IF YOU LIVE IN A BUNGALOW and love dogs like I do, your garden also includes at least one dog. To me, there is nothing more enjoyable than working outside with my canine assistants, so my garden accommodates, even encourages, what comes naturally to dogs. Inherent canine behaviors like racing, chasing, playing and digging needn’t make even the most stalwart dog-loving gar-dener throw in the trowel. I’ve learned to use my dogs’ habits and movements to inform my garden design, making our garden a setting where dogs can enjoy themselves without tearing the place apart. And the traditional elements of the Arts and Crafts garden make this especially easy to do.
Architectural unity of house and garden is paramount to the Arts and Crafts landscape. Gates, fences and walls frame outdoor rooms. Walkways, pergolas and trellises enhance the atmosphere of privacy, and fountains and ponds attract wildlife.
A quality wood enclosure is not only a ubiquitous part of a period garden, it also protects your dogs and prevents them from seeing and reacting to annoying stimuli like squirrels, cars and other dogs. In locales where wildlife puts small pets in jeopardy, good opaque fencing keeps predators like coyotes out of the yard.
When you share your garden with dogs, walkways work best when you embrace the path of least resistance. Dogs being dogs, they will find the optimal path from point A to point B; be assured that everything in between will eventually be trampled. Before you finalize your garden plan, let your dogs reveal their game trails. Then make them an integral part of the design.
Use the bungalow garden’s signature trellises, rock walls and pergolas to grow delicate plants like sweet peas and clematis up and out of reach of inquiring noses. Stack bricks or large rocks around vulnerable parts of the stem base to change the flow of traffic, so dogs run around the plant rather than through it. Thorny plants like bougainvillea and climbing roses are dangerous to the ears and eyes of the inevitable nosey trespasser, so strip all thorns off the lower four to five feet of the stem.
My yard features clinker-brick walls and steps leading to a variety of levels, including areas of low maintenance and drought-tolerant plants. But I also maintain a modest-sized lawn because the dogs enjoy playing there. Multiple dogs and a lush green lawn may sound contradictory, but with pet-safe organic mulch and fertilizer, it’s quite doable. I apply a non-burning microbe fertilizer two or three times during the growing season. Frequent and uniform treatment not only makes play areas hardier, it counteracts yellow spotting caused by urine.
Unlike high-maintenance formal Victorian landscaping, the bungalow garden is unpretentious, with asymmetrical beds featuring plants of different heights and textures—elements that are easily adapted to dog activities. Your plant palette depends on climate and location, but no matter what it is, make sure the plants are not toxic. (You can get this information from ASPCA’s Guide to Pet-Safe Gardening ). If your existing garden includes species that might be toxic but that can’t be removed, make sure your dog can’t get to the poisonous parts of the plants. For example, I trim off all the bottom branches of some shrubbery; not only does it protect the dogs, but it also provides additional space for colorful under-planting, like durable lamb’s ears and alyssum.
Don’t invest in flowering bulbs like tulips, amaryllis or daffodils that take months to produce a few delicate blossoms. One raucous play session and they’re history. Rather, put in native perennials that require less care, such as bee balm and coneflower. Salvias also work well.
A plant in anything smaller than a one-gallon container will likely need some short-term protection. Consider partnering delicate plants with hardier varieties, like lavenders or ornamental grasses that can withstand high-velocity dog activity. When the shielded plants are big enough to defend themselves, transplant the hardy varieties and put them to work elsewhere. Strategically placed arroyo boulders or large potted plants will do the same thing, and they can be moved throughout the garden with the seasons. A healthy dog garden is always changing.
I plant fragrant herbs like rosemary or lemon thyme in areas where my dogs cool off on hot summer days. When the dogs come in the house, the garden’s bouquet trails in with them.
Dogs will be dogs, and that means they dig. Dog divots here and there are part of life with Rover, but you can employ a few tricks to discourage major excavation.
Digging comes naturally to some dogs; others learn by observation. When you use a shovel, be aware that you’re demonstrating how to dig a hole. When it’s time to put in the bedding plants, put the dogs in the house.
For some unexplained reason, immature groundcover beds invite destructive investigation. To troubleshoot, I lay down hog wire and peg it with wire hangers I’ve cut in half. Then I plant my starter pieces in each grid. Digging is discouraged because the wire grid, invisible once the ground cover fills in, inhibits enjoyment. Who wants to dig in a place where you can’t make a hole?
Digging behavior is rarely negotiable, but location is. Dedicate an exclusive area and make it conducive to digging. Loosen the soil with loamy or sandy material, then reinforce the behavior by hiding bones and favorite toys there. Keep the area cool and moist with regular light watering to attract dogs looking for a cool place to nap in hot weather. Conceal the spot with rosemary or lavender. I prune the foliage so they can peek out to make sure they’re not missing anything.
A pond is a lovely feature in any bungalow garden, but if you have dogs that like to swim, it can present problems. Because I live with several pooches, I want to maintain control of individual personalities. Water-averse dogs that are content to peer into the pond are free to explore. However, dogs that get into the water or harass the wildlife are not allowed near it. To do this, and protect the integrity of the pond, I use a concealed wire-fencing product. The transmitter wire, laid on the ground, is easily hidden between plants and boulders. Dogs wearing the special receiver collar learn to associate a high-pitched warning tone with forbid-den areas of the garden. With some time and a little training, they learn to stay away without the encumbrance of the collar.
As new dogs make their way into your heart and your garden, analyze their activities and modify garden features to suit their eccentricities. A terrier garden should be different from one designed for a retriever. An environment designed for an 85-pound dog need not have the personal touches a little dog enjoys. Stretch your imagination. When we’re doing our jobs, dog gardens reflect the personalities of the dogs who live in them.Pin It