His name was Shiloh. A beautiful, gentle Australian Shepherd who gave Paul Brydges and his family all of his love for 16 years. While sweet Shiloh is no longer with us, he is definitely an inspiration when Paul Brydges works his landscape designs where the family pet is very much a considered client.
Having and maintaining a beautiful garden while the pets are playing and running through it can definitely be a challenge. So when planning your pet-friendly garden, you’ll need to think strategically about what, where, and how, certain areas of the space will be laid out. “The first thing you’ll need to consider is the lifestyle of your pet,” explains Paul. “How they use the space, as well as their daily habits becomes a very big part of the overall plan.” “Perimeter-sniffing” dogs are a great example of this point. “If your dog likes to wander and sniff along the outer perimeter of your yard, then we suggest that you leave a couple of feet of ‘travel space’ for Fido to carry out his security checks.” This point really hit home for me, as my 3 Basset Hounds love to travel (tromp actually) right through my hostas, which were beautifully planted right next to our fence. Heeding Paul’s advice, we now have a new plan for this coming summer! In the planning and layout portion of the design process, a savvy landscape professional will get to know the breed of the pet, and will dig deeper (no pun intended) into those habits that can be troublesome to keeping your garden healthy. If your dog is a digger, you may want to consider elevated (or raised) gardens, with fencing of some sort to save your plants from the “sniff and dig” tradition that those of us with hounds can experience! Paul actually suggests setting up an area specifically designed for this favourite doggy backyard pastime. “You can actually designate a ‘dig area’ by laying down some mulch, which is easy to replace, and filled with lovely smells to keep your dog happy!”
Another element you may need to consider is the “resiliency factor” when it comes to plant choices. Hostas are very resilient plants, but (and I say this from experience), if your 60-pound pooch has access to them, the chances of this beauty surviving the season can be slim to none.
Here are some examples of lovely looking plants that are “safe” for your fur babies, and have “staying power”:
Day Lillies are extremely hearty, and are simply gorgeous to look at. There are literally hundreds of colours and flower types to choose from, and most will bloom for you annually. The other nice thing about this particular plant is that it requires very little attention, so keeping them looking great is easy. And much like a Hosta, it’s a great perennial.When planting shrubs, you need to consider varieties that have bendable branches, such as a Forsythia. “A homeowner can plant these types of shrubs in denser clusters, or ‘en masse’, so they provide less of a temptation for your dog to move through them, but rather to make them move around them.” Again, it’s important to know your breed. Hounds tend to try and move through just about any shrub, but when planted in clusters, it certainly makes this task more difficult. The bendable branch choices provide both resiliency and safety, as it doesn’t take much for your pet to be cut by a branch or thorn, something no pet owner wants.
“You can also plant some lovely things that your dog can help with,” says Paul. “Self-seeding perennials are a great option when planting with pets. Plants like Echinacea and Rudbeckia are a great example, and should your dog just happen to run through it, the seeding process is actually helped, not hindered.”
Finally, let’s tackle that big green monster itself, grass. A healthy grass lawn can be an absolute nightmare for some pet-homeowners, but it doesn’t have to be. The key to having a beautiful grassy yard comes down to certain elements which have nothing to do with your pooch; the type of grass, the soil, grading, and sun exposure. Having said that, there will always be certain challenges when it comes to keeping your grass in great condition, but let’s face it; if you have pets running around enjoying their backyard space, there are bound to be some spots that will simply be well played on. The particular challenges we face in our backyard space, are that we get very little sunlight (thanks to 4 large lovely maple trees), and the ground is graded on quite a slant. However, Paul has provided me with a great suggestion, one I’ll be tackling this coming month, mulch. Mulch is very hearty, dries quick, and once it’s placed and gets wet a few times, tends to thicken and adhere to the ground. Paul recommends using natural pine or a cedar type rather than any sort of dyed mulch, ensuring safety for the hounds.
There are some articles that I wish the reader was able to listen to the interview I do beforehand. Often my recorded conversations contain moments that I cannot fully capture with words. One such moment is when Paul is speaking about Shiloh; his voice changes, cracks a little, and you can feel the emotional connection to Shiloh, one that he’ll have forever.
So this summer, every time my boys have to walk around and not through my Hostas, or race and wrestle across the new soft mulch that’s just been put down, I can smile and thank Shiloh for being one of his dad’s favourite inspirations when it comes to creating healthy and great looking “pet-centric” gardens!
Written by: Kelli M Maddocks