What are your options when your family has one or more very active, large dogs that “need to REALLY PLAY in the yard, preferably unobstructed”? Be happy. You’re thinking ahead, acknowledging a design constraint that can reduce future frustration with dog/landscape investment conflicts. Strategic design choices can allow a fur-baby family to enjoy an eco-landscape design for years to come.
FOCUS ON EDGES – Focus landscape elements along the outside edges only of fences, foundations, or paved spaces. Strategically planting sturdy/aggressive natives like Canada Anemone and Hay Scented Fern with mown, lawn sides can screen the bottom of fences, that often are weedy, from window or patio views. They can also help to soften tall or chain-link fences and screen the inevitable and predictable “paths” that dogs create at fences where strangers will pass.
AVOID CROSSING LIKELY PATHS OF TRAVEL – Even then, avoid edges at all paths of travel, e.g. outside the edge of a patio in front of a doorway.
CHOOSE STURDY NATIVES – In this design, the lovely Red and Black Chokeberries are planted strategically along the fence with Black Chokeberry at the higher elevations and Red Chokeberry at the lower elevations along the slope/moisture gradient. The very resilient Blue False Indigo, flowering perennial sits at the outside corner of this perimeter planting bed, offset from the yard’s gate. Masses of Virginia Rose and American Witchhazel along the opposite fence will create linear ‘ribbons’ of colorful hedges.
DIVERSIFY & MASS PLANT CHOICES – Having to inevitably replace one of seven identical plants in a row feels more visually disruptive than replacing one in a group of three near another grouping of five different plants.
PROVIDE SHADE: We all need shade in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5b’s HOT summers. This is especially true for dogs as they often have less control over whether they are inside or outside during the day. Three, soon-to-be gorgeous, Scarlet or Red Oak are nestled between massed shrubs in the yard’s proposed, perimeter plantings. Oaks are native ‘Powerhouse Plants’ for birds, pollinators and other wildlife that also will grant color, texture, habitat as well as shade for decades to come.
So many lovely native plant textures and plants can soften the hard edges of fences as well as allow for even large dogs to play without the loud, old “Get out of there!” admonishments. Remember those call-outs from your own childhood like me? Take an alternative approach for more peace, joy, ecological health, and beauty in your backyard.