Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pet-Friendly Planting

As a Garden Designer, often I am asked to make sure that my clients' new garden will not contain any plants potentially harmful to their pets. I do my best, and fortunately my clients' expectations have been reasonable.

While I don't have domestic pets of my own, my neighbor's cat, "Wheels" (because her owner is a self-admitted "car guy"), is a frequent visitor...

... along with several not so domestic creatures...

Funny, I have no squirrel photos. Quite abundant in my neighborhood, I enjoy their cute, fluffiness, even if I don't take too kindly to what messy eaters they can be!

Various winged wonders whiz by. Only very occasionally do they stop to pose for a photo op.

A flock of these was flitting about one morning a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately, I don't have the best camera for this. There is a woodpecker about halfway up this pole. Can you see it?

Can you find at least three finches feeding on my lettuce, which had gone to seed?

I love bugs, but I don't know much about them. This butterfly(?) was resting on my kitchen window one morning in January.

Other, more earth-bound acquaintances want to share my space, sometimes indoors and out!

This baby lizard appeared in my house last September, perhaps learning to hide from the neighbor's cat. Could be quite provocative, posed in front of the picture window!

Finally, this mother possum was ambling along the block wall, while her progeny tried to maintain their grip... a white knuckle ride to be sure!

Most of these friends have good instincts and do a fine job of looking after themselves, but sometimes what we put into our gardens are not very appropriate for their diet. Domestic animals, like dogs and cats, can to a degree I suppose be trained to behave according to their owners' wishes. It seems that as with people, boredom can lead to inappropriate behavior, such as digging up and chewing on ornamental plants.

Perhaps the best way to ensure your pet and your garden get along well is to keep your pet entertained, lively, fit, and socially well-adjusted. As for entertainment, your garden can provide this for your pet as well as for you. Especially if you include in your garden flowering plants, shrubs under which to take cover, and in the lazy gardener's way, you are not too hasty about cutting off spent flowers or removing from your vegetable garden plants that have gone to seed, your pets can have endless fun watching the parade of critters passing through.

Oh, how can I miss an opportunity to encourage lawn-less gardening?! Clumping, native bunch grasses that don't need a lot of chemicals to maintain also are far more interesting for your furry pets -- safer too -- than mown turf grass. Just ask "Wheels." I think that fairly well takes care of the entertainment part.

The lively, fit, and socially well-adjusted part is primarily up to you and your pet's veterinarian and/or therapist! However, if you provide your pet some open space in which to romp, perhaps covered in playground chips rather than lawn, won't (s)he be less likely to trample through your lettuce patch?

Linked here is a document describing the way the "business" side of me intends to handle the issue of pets and gardens. For more information about dog-friendly gardens, in particular, you may want to read an excellent article from Sunset Magazine, linked here.

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