Gardening: Barking up the right tree with a dog-friendly garden

Paul Hervey-Brookes with his three dogs
Paul Hervey-Brookes with his three dogs

Award-winning garden designer Paul Hervey-Brookes has three dogs - two Spaniels, Honey and Arthur and a Japanese Chin called Nina - none of whom have yet trashed his beautiful garden in the Cotswolds.

But then Hervey-Brookes is confident that you can easily share your space with your pooches without having them dig up the lawn or eat your prized flowers.

His show garden, A Dog’s Life for this year’s Hampton Court Flower Show should give owners food for thought.

Features include sniffer tracks weaving through the herbaceous borders for dogs to forage and sniff out treats, a woodland area which incorporates a ramp over a raised wall for agility, while leaf litter areas within the planting allows dogs to dig and scratch.

“Arthur is a bit more boisterous than the other two and likes to run around and run through things, which is what gave us the idea of making these little weaving paths,” Hervey-Brookes explains.

“The damage that was happening was accidental, because of his excitement, so we looked at how we could accommodate that in a way that keeps the garden looking attractive, not ruined.”

Honey likes rolling around in the gravel or on grass, while Nina enjoys foraging for little chews and treats which her master leaves hidden for her to find in the garden.

“She’d find them and chew and have a little sleep, just to help calm her down. We used a lot of planting in the garden which has that calming quality, like lavender, so that going out for a walk became much more of a place where they run and bound.

Going into the garden is much more gentle exercise. There’s a bit of training there.”

His dogs have been trained to do their business at a particular point on a gravel path, which makes it easier to clean up.

Amateur gardeners could make raised beds incorporating tunnels under them, so their dogs have things to run through.

“As long as that inquisitive characteristic is being channelled, the chances are they’re not going to get bored and just dig in one place.

“Dogs don’t destructively dig things up just for the sake of it. If a foliage is scented, they might rub up against it or have a little nibble, but nine times out of 10 that’s as far as it goes.

“It’s about thinking sensibly. If you’ve got alliums which are a bit fragile, don’t plant them right at the front of the border, let them grow through something like a woody shrub, so there’s less risk of damage.”

Retain a good structural backbone of shrubs, which will keep the garden looking neat all year round, he advises.

“Use robust, hard-working perennials which are going to have a long season of interest and don’t mind taking the odd knock.

There’s no point using very delicate plants which your pet might damage because you’re just going to get cross with the dog.

“We plant agastache because it’s self-supporting, with robust foliage and a lot of flower for a long season, monarda and alchemilla, as opposed to using things like delicate aquilegia which won’t stand up to a garden being used.”

Avoid anything poisonous - a list from The Dogs Trust (www.dogstrust.org.uk) is available online - like foxglove, holly (the berries are poisonous), and achillea (the foliage is poisonous to dogs).