Cat on Pedestal

The pedestal being a stack of concrete that occasionally holds a pot or, as in this case, a cat named Newt, or is just left empty, a plinth crowded on four sides by the horticultural Darwinian struggle that is the front gravel garden.


The South African restio seemingly grazing Newt’s cheek behind the fountain grass is Thamnochortus insignis, which still holds the record for the most money ever paid by me for a plant. Now restios are available in 4-inch pots every spring/summer, but at the time, before even Hinkley’s Heronswood began to beat the drum for restios, it was a foliar revelation, a one-off specimen a nursery owned (and which set me back a c-note). It does amazingly well here in zone 10 with no real irrigation beyond the winter rains. In too much shade, restios can flop. But given the full sun and bone-dry conditions of the gravel garden, this one maintains it’s glorious upright vase shape year round. These photos were taken yesterday, on the afternoon of the 17th, just before the first (fingers crossed) of a supposed series of week-long rainstorms rolled in. The euphorbia obscuring Newt’s tail is E. lambii, the phormium ‘Alison Blackman.’

Detail of the restio’s inflorescence, arching and falling like Danny Ocean’s fountains at the Bellagio. Photo taken earlier in the year:


Back to the cat on the pedestal. Felis silvestris catus, our Newt, who can spit like a cobra, a performance we enjoy provoking until the poor thing gets cotton mouth. Newt has this amazing, sculptural sweep to her upper body due to, alas, the loss of a front limb from injury. “Spunky” seems like such a quaint, almost demeaning epithet, but it gets closest to describing this little cat’s resilience. And I suppose “spunky” fits the gravel garden as well. More on its plants later.


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