Think Garden, Think Richard: Pet Friendly

This month I want to investigate products to help our pets enjoy the garden.

Ground materials can play a big part in how are pets interact with the garden. Grass is a major part of most gardens and can be difficult to manage with young dogs who may love to dig, faeces accumulation or urine killing the grass. This was a problem for a client with two Labradors, a small courtyard garden and a young family. The answer was to remove the lawn and replace with artificial grass. Faeces can be removed and excess washed off so dogs and children can use the lawn without issue! In larger gardens the answer is to regularly be on poo patrol, walk the dogs more or train them to use a certain area of the garden. In my experience cats and bark chip are not a very good combination in a garden. I like to encourage clients with cats to avoid and choose cobbles or pebbles to mulch borders. Paved paths are good for maintaining claws and better than gravel in between toes.

Toxic plants are very often overlooked when planting the garden. I like to think of the plants as the star performers in the garden that bring a space to life, but if a client has pets it will influence the selection. Dogs in particular can chew plants in the garden so a few plants to know would be Aconite, Foxglove, Delphinium, Hydrangea, acorns from Oaks, daffodil bulbs, Yew, Laburnum, Cherry laurel berries and Lily. This list is more to make you aware than deter you from using these plants as they are all very common plants that a pet could easily be exposed to on a walk and often as a dog matures it will be less inclined to chew!

Clearly defined boundaries help to steer pets away from certain areas in the garden. Raised beds can be a very useful way for elevating planting if you have a lively pet. Hard wood or soft wood sleepers can be used creatively in the design of a garden. Edging beds with low hedging such as box or lavender can be very effective too. Hard landscape materials that are less pleasant for paws such as gravel or cobbles will also help. A designated digging area is a good way to train your pet away from other areas in the garden. It may take a little time but will be helpful in the long run.

Stimulating planting is a great way to provide interest for cats especially in the garden. Grasses are great because they provide movement and a place to hide. Stipa tenuissima and Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldtau’ are two good options. Cats love to stalk around the garden so providing places for this natural behaviour is good. I advise some distance between this and the bird table for obvious reasons! Providing shade in the warmer months is also important for our pets.

Secure boundaries with sturdy fencing is a must for any responsible dog owner. It is surprising how small the gap needs to be for an escape. Also worth noting that the height of a fence is very relevant to the size of your pet and potential wildlife entering into your garden. I would always recommend 6 ft feather edge fencing as an entry level affordable solution. More exciting horizontal, planed timber solutions and beautiful bespoke panels and woven willow solutions are available too.

For more in depth advice or garden design help please get in touch to arrange a consultation.

By Melbourn garden designer, Richard Arnott
07710 547493 / 01763 263231