Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop – Pets in the Garden

– Posted in: Garden Design


Back in December, we talked about children in the garden, but they’re not the only ones who share our outdoor spaces. If you’ve spent any time at all traipsing around the garden blogdom, you’ve seen that pets often play as big a role in our gardens as our plants do. Big dogs, little dogs, and all kinds and colors of kitties: seeing photos of these furry friends enjoying their family gardens is sure to elicit a smile. You can find some less common pets, as well, including chickens, ducks, bunnies, goats, sheep, horses, and alpacas. I think Kim at The Inadvertent Farmer may get the prize for the most unusual pet: she has a camel!

gwennie-on-the-moveSo, to those of you who enjoy spending time outdoors with your pets: Have you made any design changes to your garden to accommodate them? For me, the answer is emphatically yes, particularly for my previous garden. In that case, it wasn’t so much a choice as a survival strategy: My dear Sheltie puppy had lots of energy, and she’d invent games if I didn’t do it first. One of her favorite pastimes was running laps around the garden. To direct her route and help to keep all the bark mulch from getting kicked into the beds, Mom built over a hundred feet of mini-picket fences, which made a cute and practical edging. Other modifications included a variety of hoops, hurdles, and ramps she could (and did) use to jump or climb over plantings instead of run through them. High design it was not, but it saved a lot of heartache and gave her plenty of ways to wear herself out.

Another question for my fellow pet owners: Do you worry about potentially poisonous plants, and has that influenced your plant choices? And if so, who do you depend on for advice about which plants might be a concern? This ASPCA page appears to be an excellent source of information on frequently encountered indoor and outdoor plants that are and are not toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. Those of us with other critters have to seek elsewhere for lists relating to our particular pets. Believe me, there aren’t many lists of alpaca-safe garden plants! I’ve tried to err on the side of caution by sticking mostly with ornamental grasses, willows (Salix), and daylilies (Hemerocallis) along Duncan and Daniel’s pasture fences. And when “the boys” and I cut through the garden on our way out for or back from a walk, you can bet I keep a close eye on them so they don’t nibble on anything questionable.

duncan-sept-07 daniel-oct-07

paca-pooSpeaking of what our critters are eating: well, what goes in must come out. One of my favorite things about my boys is the never-ending supply of “paca poo,” which has proven to be a fantastic soil amendment. (I wrote about the delights of alpaca manure a while back in Non-Natives in the Garden.) Those of you with chickens, horses, and other livestock-type pets probably feel the same about the benefits of your own critters’ by-products. Care to share how you use their manure in your garden? Those of you with dogs and cats have a different issue, as pointed out in Fran’s recent post The Scoop on Dog Poop. How do you deal with keeping your lawn and garden poo-free?

Have you designed part of your garden specifically for your fuzzy or feathered companions? One project that comes to mind is Steve’s high-class chicken coop, which he wrote about in Where Elvis Lives. I’m sure others of you have equally creative pet-related plantings and structures. Or, what about a memorial garden for the dearly loved pets that have passed out of your life?

Lest we get too sentimental, let’s remember that life with pets in the garden isn’t always fluffy clouds and rainbows. Besides the poo problem, there’s a lot of potential for plant damage from digging and general romping. Care to share your strategies for keeping your pets out of places you don’t want them to be? How about etiquette suggestions you’d like to give others who bring their pets to your place?

If you’re new to the GGW Design Workshops, here’s how it works: Write a post on anything related to pets in the garden on your own blog and give us the link below, or simply leave a comment if you don’t want to do a separate post. If you’ve written about the topic in the past, those links are equally welcome; it’s not necessary to create a new post to participate.

At the end of the month, I’ll gather all of the links into one summary post for easy reference. If you’re interested in checking out previous GBD Workshops, you can find them here:

Paths and Walkways
Fences and Walls
Arbors and Pergolas
Color in the Garden
Container Plantings
Front-Yard Gardens
Stone in the Garden
Decks, Porches, and Patios
Garden Whimsy
Trellises and Screens
Water in the Garden
Sheds and Outbuildings
Incorporating Edibles
Kids in the Garden
Labeling and Record-Keeping

Don’t forget that you’re all welcome to go back and add links to these older posts. Pam at GardenDesigns+More, for instance, recently added a link to last year’s Color in the Garden topic. You’d be amazed at how many visitors those archived GBDW posts still get.

As a final note: I haven’t forgotten that wild creatures are just as important as our domesticated pals. Next month, the GBDW topic will be about wildlife in the garden: the good (birds, butterflies, and beneficials) and the bad (rabbits, deer, and other four-footed menaces). Now you know!

Nancy J. Ondra
Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.
Nancy J. Ondra

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VP February 1, 2009, 5:09 am

Another great topic – and an excuse to say a little bit more about my ‘garden helpers’ Skimble and Jess 🙂

If you really *need* an excuse to write about them, I’m happy to provide one!

Cameron(Defining Your Home Garden) February 1, 2009, 9:30 am

I have a “gardening greyhound” and have written about her.

Won By Her Wits (aka “Charm”) is a well-mannered, stay on the path, non-digging, dainty dog. She wouldn’t dream of stepping on a flower, but she does like to sniff them. I totally serious.

I’m not sure Charm is really a dog. I think she’s a gardener in a dog suit.


That’s perfect, Cameron! Thanks for sharing Charm with us. (I *was* going to say “Thanks for the Charm-ing post,” but that would have been corny.)

Mr. McGregor's Daughter February 1, 2009, 1:15 pm

I just love seeing photos of your Sheltie. I don’t have any dogs now, but I did have to make a modification because of my Borzoi. She definitely a well-mannered, dainty dog. I’m going to enjoy this topic, as I love dogs & miss mine.

Gwennie’s been gone for 2 and 1/2 years now, and I still miss her desperately. No more dogs for me. But I do look forward to seeing everyone else’s!

jodi February 1, 2009, 2:29 pm

My best garden-helper, Tigger, died last spring in the garden (of old age, apparently), and like others is buried in the garden. I’ll write about my other assistants in a post, for sure.

You have plenty of helpers to write about, I know. I look forward to your post!

Lisa at Greenbow February 1, 2009, 5:25 pm

THis is going to be a fun one to read Nan. I have written about Luna many times. I will try to address some of your questions.

Your little sheltie is a doll. I can just imagine that little ball of energy romping through the garden.

Don’t forget the value of your pet as a mobile garden ornament. I still remember your shot of Luna’s snowy coat perfectly echoing your white garden bench!

Shirley Bovshow "EdenMaker" February 1, 2009, 6:46 pm

I have to hand it to you guys for always posting such useful and helpful information. I’ve enjoyed your design series.
The dog information is especially good since many of us have pets and you’ve brought out some practical ideas!

Thanks so much, Shirley. It should be fun to see what kinds of responses we get on this one.

Frances February 1, 2009, 8:47 pm

Hi Nan, your sweet little Gwennie pulls at the heartstrings. I am sorry for your loss, even though it has been a while. Having wonderful photos of her in the garden is a wonderful way to remember the happy times. And your boys are too sweet. You take them for walks? Cats in the garden are a double edged sword, but I have an idea about a story with Hazel and Kitty.

Thanks for your comment about Gwennie-girl. Ow, I still expect to see her everywhere.

Yep, the boys and I go for walks on the roads around here a couple of times a week. It’s good exercise for all of us, and it keeps their toenails worn down, which is good because they don’t like me having to trim them.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter February 2, 2009, 4:42 pm

Here’s my entry,
A Borzoi Runs Through It, about gardening with a large, clumsy dog.

When one is as pretty as Natasha, grace is hardly necessary!

inadvertentfarmer February 2, 2009, 5:59 pm

LOL…do I get the prize for most unusual pet or just the craziest gardener?

Here is my entry…What I’ll do for a good cucumber…camel poo optional!

I think you can have whatever prize you want just for giving Gizmo such a good home!

Heirloom Gardener February 3, 2009, 12:04 am

I don’t think you mentioned the benefits of pets for pest control–my cat is a great hunter!

Good point, HG! I remember that the deer were much less likely to come near the house when Gwennie was alive, even though they could easily have trampled her with just one hoof.

jodi February 3, 2009, 10:39 pm

I have my post done! It’s at .

Thanks so much for the link, Jodi. I knew we could count on you for some fun pets-in-the-garden pics and stories.

Chookie February 8, 2009, 8:23 am

My post is up too! And it ties in with another meme I was involved with recently, which might help your poultry-besotted readers. Let’s just say we don’t have any boring old dogs and cats here.

Good to see you again, Chookie. I hoped that this topic would tempt you to share a post or two with us. Many thanks!

Lois J. de Vries February 13, 2009, 12:54 pm

Hi Nan,

Thanks for giving us an excuse to brag about our best friends and, in our case, raising puppies for The Seeing Eye. Gardening with puppies can be challenging.

Here’s the link:

Come visit.

Thanks so much for sharing the link, Lois. Fun pictures and good tips, too!

Heirloom Gardener February 15, 2009, 11:30 pm


What a great topic. Here’s my post, “Five Reasons Why Cats Are Great For Gardeners”:

-Heirloom Gardener

Thanks so much. HG. Someone finally speaks up for the kitties!

Yvonne February 17, 2009, 7:35 pm

I have some pages up at my site to contribute to this thread: this one links to them:

I just can’t imagine gardening without a dog to keep me company. I’ve been lucky with the two males that I’ve had: they were not diggers.

The dog I have now doesn’t poop on the lawn: he goes to wild areas. My previous one didn’t pee on plants, just the lawn. Rather amazing, I think.

This is great, Yvonne – thanks!

carolyngail February 18, 2009, 10:45 am

I love your adorable Shelties. I know they say that they’re a separate breed from the Collie, but come on, there’s a link there somewhere.

I’ve written my post on Pets in the Garden.

Great! Thanks so much for the link. I look forward to reading your contribution.

When you own Shelties – especially the classic Lassie-like brown-and-white ones, you get very used to people saying “Oh, look at the miniature Collie!” And now that I have alpacas, I get “Oh, look at the little llamas!” Makes me wonder why I don’t just get the full-sized versions.

Pam Kersting February 18, 2009, 7:14 pm

Sweet little dogs! If you have active pets, you definitely have to design a space for them as well as you and it looks as if you have done a great job with this! Here’s my link:

Yay, another contribution for this month! Thanks so much, Pam.

Pam Kersting February 18, 2009, 7:19 pm

P.S. Nan – Thanks for the mention with the Color in the Garden! I know I came late to the party, but that’s a subject I am passionate about!

Me too, Pam. Links are always welcome.

Frances February 22, 2009, 8:46 am

Hi Nan, I so wanted to join in with your workshop and had to put on the old thinking cap again to come up with something. Sort of an adaptation. 🙂

You always rise to the challenge, Frances. Thanks so much!

Monica February 22, 2009, 1:15 pm

Several years back, I researched and designed a garden for cats at a no-kill cat shelter. I could write about that! (Wish me luck; I still haven’t posted my experience helping plant a green roof and that was in May ’08!). 🙂

That sounds like a neat story, Monica. Please do leave us a link whenever you get to write the post!

Craig @ Ellis Hollow February 22, 2009, 9:49 pm

Hi Nan: Of course I had to post about my dogs, an integral part of my garden even though they don’t really affect the design all that much. Thanks again for hosting.

I’d hoped that we’d hear from you on this one, Craig. Many thanks for the link!

VP February 24, 2009, 4:15 pm


OK, I didn’t really need an excuse, but here’s the latest re Skimble and Jess:

BTW on Friday (27th Feb) I’m launching a quarterly meme re public planting. I’ve been writing about this for a while and garnered quite a bit of response. So ‘Out on the Streets’ is an opportunity for people to have a say about public planting in their own neighbourhood. Hope to see you there 🙂

Thanks, VP! I’ll be over for a visit soon.

Catherine February 26, 2009, 12:38 pm

I’ve really enjoyed ready what people have shared. Love the whole idea of designing around pets in the garden.
We don’t have a large yard or a large dog, but we still have kept her in mind as we setup areas of our yard and the plants we put in.
Here’s the link to my design:

Welcome, Catherine! Your pup is such a cutie, she deserves a special and safe place to play.

kerri February 26, 2009, 11:34 pm

Hi Nan, I’m just sqeaking in before the end of the month with my post because I’d forgotten about it until Frances’ post the other day reminded me. Here’s my link:

Thanks for sharing this fun gallery of your feline friends, Kerri. (I particularly love your little “fence hugger!)

Dave February 27, 2009, 5:53 pm

I’ve got my post up about our memorial garden for our cat Amber.

I’m sure that wasn’t easy for you to write, Dave, but I do appreciate you sharing the story of Amber’s garden with us.

Jim/ February 27, 2009, 6:49 pm

I don’t have a pet. Nor want one, but here’s an idea I saw on Garden Walk and thought dog owners might appreciate.

Terrific, Jim. Thanks for sharing these images and ideas from Garden Walk Buffalo!

Monica February 28, 2009, 6:55 pm

Yay! I made it just in time!

This is an awesome post, Monica! I added to you the wrap-up post. I hope you get lots of visitors; you did a beautiful job with the garden.

Sweet Bay March 1, 2009, 3:35 pm

Better late than never. I just put up a post (Part I). This was a great idea for a meme.

Links are always welcome, Sweet Bay. I glad you joined us this month. Here’s a direct link to Pets in the Garden Part I.

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