7 Tips on How to Successfully Garden with Your Big Dog


A dog friendly garden design enables Mr. Barnaby, my 200-pound Great Dane, to help me tend my garden without hurting the garden. In the morning, Mr. Barnaby helps me water by holding the water wand and plays with the weeds and sticks that I add to the bucket. And when we’ve completed our chores, he collapses on the patio furniture with crunchy fir cone or ‘hides’ in plain sight in his favorite spot in the back garden under the dogwood tree. 

7 Tips to Gardening with Your Big Dog

1.    Create dog paths around the perimeter of the garden. From the day we adopted Barnaby, I walked him on the dog paths to train him. So, start young and be consistent. 

2.    Use dog friendly mulches in the garden paths and patios. We’ve added pebble bark on the perimeter path and have added more hardscape and quarter-10 gravel to prevent muddy footprints in the house.

3.   Expect some plant damage and select tough plants. If a plant doesn’t stand up to daily dog damage, I compost it and try something new.

4.    Plant densely. Plant in masses so it is clear where the dog paths begin and end. 

5.    Container garden. I grow the plants that I adore in large containers up above Barnaby’s big feet and his pee line. I also place containers up on stumps and wood blocks. One of my containers won the Fine Gardening Magazines 2016 contest, proving that dog friendly design can still be visually interesting.

Fine Gardening Container Contest Winner in 2016

Fine Gardening Container Contest Winner in 2016

6.    Provide places for your dog to enjoy being a dog. Mr. Barnaby has cushions to lay on, water to sip, a high spot to overlook the garden, stumps to mark, and a grass buffet to snack on.

7.    Enjoy spending time in the garden with your dog. Mr. Barnaby and I putter in our garden daily. 


My Favorite Dog Friendly Ground Covers

·     Three-leaf Bittercress (Cardamine trifolia)

·      Barrenwort (Epimediums)

·      Creeping Raspberry (Rubus rolfei)

·      Inside-out Flower (Vancouveria hexandra)

·      Jack Frost Silver Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost') 

Mr. Barnaby ‘helps’ me feed the fish in the water feature.

Mr. Barnaby ‘helps’ me feed the fish in the water feature.

My Ten Favorite Photos From 2017

This is my fifth year participating in A Tidewater Gardener's yearly meme: My 10 Favorite Photos of the year. 2017 was a tumultuous year and I often turned to my garden for solace after reading the news. Looking through the lens of my camera helps me focus and enjoy the beauty in my garden. All of my favorite photos were taken in my garden.

January 14, 2017

First up is the tiki I discovered in my ice covered rain chain with the winter sun glowing through it. Do you see it?


May 30, 2017

A soft misty rain coated the garden in fine droplets that made even the plain Rosa Glauca blooms shine. 


June 25, 2017

Our new pond is attracting dragonflies to the garden in the largest numbers that I've ever seen. This red dragonfly let me walk right up to it to take a picture of it with my macro lens. Simply stunning.


July 31, 2017

The Asclepius fascicularis blooms, narrow leaved milkweed, looked ferocious this summer. 


July 31, 2017

I was enchanted by the large clump of Agastache 'Electric Punch' flowers that edge our front patio and all the hummingbirds and native bees that it attracted.  I took this shot trying to capture bumble bees on it and all I captured were blurry fuzzy butts leaving the shot. 


August 7, 2017

Busy as a bee. I just love the details of the delicate bee wing. Our garden hums with pollinators during the growing season.


October 2, 2017

I turned to my garden for comfort after hearing about the shooting in Las Vegas. A Pacific tree frog napped in a red zinnia flower in the vegetable garden as I weeded. Taking this picture lifted my spirits.


October 10, 2017

Another Pacific tree frog was hunting on the Jasminum humile 'Sunshine' with the Agastache 'Electric Punch' in the background. 


November 29, 2017

The glowing golden fronds on the Five Finger Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum, remind me of butterfly wings.


December 23, 2017

Our resident female Anna's Hummingbird posed for her portrait on her favorite perch, the spike winter hazel shrub, Corylopsis spicata. She's friendly with me and allows me to approach her with my camera. 


2017 was definitely the year of the frog for me in our garden. They sang whenever we turned on the fifty feet of misters in our backyard. If you twisted my arm, I'd tell you that the frog on the zinnia bloom is my favorite from this year. Which shot is your favorite? 

Don't forget to stop by and visit A Tidewater Gardener to see his favorite photos.

Snow Day

Yesterday, we woke up to around five inches of snow on the ground and just across town, they received over a foot. This is highly unusual weather for our area. My Pirate was sent home from work due to the snow for the first time in his 20+ career. We were able to enjoy a cozy snow day together. 

View of our street on Wednesday morning

View of our street on Wednesday morning

View of street tonight. I took this shot after bitching about the weather like a cranky old man with one of the Crony Brothers. 

View of street tonight. I took this shot after bitching about the weather like a cranky old man with one of the Crony Brothers. 

Tonight the temperatures are predicted to dip down in the low teens or single digits. I'm concerned about all of my new plants that I added this year. How will they do? In the vegetable garden, all the kales and cabbages look beat up and the raddichio has turned into balls of frozen slime. 

Gardening is an adventure. Losing plants is painful but part of the process. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for spring.

How is your garden doing this winter? Any plant losses or broken branches?

trellises on Wednesday morning

trellises on Wednesday morning

My Ten Favorite Photos from 2016

Happy New Year! I'm stepping forward into 2017 by participating in A Tidewater Gardener's yearly meme, for the fourth year in a row. It's a fun way to see how my photography progresses. This year, I photographed more people than plants, but all the shots in this post were captured in my home garden. 

January 4, 2016

Icy Branch

A chickadee landed on my tripod and kept me company for a few moments while I took this shot of ice melting on a Coral Bark Japanese Maple. 



May 24, 2016

Rainy Magnolia

The Star Magnolia blooms still looked beautiful on a rainy day.


June 10, 2016

Back Patio

Our back yard has become my oasis. This year, we held two open gardens to share our new projects with our garden friends.



July 22, 2016

Hanging On

On a rainy morning, I discovered this sleeping bee hanging upside down and covered in rain drops. I was impressed and amused. 

August 25, 2016

Great Hunter

A tiny crab spider lurked in an artichoke bloom. 


September 6, 2016

Rainy Day Blues

Even white Datura wrightii blooms get the blues on rainy days. 


November 1, 2016


Record rainfalls led to all different kinds of mushrooms in the garden. I managed to take this shot before Mr. Barnaby stepped on it.

November 11, 2016

Blueberry Autumn

When I added blueberries to our new front garden, I was thinking with my appetite. I was surprised by their fall beauty.



December 7, 2016

Sassy Seed Heads

The cape fuchsia seed head look like they're sticking their tongues out at me. So sassy. 


December 7, 2016

Our first frost of the season, sparkled on the Eryngium variifolium seed heads and Anigozanthos flavidus. This is my favorite shot of the year.



So, that's a wrap. Good-bye 2016. Hello 2017! I can't wait to see what the new year brings. I wish you a beautiful year filled with love, laughter, and great plants. Please don't forget to stop by A Tidewater Gardener to see all of his fabulous photos.