Lots of dogs love water. It’s just a fact of life.
And sometimes, or maybe all of the time, when I have clients with a furry friend, the dogs “opinions” are part of the equation when designing a new landscape for the whole family. There are many aspects of a landscape design to consider when creating a compatible situation for two species. Water features are one aspect. People and dogs want to enjoy the water feature but they have different ideas about what is fun. For people the sound of water can make a landscape feel like a garden and has a way of taking a space and turning it into a place. Dogs have different ideas.
I started using echo chambers to create water features for my clients some 20 years ago when the echo chamber (designed by local Lew Smith) was a new thing. They were safe for kids and easier to care for but then I saw how much the dogs loved them and that if I planned well most dogs could interact with the echo chamber water feature without harming it or themselves.
Take Jack Hofmann, a dog who knew a good thing when he saw it.
I was hired to create a new entry design for a sweet old Portland craftsman home. Technically the water feature was designed and placed to enhance the new entry and to see it from inside the dining room. Now Jack is kind of a one person dog, so he never fawned over me, much as I would have liked that. He would remember me politely when I came to check on his guardians landscape but when the water feature was installed, he claimed it immediately as his own and posed for me. He knows where his new toy came from.
I wasn’t the only one smitten by Jack’s photo. I was interviewed for an article in Houzz (check it out!) and his mug was featured in “Protecting Your Pet From Your Yard and Your Yard From Your Pet” a comprehensive article about dog friendly landscapes.
Jack’s “water bowl” is pottery plumbed into an Echo Chamber, which is a steel box under the pottery. It creates an easy to care for water feature with great sound and because it has a dry return instead of a pond, it’s safer for kids. There is no pond to worry about or a liner you need to keep safe from dog claws. Read more about Echo Chambers in this blog post.
Some dogs specifically like to drink the water and make a game of it. Does your dog love it when you get out the garden hose? Your dog would love a water feature. Zoey, a plump black lab loves water. This frog spitter fountain is an inexpensive water feature that pleases people and the pups. It’s safe for kids because no pond. The water pump recirculates the water through the frog and is under the round rock surface safe from doggy attention.
Remember to design access to the water for the dog and for kids too. If you plant all around it, expect those plants to be trampled.
My client Patrick is a retired firefighter. He plumbed an old fire hydrant to use with his echo chamber. The water feature was specifically designed for his dogs to drink out of. The dogs loved their fire hydrant water feature and their new back yard which had two fences running parallel at the back property line. This plant-less space between the fences was their daily race way.
Standard poodles and the neighbors kids loved the big rock (Montana Mud 8′ across) water feature which was a focal point for a home in Raliegh Hills. I would find tiny little plastic toys and tennis balls tucked here and there, evidence of neighbor kids and tennis ball obsessed poodles who played in this water feature. My clients thought this was adorable and loved how this unusual water feature looked with their NW Natural style front yard.
For many people, life is better with a dog and designing a happy outdoor life for two species, not just one, is what makes happiness for this designer too.
In my years working with my clients designing dog friendly yards, I’ve come up with many strategies to prevent my client’s dogs from bringing the outside in. In the summer it might be a stick which you can easily throw, and in the fall; it’s a few leaves. But here in Portland, Oregon, winter and spring means mud. And mud is not so easy to stop at the door. So is it even possible to have a mud free dog in Portland, Oregon? The solution starts with your experienced dog friendly landscape designer.
The changes we made to the landscape for Jackie and Kurt in Tigard have saved hours of grooming and large dog bathing. Their Newfoundlands are now clean and free of mud and can come in to the family room and hang out with their humans. This was a side benefit of their Landscape Design in a Day.
Their old house comes with huge magnificent old Douglas Fir trees and lots of shade. Where there was shade, there was mud. Prior to installing our landscape design, the dogs could not come into the house at all because they were extremely muddy. I was hired to design a new entry and garden for the front yard and to provide garden coaching for the backyard. No one was talking about having mud free dogs. They could not imagine it enough to ask for it.
It’s my job to solve landscape problems for the entire family. Kurt and Jackie used my special cedar chips to create a mud free woodland “floor” in their Douglas Fir Forest. It’s beautiful even now, ten years later, the dogs are clean and poop is easy to scoop even in the winter.
Cedar chips also worked well for another client with two large dogs, Rhodesian ridge backs. We created an enclosed area with plenty of room to rough house, so they were very happy in their new play yard. They didn’t track mud in the house (which made their guardian and my client happy) and other spaces around the property now have a far more aesthetically pleasing garden design. Heads up: If you have 2 large dogs who love to wrestle and chase, the cedar chips will eventually hill up in some areas and you will need to rake it out to keep a flat play space for the pups.
Yet another family had full sized standard poodles. Poodles are smart and they have a lot of energy. Many times, dogs (and the landscape plants) benefit from having clear paths installed to circle around and around and around. It’s a lovely way to play chase and get lots of exercise without the hard impact on their hips and backs that concrete or pavers do. A simple 12 inch raised bed can often be enough to point the pups in the right direction and build their running patterns. Once the plants fill in, most pups will stay on the paths and keep their feet mud free. In this scenario, you may need to protect your plants for the first growing season with a temporary barrier like a short wire fence or use plants that are either tough enough to handle tromping or can slightly repel the dogs because of smell.
Plant Tip: Hardy Geranium leaves (Geranium macrorrhizzum) smells like cedar if bruised. Dogs will play near by happily but don’t walk or lie in it because of the smell. I would never use plants with an odor that would hurt or cause discomfort to a dogs sensitive nose.
Creating landscape designs for dogs and their guardians is a joy and one of the perks of my profession. Read more ‘Protecting Your Yard from Your Pet and Your Pet from Your Yard’ on Houzz for an interview with your dog friendly landscape designer Carol Lindsay written by Gwendolyn Purdom. And make an appointment for your own dog friendly landscaping!
My client has a good design eye and she loves modern architectural style and modern style landscapes. However, her new home in Portland’s West Hills had a boatload of difficulties and she wanted a collaborative garden designer who would value her vision and strive to enhance it.
The first view of the house as you approach from the street is the roof. It’s a classic landscape problem for hillside homes. This is as far from welcoming as you can get. You can’t see the front door at all. The amazing view is in the back and the front yard is small, shallow and often below the road.
An modern styled entry courtyard would solve curb appeal, make a private sunny sitting area and give us an architecturally interesting entry appeal. I was prepared for hours of preliminary design to create the perfect enclosure for the courtyard. Instead my client found a photo that was the perfect inspiration and the design came to life.
My client loves her dog. We needed to accommodate the family Basset hound. The entry area is the only easily accessible outdoor place for the dog. The idea of a Basset hound with such short legs going down three sets of stairs, so he can potty in the backyard is torturous and potentially harmful for his back and hips. The enclosed courtyard is perfect for keeping the dog safe from cars and predators.
The fence would cut off views of the entry from the street even if it was a short fence. We accepted this and made the fence an attractive, visually strong presence on its own. We went taller with the fence to block the view of any parked cars and headlights.
The plantings for the exterior of the courtyard walls (out on the street side) are tricky. The first section has crushed rock. It’s designed for guest parking. The other step back sections create room for a mass planting of evergreen ornamental grass. Carex Morrowi ‘Ice Dance’ was the most low maintenance option.
The entry gate area plantings are very simple and rely on two pots, one larger, one smaller and a very low bright lime colored evergreen ground cover to go around the pots such as cushion bolax, Azorella trifurcata ‘Nana’ . The charcoal colored dyed concrete base of the fence needs the relief of bright and light colored plants.
We created the planting plan for the courtyard interior, and designed an echo chamber water feature to enhance the entry experience and to enjoy while sitting outside on sunny days.
The existing rockery style walls inside the courtyard were built with stone that was too small. It doesn’t look great with the new modern style. Our design replaces 1/3rd of the retaining wall with large boulders. It is surprising to see that large boulders look and feel so good even in small spaces. Small rock jumbled together to make a wall is rarely attractive and is far from a modern style landscape.
The final touches of the design are still in progress and I am looking forward to seeing the plantings completed.
If your hillside home is in need of a remodel, make an appointment today!Contact
The first law suit claiming Roundup causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma started June 17th in San Francisco. There is new research indicating glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup is a serious carcinogen and may cause other health problems. They (Monsanto) are accused of hiding the truth about the risks and paying industry influencers to help them do so.
It’s no use complaining that everything you read (even a note from your garden designer) says something is causing cancer. There are facts to work with and being cautious is logical. I will be following this trial and the science closely and will share what I glean.
Here is a very good tip: buy it pre-mixed so you don’t spill the concentrated form on your garage floor or on your skin while mixing it up. Read that long label. Wear protective gear, including appropriate gloves. Protect your skin from any contact so no shorts or flip flops. Make sure the cap is on tight when you buy it. I had a bottle slosh all over me at Fred Meyer.
Read the label. The old rule was the area you treated had to be completely dry. Who knows what we may learn but remember dogs will eat grass while the Roundup is still inside the blades regardless of whether it is still wet or not. The product is now inside my dog. I’m not a chemist or a licensed pesticide applicator but I am sure I don’t want my dog eating treated grass and I don’t want the wet product on my skin or on my dog.
Glyphosate has been extremely helpful where we are struggling to protect our native plants. Here in Portland the volunteers who protect Forest Park were using glyphosate to remove english ivy which threatens Forest Park. As usual, a black and white answer, while simple to comprehend, often does not address the complexity of life.
I promised if news came out that I felt was important to my clients lives, I would say so. Here is an article from August 2018, which reports “Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, was found liable in a lawsuit filed by a school groundskeeper who said the company’s weedkillers caused his cancer.” My goal is to inform, not to scare. If you use Roundup please do so with a healthy dose of caution and the right protection.
I want to keep us in touch and keep you informed. I publish tidbits to Facebook and photos to my Houzz page as well as monthly blog posts. Contact me through the website, email or call 503-223-2426. It always great to hear from new and old clients.