|Dogs are like engineers – they like to get from A to B via the most direct route possible; but dogs are usually in a lot more of a rush to go where they are headed. They have no care for what’s in the way; so your precious new plant will eventually bow to the constant pressure of your favourite hound’s message of “out the way!” or “die!”. The only way to garden around dogs is to acknowledge them, in the same way you would any other member of your family. And let’s face it, for most of us our dogs are often more like many-legged children than simple family pets.
This suburban Cape Town garden was designed with Horace in mind, and has evolved around the challenges he threw at the designers.
Horace is a long-legged gangly ‘teenage’ Doberman. He loves to chase off any would-be intruder from the corner of his property where he has a good view of the road and all who wonder along it. Any sense of a body on the road, and Horace rushes off to the corner. Woe-betide any plants in the way. He tends to run up and down this perimeter, primarily so that he can ‘shout’ at the neighbour’s cat. Luckily, this route is screened by a row of existing tall trees.
Horace is also completely in love with his family, and must be first in line to greet any of his ‘pack’ when they return home. To do this, he often gallops straight across the garden from his number-one-bark-spot in one corner to the garage door on opposite side. A raised portion of the garden, which was built by the previous owners to hide an old tree stump, is little obstacle to Horace, who has his eyes and heart on the garage door and those important people who are about to step through it. When he plays, Horace is never mindful of where he puts his big clutsy feet so plants need to be protected from his playful bulk. On a hot day, he likes nothing better than to sprawl into a cool shady pocket of garden.
The starting point had little to commend it. The patio door and front door are almost next to each other and at first glance almost the same. There were no visual cues to lead visitors to the pretty stained glass front door. The hard and hot red brick paving was in all the sunny places whilst the lawn died annually with no winter sun to warm it up. Existing pots were not consistent with the water feature and fought for attention. Despite the client’s desire for squared geometry, the pool in this garden is kidney shaped. Pools are always dominant shapes in the garden and so need to be properly integrated into the whole. Added to this list of woes, the garden has serious seasonal shade issues affecting both plant choices and lawn options. Notwithstanding Horace, this garden needed to be completely re-engineered so that both owner and hound could be happy.
Armed with an understanding of Horace’s habits, the client’s wish list, a site analysis and a properly measured site plan, the designers set about the task of solving this garden for longevity. All the red brick paving was lifted and replaced in a completely different arrangement with soft grey pavers and cobble edging. The route to the front door was given the attention it deserved. The quirky raised planter was retained to add dimension to this otherwise flat garden, but used for lawn rather than flowering plants and shrubs. Horace’s highways and by-ways were taken care of. However, Horace the destroyer was not finished yet. A few more tricks needed to be implemented before a final solution satisfied this high energy hound.
Heavy pots create immovable obstacles to discourage Horace from playing in this zone. In this way, the surrounding plant fabric also has the opportunity to mature, in time creating their own barrier to easy play. There is also a low fence hidden between the tall trees and the Viburnum hedge behind the pots to prevente movment from the perimeter at the back, across the decorative planting zone in front. Plant selection is based on environmental conditions plus the client’s requirement for a ‘quiet’ garden that moves in the breeze.