Monrovia Plant Savvy
design, inspiration and practical ideas from the plant experts. August 2013
dog days of summer – pets in the garden

Dear Savvy Gardener,


The “dog days of summer” occur when Sirius, the dog star, rises at the same time as the sun – from July 3 to August 11.  But the common reference has come to mean the hottest part of the season when we tend to feel lazy and just want to lie around like our canine friends. Oh, those dog days of summer.  Hot, lazy days when it’s okay to just sit on the patio, gaze into the garden and truly enjoy all our hard work all spring and summer...with our pets close at hand, of course.  So this issue is dedicated to our four-legged friends.

There are plenty of articles out there about how to keep pets from destroying a garden…but what about making the garden pet friendly and a place they’ll enjoy?  First, the basics: water is important for pets and other critters in the garden.  Keep dishes and birdbaths clean and filled with fresh water.  It’s important to garden organically, since pesticides and herbicides can be harmful to your pets – especially since they tend to walk and lie on the plants, then often lick their paws.  There are great non-toxic products out there, so read the labels.  Know which plants are poisonous to dogs and cats; PetMD has a list. Avoid cocoa fiber mulch, since its chocolate smell may entice dogs to eat it and it can make them sick. Be sure to research for other pets, like this one for horses.

pet savvy plants
  Venus® Dogwood
leafgif   bark up the right tree

Pets need shade, especially in the summer.  If you don’t have a covered patio, it’s important to plant trees and large shrubs that will provide shade, and for outdoor kitties, an escape route from dogs!  Smaller trees that won’t have big surface roots, Japanese Maple, Crape Myrtle and Redbud are beautiful and functional. Smaller varieties of Magnolia, like Little Gem or Teddy Bear® and of course…beautiful, flowering Dogwood!

  Crown of Bohemia Hibiscus leafgif  

tail-waggin’ plants

Flowering shrubs will provide shade for the four-legged friends and fabulous color for you to enjoy in the garden. Try Hibiscus varieties with bold colors, like Erin Rachel, Red Darling® Flamenco Flame, Crown of Bohemia or Cherie. Itoh Peonies, which are a hybrid of herbaceous and woody tree Peonies; Misaka™ is a peachy yellow with red centers, and Kieko has deep pink double flowers.  Wouldn’t you love to see your kitty napping under the shade of a lush Oakleaf Hydrangea, like the pretty pink Ruby Slippers?

  Pink Cat Catmint leafgif  

pawsitive planting

Think about a pet running through the garden.  You don’t want them to get snagged on thorns, so choose thornless varieties as much as possible. Love Roses?  In the areas where your pet hangs out, plant Roses that have been trained up into a patio tree above pet height. Many dogs love berries, and it’s okay for them to nibble a few.  Try thornless varieties like Black Satin Blackberry, and Raspberry Shortcake™ or Canby Red Raspberries.  Plant some Catmint for the felines; try Little Trudy® with its deep purple flowers or rosy Pink Cat and enjoy showy flowers all summer long.

  Alphonse Karr Bamboo
leafgif   keep ‘em in – keep ‘em out

Hedges can be useful in a pet-friendly garden, to keep your pooch in a specific part of the garden, or to keep the neighbor’s dog from getting into the yard and terrorizing your kitty.  In the case of the latter, you might want thorny hedges like Pyracantha, or Roses, like Flower Carpet® or Knock Out®.  But in most cases you’ll want to choose a upright grower with dense foliage, like Green Tower™ or Winter Gem Boxwood. Bamboo makes a great hedge – just choose a clumping variety like Sunset Glow, Golden Goddess or Alphonse Karr.

leafgif   we’re trainable!

Perhaps our pets have been trying to train us and we’re just not catching on.  When Snowball the cat constantly curls up on your new patio furniture, perhaps she’s saying she wants a soft bed of her own, up off the ground. When Cookie the canine keeps trampling your plants along the fence, he’s just pointing out that he needs to run the perimeter of the yard to protect the place, and could we please just put a path there instead of planting perennials!  And, about that digging thing…we don’t set a very good example for them, do we?