I once had a garden full of beautifully flowering perennial beds, annuals, roses and bulbs. This garden overflowed with year-round seasonal beauty. It was immaculately trimmed, trellised and tidy, not a branch out of place, not a weed to be found.
That all came to an abrupt end when I fell in love with and adopted two, young 80 lb rescue Boxers. These rough and tumble boys laid waste to my entire garden in a matter of days. Nothing seemed to delight them more than the sound of rare dinner plate dahlias crunching under their feet. They upended an entire collection of David Austin Roses while chasing a squirrel. One day I came outside to a shower of Hosta leaves flying through the air as they both had started a project to dig their way to Australia. My one perfect patch of grass had become a mud pit for their wrestling matches where they would play for hours.
I love these boys to the moon and back but something had to be done to salvage the garden. As I stood back to assess the carnage of what was once my beautiful oasis, I realized that my life as a gardener would never be the same. After observing the daily routines of my seemingly untrainable, overgrown puppies I realized that their habits were very predictable. They love to run along the fence line barking at anything that goes by, and they need an area in which to rough-house, play with toys, and potty.
I had a solution: I began to plant annuals, perennials and small shrubs in heavy, freeze resistant pots. With their running paths lined with these pots, keeping the fence line open, the dogs would run around the plants, not over them. Over the years, I have collected an array of colorful pots in which to replant my garden. The pots have the added bonus of bringing interest and color into the winter months. Grouping these collections of pots with similar color themes keeps the garden from becoming too visually confusing. I have a mix of cobalt blue containers for the blue, purple, and silver themed plants, Terra cotta pots for the tropical warm-colored flowers and light colored pots in the shady areas, full of white flowers that “light up” at night.
As I group the pots I leave spaces in the center and between the containers to put plants right in the ground, keeping the plants surrounded and protected. I have also taken to hanging blooming plants in containers on the fence, out of harm’s way, which also adds some colorful height to the garden. I have bricked over or put pea gravel on the dogs runways as well as the wrestling/play area to reduce some of the mud that finds its way into the house and I’ve removed any plants that may be toxic to them.
In order to prevent oils from poison ivy from spreading to us during snuggles, we have diligently removed the vines, while leaving a few patches of overgrown grass around the yard for the dogs to eat which can aid in digestion. We have a couple of small ponds in the yard that not only serve as a place for the dogs to cool off in the summer but they also attract hundreds of insect eating toads. These toads, although great for diminishing the mosquito population, are toxic to dogs when eaten. We have to escort the dogs outside during the few spring nights when the toads are having their wild late night parties. We never use any toxic chemicals, pesticides or herbicides around the garden, using only organic or biological pest treatments such as ladybugs, Monterey BT (bacillus) or horticultural oil. But, even organic fertilizers can be toxic to dogs when eaten so I use only liquid organic fertilizers that can be watered into the soil quickly. I learned this the hard way after my dog, Buster, ate half a bag of organic fertilizer when he was young and became quite ill.
Anything new and with your scent on it in the garden will be attractive to your dogs and they will most likely want to pee on it. When I put new plants in place, I am careful to fence off that section, with some wire fencing until the plants are established and the dogs are used to them being there.
Creating a beautiful greenspace to share with your four-legged best friends is all about compromise, observation and supervision. Keep your dogs entertained while outdoors, create space for playtime and keep a watchful eye on them. Fifth Season can help you find a huge variety of pots, garden plants, non-toxic fertilizers and pest-controls, and even wire fencing to help make your garden a blooming wonderland for your whole family.