Category Archives: dogscaping

Gardens are for Healing, Kids and Pets

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA garden is the perfect example of the circle of life. A garden is nature’s way of taking and giving back life to the earth.  A garden represents the infinite nature of energy. I am reminded of this as my best friend lost her dog to cancer recently and within a day my niece gave birth to her first child. A garden holds hope. And it can heal our sorrows.

I am in a garden every day. Sometimes it’s the garden of friends I’m enjoying or helping a client with theirs or strolling a public garden and of course, I am in my own garden daily. Wherever I go I receive something from the experience and try to leave some positive energy there. The events this week have me thinking about what makes a garden that heals? And on the other side of the circle of life what’s important in a kid and pet friendly garden?

Through our history gardens have been used to aid in the healing process. Japanese Zen Gardens and Monastic Cloister gardens are good examples of this. Viewing natural scenes helps us reduce stress and negative emotions and replaces them with positive feelings.

To make your garden look better and make you feel better when you’re in it pay special OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAattention to plant selection. Allow the plants to dominate with a minimal amount of hardscaping. Choose plants that are fragrant, colorful or soft to the touch. Plants that attract wildlife make a garden a happy place. Simple, bold mass plantings are more comforting than a wild mix of many varieties. Leave that to the cutting garden. Enclose the space to keep your thoughts inward and peaceful.

It’s just as important if you have children and pets to create a garden that is calming and relieves stress.

Picking plants for a backyard that is shared with dogs is especially important if your dog naturally nibbles on greenery or berries. Some plants are lethal while others can cause OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAillness or vomiting. I was surprised to see so many common plants on the ASPCA website that could cause problems like carnations, primroses and geraniums. What’s safe for us like grapes and avocado are not good for dogs. Check the list to make sure the plants your are considering are safe for your dog.
http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/poison-control/Plants?plant_toxicity=toxic-to-dogs

Plants near paths should have soft foliage without thorns and spines which can cause eye injury.  Brittle plants like salvias should be in the center where they’ll be protected.  Densely planted areas are usually avoided by dogs but planting in raised beds or mounds help, too. Pieces of driftwood placed at the front of a border will discourage them.  Start with one gallon or larger plants that can stand up to a little roughhousing.

Kid friendly gardens should not contain plants that are poisonous. Sounds like a no brainer but even some of our common natives like the berries of snowberry and the leaves of Western azalea are poisonous.  Non-toxic plants include abelia, abutilon, liriope, butterfly bush, Hens and Chicks, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis and black-eyed Susan. Better to check the poison control website if in doubt.
http://www.calpoison.org  and search “plants”.

What makes a great experience for a kid in the garden? In a nutshell, you can teach children of any age about beneficial insects in a garden and other wildlife.  Older kids can identify and nibble edible flowers like calendula, dianthus, nasturtiums, pansies, peas and beans. Grow flowers that kids can cut like zinnias and snapdragons and plants to touch that are soft and furry like lamb’s ears.

Kids, even older ones, like hiding places, so grow one in the garden.  You can plant tall growing sunflowers in a circle, leaving a space for a “door” that kids can crawl through once the flowers have grown.  Or build a simple teepee out of fallen branches or long gardening stakes and plant bean seeds around the outside.  Scarlet runner beans are also good and have tender, young pods like green beans in addition to bright red flowers that attract hummingbirds.  Beans grow fast and soon make a great secret hiding place.

Make your garden one everyone can enjoy.

Landscaping with Dogs in Mind

Gardens are for people and the pets they love. When you come home they are always happy to see you. Doesn't matter what kind of day it's been, they are there for you. So it stands to reason that we would want to make their little corner of the world as interesting and comfortable as we can.

I'm working with several homeowners right now that have dogs in the family. Their goal is to provide a dog-friendly landscape that is beautiful, safe and has enough mental stimulation to keep them occupied during the day. If you have a dog, here are some tips to remember.

Each dog is different. Banjo, a yellow lab owned by a friend, loves to play the fetching game with his favorite toy. He needs lots of exercise and objects to chew on. His yard has room to play and a box of toys that he can carry around in his mouth.

I'll need to consider several breed traits and personalities in a Ben Lomond garden that I'm updating. Sunny Boy is a timid pit bull mix who has bonded with Pippy, the cocker/doxie mix. Along with the beagle, Brandy, they all love to tunnel and chase each other. In this garden there will be a dog tunnel made from wire winding between plants. The plants will grow over the top and can be tied to form a roof. This way the dogs have a fun activity that comes naturally to them.

These owners also have a very old rescue chihauhua, Rico Suave, receiving hospice care for a brain tumor. He needs a quiet, private spot with warmth. In a out of the way spot, we are going to add several flagstone to soak up the heat of the sun where he can lay.

Creating a garden to meet your dogs needs is the best way to avoid future problems. Most dogs prowl the perimeter of their fence to investigate noises so instead of a plant border consider paving stones, gravel or mulched paths along the fenceline.

If you dog is a digger like Brandy the beagle, create a special area in a shady spot where they can dig to their heart's content. The spot can be a sand pit or earth.  Entice them to this area by burying a favorite toy or bone. They will return again and again to this one spot and not dig up your flower beds.

Picking plants is important in backyard landscaping with dogs especially if your dog naturally nibbles on greenery or berries. Some plants are lethal while others can cause illness or vomiting. I was surprised to see so many common plants on the ASPCA website that could cause problems. From carnations to primroses to geraniums, I'll be checking the list to make sure all my dog friends are safe.
http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/poison-control/Plants?plant_toxicity=toxic-to-dogs

Plants near paths should have soft foliage without thorns and spines which can cause eye injury.  Brittle plants like salvia should be in the center where they'll be protected.  Densely planted areas are usually avoided by dogs but planting in raised beds or mounds help, too. Pieces of driftwood placed at the front of a border will discourage them, too.  Start with one gallon or larger plants that can stand up to a little roughhousing .

If your dogs have already created their own path through the garden, don't try to redirect them. Instead turn their well-worn routes into pathways covered with a mulch of small wood chips which are easy on paws yet large enough so they won't cling to fur coats.
      
Provide your dog with an area to relieve himself.  Since you only have about 8 hours to water a spot after your dog goes on the lawn it's better to set aside a corner covered with pea gravel, cedar chips or flagstone and train your dog to go there.  It's also a good idea to install marking posts like a piece of wood or log along a path.

Dogs can get bored in a space.  Dog friendly gardeners incorporate barriers, arbors, pathways and raised beds to channel dog's energies to things they enjoy, like running and away from delicate plants and veggies.They also need places that provide shade like trees, arbors and pergolas.  Eliminate weeds, especially foxtails, which can get in your dogs ears or be inhaled.

Keep theses tips in mind and both you and your dog will be happier for it.