I would encourage the bees, I moved some catnip from the bed on the west side of the house to the south hollyhock bed.  To my horror, the cats began to come at night.  If they weren’t rolling around in it, stoned, they were being angry at me or interrupting their opium buzz.  A garden hose and an improved aim started to make things easier….

…And then this past spring we started noticing people walking past our front window.  Like two feet from our front window.  It turns out word got around to our neighbours that there was a strange plant that the cats loved to play with, so they started BRINGING them over to watch them act like goofs.  Only at night, when the owners let the cats out, and they would come and fight among themselves would I hear the horrible opera of angry stoned cats fighting for the best spot.  My miniature schnauzer needed tranquilizers.

So I decided once the growing season was over it would be time to rip out the catnip.  Now this is a good thing and a bad thing to do.  It’s good because you can more easily identify the plants and pull/dig them as you need to.  I had quite a few.  In fact, I was able to fill four 35″x50″ garbage bags and still had left overs.  From the street it looked like I had pulled and pulled and stacked and stacked piles of marijuana.  I stopped attracting cats that day but I attracted other kinds of attention I’d rather not talk about.  Once they realized it was catnip, they left…but I met some really strange young people!

The other bad thing about it that I only just realized is in that pulling the plants out, I’ve actually made the situation worse by seeding the beds with hundreds…HUNDREDS…of little tiny catnip and catmint seeds.  Were I going to continue to garden here I’d be very…I’d be in need of some catnip tea to calm me down (it actually works as a sleep-aid…but check with your doctor before you try anything because I’m not sure what a heavy dose would do, and I’d rather not be responsible for prescribing a heavy dose that ended up in something terrible happening).  The thing is, once I leave?  Park Place will just come, dig up the existing beds, scatter the seeds into the lawns, and cover it with crushed gravel and pressure treated boards…so why not leave a couple of hundred catnip plants in their lawn by their own doing?

What killed me the most about the catnip though was what the cat urine did to my plants.  Baby’s breath is a plant I keep to remind me of pleasant visits to a favourite aunt in Brandon, Manitoba, who always had a baby’s breath growing by the back door.  The cat urine decimated it.  The hollyhocks suffered as well, and I’m pretty confident that the lilies were I to leave them in the ground with the other perennials, would eventually succumb to cat pee.  The soil will need, if it’s going to be maintained, to be dug up, removed, and replaced.  I’d much rather look at seed catalogues and plan the new garden, waiting to dig up my plants and transport them over than dig up what’s here.

If you want to grow catnip?  Best advice having had this horror occur to me would be plant it in a pot where it can be managed, and cut the flowers off before they have a chance to seed.  Nightmare, people.  Nightmare.  I can still hear a chorus of cats outside my window, and I still mutter “here kitty kitty” like Elmer Fudd in my sleep…..

Making a list, Checking it twice!

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