Esslie-Frenia Law June 2023 Leaderboard

GREEN THOUGHTS: Trying out the trends


I GENERALLY TRY TO BE THE PERSON my dog thinks I am, but today I have to disappoint my canine Magnus and write about cats. Felines, it happens, are the reason for one of the latest gardening trends, the “catio.” Being more of a troglodyte than a trendsetter, I had to look this up, and found that a catio is an enclosed, outdoor room for cats. While we are currently cat-less, I had to learn more.

Catios, it turns out, are available as building plans and kits, and are featured on numerous websites and blogs. They can be small and windowbox-like, with the cats having access via a window, or much larger and taller, with one or more room-like spaces allowing full access for humans. Construction is generally wood framing with wire mesh walls and at least a partial roof to keep out the worst weather. Accessorizing, as usual, is a big part of the fun, and platforms, runways, sacrificial plants, and various toys can be added. Cat parents report that their charges love basking in the sunshine, smelling the alluring breezes and watching wildlife, all from a safe vantage point. Cranky kitties become more mellow and even happy cats think having a little outdoor time is purrfect.

A catio awaits its feline tenant. Photo by Chris Robin

As extravagant as at a catio sounds, keeping your pets safe from outdoor threats, and creatures like birds safe from cats, is a wonderful concept. If we still had our tuxedo cat Roosevelt, master of demanding dinner, I’m certain he could pressure me into building a catio. Sadly, he’s crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and I’ve developed allergies, so Magnus won’t have any new cat companions anytime soon.

I need to mask up and get out more, or at least spend less time in the dirt and more in front of a screen, if I’m to learn about gardening trends. Interior designers love gray right now, and now it’s the color to use in the garden, too. While l like gray-leaved plants (such as Artemsia ‘Silver Mound’), gray reminds me too much of ugly winter skies, so I’m bucking this fad in favor of any other tone or hue. And if live plants are too much work, go plastic! Artificial boxwood is drought tolerant, blight resistant, never needs pruning, and is guaranteed to put us horticulturists out of business.

Succulents, those multi-colored, fantastically-shape plants of warm and dry climates, have been hot for a while, but now we’ve got dashboard gardening. Why not grow succulents, or anything else for that matter, inside your car? While it is suggested that cupholders might provide the best chances for needed stability, and that winter cold and summer heat might limit the season to spring and fall, the soothing presence of a potted pothos could reduce the stress of road rage and traffic jams. Just remember to keep the windows clear of excessive foliage and the vines away from the accelerator pedal. Soon AAA roadside assistance may offer to diagnose a scale-infested Subaru or a Mercury with mealybugs.

To contact David Chinery, horticulture educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rensselaer County, email

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