Archive for plants that are good for your dog

Attention Blueberry Lovers: It’s time to plan ahead!

Attention Blueberry Lovers: It’s time to plan ahead!

If you’re like me, you can’t get enough blueberries. If you are thinking, “Hey! I could grow blueberries, they’re easy,” you’d be right!

Blueberry cluster Portland Landscape Design

Purchasing a large blueberry plant means you are buying time.

So now’s the time to take a minute to plan ahead for next season’s blueberry goodness.

Spartan blueberries are my absolute favorite for flavor. In the old days (10 years ago), when my client Diane in NE Portland,  ordered a Spartan blueberry, she got a little stick with roots on the end. She is a plucky gardener, but this was very discouraging, especially when someone stepped on the poor Spartan before it was big enough to defend itself.

Making the Tradeoff: Price Versus Instant Gratification

Buying a big plant is buying time. It’s easy to buy blueberry plants that are at least 30 inches tall and wide. Using Spartan blueberries as an example, you can spend about 40 percent more  for a one-or-two-year-old plant, but you’ll get that fruity deliciousness three years sooner.

Choosing the Right Variety

From March through July, Portland’s full-service nurseries offer plenty of nice, big plants and many varieties. Try these tips for the ultimate blueberry experience:

  • Don’t rush your choice. I can’t say enough about taking your time when selecting an edible. There are so many varieties to choose from, that it’s just plain smart to take your time. You are buying more than food, more than an  ornamental plant. You are buying memories as well as pleasure at the moment of harvest. My criteria for selecting a blueberry variety: totally delicious taste, convenient harvest time, plant sizes and shapes that are right for my garden, and gorgeous fall leaf color. Are you ready to pick out your favorite blueberry variety? If not, maybe this year will be about sampling berries at farmers markets and then buying your plant in the early fall.  What fun that will be!
  • Protect your plants. You won’t be the only one wanting blueberries. Birds and your dog will steal as much fruit as they can get away with. Be sure to leave lower branches for your dog to nibble on. If you use nets, check them often, or you will find little bird corpses tangled in the netting.
  • Think about the timing of the harvest. If you are always gone in July, select varieties that ripen in August.
  •  Buy companion varieties to maximize your crop. Remember to buy two
    different varieties that ripen at the same time. They flower at the same time, and the bumble bees can cross-pollinate the bushes to give you a better crop. Bumble bees vibrate the pollen off their feet and bodies from one flower to another and that is how they cross pollinate.  It’s primarily bumble bees that cross-pollinate blueberry plants.

    Dragon Fly visits blueberry plant in Lori's garden

    Dragonfly on green blueberry cluster-another great reason to shun pesticides in your garden. Photo from my client Lori Aveling.

    Don’t use pesticides on any plants because they harm and kill the bees.  Blueberry plants don’t have many pest problems.

  • Consider the newer evergreen varieties for the front yard. For example, ‘Sunshine Blue is a variety that local edibles expert Vern Nelson and I really like. ‘Sunshine Blue’ is evergreen, so the leaves stay on the bush year round and it’s small, say 3 by 3 feet. This way, you can have edibles in the front yard without going totally  “Urban Homestead”. (Portland has many new landscapes that are  completely given over to growing edibles. It’s an exciting, fun idea but not for everyone.)

Next time: More about blueberries, specifically a chart of never-fail varieties.

5 plants that are Dog Pee Proof (or nearly so)

Favorite Dog Friendly Landscaping Plants for the NW

Burkwood's Osmanthus a dog friendly landscape plant

Burkwood Osmanthus (Osmanthus Burkwoodii)

Portland Landscape designer Carol Lindsay lists her 5 favorite dog friendly landscaping plants for landscapes with dogs, or gardens near city parks where there will be dogs marking their territory and yours as well.

Dog urine can damage your plants. New leaves will be more damaged than older leaves. While most boxwood leaves are damaged from dog pee, if the leaf is freshly unfurled (in the spring for instance), it is softer, and more susceptible to urine damage. If the leaf has hardened off (which happens in mid summer) there will be less damage. It is the nitrogen in urine and the acidic nature of the urine that burns the plants leaves.

1.  Burkwoods Osmanthus – Osmanthus Burkwoodii is a tough evergreen shrub that can be grown into a small tree  if desired. It takes sun or part sun, has fragrant flowers and can handle abuse, including dog pee.

2.  My personal favorite is Euonymus Japonica ‘Green Spires’, commonly known as the Japanese Spindle Tree although it should be called a shrub. Like the Osmanthus, the Japanese Spindle has a very hard leaf. The urine doesn’t permeate the leaf like it would on a softer evergreen leaf.

Japanese Spindle Tree dog friendly landscaping plant

Japanese Spindle Shrub – Green Spires

3.  Nandina, another favorite tough guy plant can be damaged by large volume dog pee but the stem with burned leaves can be removed and it will grow a new cane. There are many Nandina domestica doing well planted directly off a city sidewalk.

Sword Fern dog friendly landscaping plant.

Native Sword Fern (Polystichum Munitum)

4. The NW native sword fern can handle many different sun and soil situations. Most native plants are very tricky but our Sword Fern, Polystichum Munitum is one tough plant and can survive dog pee on its leaves.

Japanese Aralia dog friendly landscaping plant

Fatsia Japonica ‘Spiders Web’ – Japanese Aralia

5.   Fatsia Japonica – Japanese Aralia grows into a small evergreen tree or can be pruned to stay a shrub. I love to use this plant in my shady back yards with dogs. Protect it from your dogs for the first year with a temporary wire fence or put a big rock in front of it. Once established it will withstand plenty of dog pee and a fair amount of dog romping.

Tip – Hosing down a plant can lessen or eliminate the damage if done soon after the “application” of the dog pee. This is fine for your own back yard but not practical for plants along city sidewalks.

Consider volume.  A pal of mine, has a Walker Hound who is 4′ tall and drinks at least 2 gallons of water of day.  My dog Barley, weighs about 30 lbs and drinks a quart of water a day if it’s kinda hot. Is it obvious that the size of the dog and amount of urine is going to make a difference? Yes!  A plant that can handle near daily cocker spaniel pee will not do so with a large dog.

Read more about Dog Friendly Landscapes.

Carol Lindsay loves to create fast and affordable landscape designs that consider the whole family and that includes the dog of course.


Dog Friendly Landscape Designer-Design in a Day

Landscaping for The Family Includes Dogs

Looking backward and forward on a 20 year career as a landscape designer, there are many benefits to my work that I love. It is satisfying to help my clients have something they want and then have it be 200 times more wonderful than they could have imagined. That makes me very happy but there is another benefit and it is usually waiting at the client’s front door to greet me.

Landscaping for Dogs & client Border Collie Freesia

Carol plays with Freesia, a side benefit to her landscape design work is playing with clients dogs.

The family dog is right there from the minute I step into a home and meet my human clients. In the same way as my human clients have needs and specifications, the family dog, depending on the breed and temperament, has needs as well. It is important to design for the whole family.

Is your dog like Charlie and Maggie…..neighbor dog buddies who pass toys through the fence (which is so adorable)!! A lab and border collie entertain each other all day long while their owners are at work. When the fence is replaced, accommodations will be made to keep the harmony happening. Regarding fences: Do you have a dog who needs to have a peep hole in the fence so he won’t bark so much or just the opposite? Is she a perimeter dog? Perimeter dogs need to patrol the fence line. It’s not the place for plants that can’t handle a little romping Rufus. Rottweilers need to survey the adjoining properties and will guard the neighbor’s home too. One Rotty I know likes to be up high so he can see who is coming or going. We designed a couple of boulders (and plantings to creep between the boulders so it looks good) that he uses to get up on his very large dog house roof. It’s not good for dogs joints to repeatedly jump down from a high place so he clambers up and down the boulders instead of jumping onto the concrete area near his dog house. When you come into the driveway you are eye to eye with him. (Mojo McAdam).   When you realize that Rottys used to guard and protect against lions,  you can understand why they need to see into the distance. You need some advance warning if a lion is coming to visit you.

We all talk about low maintenance but the changes we made to the landscape for Jackie and Kurt in Tigard, have saved hours and hours of grooming and large dog bathing. All 3 of their Newfoundlands are clean and free of mud. 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 their landscape design, their dogs could not come into the house, not even the family room because they were always muddy. I was hired to design a new entry and garden and to garden coach with Jackie in her existing mature garden.  I discovered that Newfoundlands with their incredibly thick bear like fur could bring in so much mud so fast, it was stunning. It’s my job to solve landscape problems for the entire family so I slipped in some very practical design work for the back yard too. Kurt and Jackie used my special cedar chips to create a mud free woodland “floor” in their Douglas Fir forest. It’s beautiful now, the dogs are clean and poop is easy to scoop even in the winter and if you squint……well it just kind of looks like fir cones under the trees.

Jack Hofmann is pictured here with his personal water fountain. Jack is more of a one person dog so I can’t say he ever fawned over me, much as I would have liked that. He remembers me politely when I come to check on his owners garden but when the water feature was installed, he posed for me and gave me a few minutes of his attention. He knows where his new toy came from.

Landscape Design in a Day creates an echo chamber water feature or is it a dog landscaping water bowl?

Jack Hofmann and his new water bowl

Here is the story of the client who had two yellow lab puppies………I say puppies because they were a year old and since they are Labs (and don’t mature in their sweet heads ’til they are 3 years old) I call them puppies. My clients purchased their plants for the backyard design, and planted over the weekend. Monday evening, when they came home, every plant was neatly popped up out of the ground and laying in the hot summer sun. They re-purchased all their plants and re-planted the next weekend with their dogs temporarily banished to the garage………many breeds of dogs seem to think they are helping in this way…… their humans something to do when they get home from work. We love dogs, even dogs who trashed $1,000.00 worth of plants. This love of dogs is why the British expeditions to the North Pole in the 1800’s didn’t fare so well as the Russians. The English explorers could not view their sled dogs as a potential meal. I too would have curled up in my tent with my sled dog and shared the last morsel of food. In two weeks see my blog for stories about my clients, their dogs and the new synthetic turf.

landscaping for dogs - Barley Lindsay July 2011

Barley Lindsay cools off his belly in the early evening  on the patio

A rottweiler's habits taken into account in landscaping for dogs.

Mojo McAdam, a rottweiler may descend from dogs who guarded against lions but this is easy street.

Carol's Mercer Island clients puppy Remington Johnson habits were part of landscaping for dogs.

Cocker Spaniels are dogs who appreciate toys-photo of Remington Johnson by Missy Johnson

Easy Edible Plants: Blueberries

Blueberries very easy edible plants. Blueberries are great for your brain. Did I mention easy? Once your plants are established, the trick to growing blueberries is proper pruning. We want to encourage new growth and to do that, we have to remove some of the old growth. This is a great thing to do together on a garden coach appointment. Do mulch around your plant periodically with coffee grounds to increase acidity in the soil (any time of year works for this – you could do it up to ten times per year! ) Don’t use peat moss even if other experts say to do it.