Have you ever had your day take a completely different turn than you anticipated?  Mine certainly did, and it all started with a discovery behind the lilac vine.


My day was off to a great start.  I didn’t have any appointments or looming writing deadlines.  Couple that with a weather forecast in the 70’s, I decided to spend a few hours working in the garden.

Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae) back in February.
 
One of the things that I needed to do was to prune back my purple lilac vines now that they were finished flowering.  They just needed a little light pruning to keep them from growing into my new lemon tree.
 
While I was pruning the vines, my little dog, Tobey, was trying desperately to get underneath one of the vines.  I assumed that it was a lizard, but I couldn’t call him off.
 
 
Now, Tobey, is our little rescue dog who thinks that he is big and tough, but truth be told, he’s not.  But, when I had to carry him inside because he wouldn’t leave the vine alone, I suspected that there might be something else going on.
 
 
I slowly approached the vine and heard something growl.  Concerned that there may be an injured animal, I slowly parted the leaves, and a cat ran out and jumped over the fence.
 
At this point, I assumed that it was a feral cat and that the problem was solved. 
 
But, I heard some rustling sounds and thought that I could see some movement in the dark confines of the vine’s branches.  So, I ran inside to grab a flashlight so that I could see better.  The problem was, that while we had plenty of flashlights, all their batteries were dead.
So, I decided to use the flashlight on my cell phone to see what was making the sounds at the base of the vine.
 
I slowly parted the leaves and saw what looked like little rats.
 
 
But, closer examination showed them to be newly born kittens.
 
 
I could hardly believe it!
 
 
They were just darling, and I tried to count how many there were.  I think that there were four, but it might have been three.
 
 
I went back inside so the mama cat could come back.  She hopped to the top of the wall and waited to be sure that there weren’t any humans or dogs nearby before climbing down and disappearing into the vines.
 
 
So what will we do?  
 
I talked to my sister who has worked with feral cats in the past.  It turns out they are incredibly self-sufficient.  We’ll probably wait until the kittens are weaned and then trap the mother and get her spayed and then re-release her.
 
As for now, I need to break the news about the furry bundles behind the vines to my husband (who sleeps during the day) and the kids once they come home after school.  
 
 
In the meantime, the dogs have been banished to the side yard for the time being, much to their dismay…
 
Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

8 replies
  1. Butterfly 8)(8 Bungalow
    Butterfly 8)(8 Bungalow says:

    Thank you for such an interesting post. What is the lilac vine's scientific name? I have not seen them in Phoenix. I think you can rent the traps from Altered Tails. It would be best to eventually catch them all, because they can have at least two litters a year. My two outdoor cats were from a littler like that; they are fixed, and friendly. However there is a roaming gang of eight or nine at dusk and they are a menace to my cats and birds, and they spray. Best wishes. xoox

    Reply
  2. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Hello Butterfly Bungalow,

    The vine is a Hardenbergia violaceae. It's common name comes from the lilac-shaped flowers, but they are not lilacs and aren't fragrant. I love them for the flowers that bloom in winter.

    Thanks for the helpful advice about the kittens!

    Noelle 'az plant lady'

    Reply
  3. L
    L says:

    I just stumbled upon your blog and I love it!! I'm just now trying to get into gardening and think your site will at the very least, give me a bunch of neat ideas.

    Have you seen the amazing cactus garden in Sunnyslope? It's at 14th St and Cholla in the middle of probably my favorite neighborhood. I've heard it's actually a cactus farm, but if you've never seen it you need to!

    Reply
  4. Brandi
    Brandi says:

    Wow! Firstly, I adore this vine. We had one at the house I grew up in and every time I see one growing I wish for one. I think I will have to find a place at my own home. Secondly, how sweet are those kittens! I know that feral cats are a nuisance but come on, it is hard to resist wanting to offer them respite. I myself take care of one cat that is "feral" though it is quite friendly and sweet since it was so young when I bought my house.

    Reply
  5. Brandi
    Brandi says:

    Wow! Firstly, I adore this vine. We had one at the house I grew up in and every time I see one growing I wish for one. I think I will have to find a place at my own home. Secondly, how sweet are those kittens! I know that feral cats are a nuisance but come on, it is hard to resist wanting to offer them respite. I myself take care of one cat that is "feral" though it is quite friendly and sweet since it was so young when I bought my house.

    Reply
  6. Diana Elizabeth
    Diana Elizabeth says:

    I wish my lilac vines looked like that! They are quite straggly, maybe next season. We had an interesting find like that by our Yorkie in the garage at my parents house in Northern California but it was not kittens… eek! 🙂

    Reply

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