Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Do Dogs Design Better Gardens?

Rachel Matthews of 'Successful Garden Design' recently wrote that garden owners who lack  formal design training, often create better gardens than trained designers.  This is most certainly a statement used to spark debate and Rachel makes some good points.  You can read the full post here.

But what has this got to do with dogs?  Well, I can only imagine that both my dogs also read the post as they have taken it upon themselves to point out areas of the garden that they are not happy with and have attempted to remedy my design.  Yesterday I ventured in to the garden only to find that there had been a few changes coupled with some guilty faces.  I  am not entirely sure who contributed to each element of the design but I have my assumptions. 

Maggie, my Border Terrier, has pointed out that she is not amused with the many pots of  propagated plants from last years material.  Occasionally, I have witnessed her destroying the odd potted plant, however, this time she has gone one step further.  She made her point by systematically removing each plant from its pot, removing the root growth and then chewing the plastic pot.  It appears that she is some what of a minimalist design fan, having no tolerance for clutter in the garden and disapproving of my use of many plant species.  I'm guessing that it was also Maggie who uprooted and shredded a Viburnum davidii that has barely had time to put down any roots.

On the other hand, Millie my Golden Retriever, has focussed mainly on the hard landscaping element of the redesign.  She has very kindly identified areas that require ponds or reflective pools.  Excavation was performed very well and I must commend her for the amazing effort.  As a result of such effort, I am now the proud owner of three new "pond sites" in my borders and she has also kindly spread the remaining earth over the rest of the garden so that there is no need for me to mulch this year.  It appears that although she enjoys creating a habitat for pond creatures, and wildlife in general, her appreciation for naturalising bulbs has dwindled in recent times.  Clumps of Galanthus nivalis and Narcissus pseudonarcissus have forcibly been removed.  

Both have helped to fertilise the garden in the way dogs do best, and who knows, this may have removed the problem of the visiting felines?

Do you have pets with a flare for design?  Do you appreciate their efforts?  I would love to read your stories.

* The main photograph is of a spent Hydrangea flower head taken at the National Botanic Garden of Wales.


  1. You feel my pain! I garden with a digging dog, too.

  2. It does sound like your dogs have some specific ideas of what they want. How thoughtful of them to mulch and fertilize for you :) My dog likes to follow the sun around and plops down in it. Maybe it's her way of recommending some new seating areas?

  3. I don't have any dogs or cats, but it seems that every cat in the neighbourhood likes my garden as they all make a beeline for my borders and certainly help to dig it over and fertilize it.

  4. An amusing post but some underlying good points.

    I view many landscaped gardens with didain they don't usualy capture my heart it was always difficult to realy say why. But I think that a garden has a soul and that is something which develops over time it is difficult to create instantly even when throwing thousands of pounds at the design such as the instant gardens at a show, this is still something missing.

    Give me the garden that evolves over time any day warts and all they all go to give characater.

    Where would we be without our family in our gardens dogs other pets, children grandchildren husbands wifes one at a time of course.

    Many of the pleasures from a garden are in how we spend our time nuturing plants along and plant associations all that lost by instant gardening.

    It's interesting to read Gardeners World is having a re vamp lets hope they go back in time and not forwards to more gimmicks.

  5. Sadly all animals want to do is destroy gardens. My cats have turned the back garden into a mine field with their 'presents', while the front has become a digging ground for foxes.

  6. What a great post, Ryan. I'd love to meet your designing dogs.
    What we have are garden designing chickens. They're busy rearranging the paths; specifically they don't like how the gravel fills up the paths, they think it's better off scratched into the grass. And they're adding some "chicken beds" under the spruce tree. Obviously I have not provided enough resting spaces in our garden. And they are very busy eating every little fallen seed.....evidently they're not fond of the "re-seeding" variety of flowers.
    So we'll see what sort of garden we have when spring arrives.

  7. My border terrier, Hamish, cleverly uses his potent pee to decide which plants should stay or go in my garden. Top of his list are the lavenders with two already showing the effects of his attention.

  8. I enjoyed reading this Ryan. I grew up with two German Shepherd Dogs who would also take it upon themselves to re-organise the garden. They liked to tear round the garden at breakneck speed - this gave me a great education in which plants are dog-proof!

    Eventually they created their own paths through the borders - saved us needing to prune those parts of the garden ;o)


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