Spring is half-way through, so I thought it was about time for a gardening blog.
Since I can’t live in the middle of a forest in splendid isolation, I stick to close focus, on a very small garden. We live in the centre of a city that prides itself on its low level, low density habitat, where behind nearly every house wall lies a secret garden. Most of the gardens are tiny. In fact, in a previous existence I wouldn’t have classified them as gardens at all. We are lucky enough to have found a house with what passes for a ‘vast’ garden. In reality it is rather smaller than our last garden that I already considered pretty minimalist.
Among our other blessings, or self-inflicted curses, is a dog. Sort of. There was a fork in the evolutionary scale when the big mammals decided either, to eat grass and trade paws for hooves, to become herbivores, or to keep the meat-eating habit and the paws, and become honest to goodness carnivores. Finbar is a product of indecision at this parting of the ways: a dog that cannot quite resign himself to not being a horse.
A big dog that thinks he is a steeple chaser, in a small garden, is not good news for delicate plants. Especially as when he isn’t chasing an imaginary cat round the place, he’s grazing on anything green and leafy. When Finbar arrived, the path that runs all around the garden became a race track, and the flower beds in the middle became shortcuts to the finishing line. Last year I decided to bow to the inevitable, and rethink the whole concept of the town garden.
Looking at the result this spring, I thought our solutions might be useful to other gardeners faced with the same adverse forces of nature.
First, forget the lawn. You don’t need one, that’s what parks are for. In our climate, with very hot, dry summers, a determined dog will turn it into the Gobi Desert for you in next to no time. For sitting or lounging outside, build a deck. You won’t notice the difference. It also gives you somewhere to put the plants you have rescued from the dog track.
Next, forget about scattering seeds to fill in the gaps between large clumps of perennials. What the hooves don’t destroy, dog urine will. If, like me, you can’t resist planting seeds and watching them grow, plant them in pots with the other flowers, or underneath the rose bushes.
Put as much as you can in pots, at least until they get big enough to look after themselves. Plant rosebushes strategically, to protect the more delicate plants behind. Use pots as a barrier, and make sure you don’t leave large enough gaps for dog to try pushing his way round.
Use all sorts of containers to give variety, and kid yourself you filled your flowerbeds with pots out of choice.
Old garden furniture, and specially designed plant racks help keep plants out of harms way.
So far, so good. We are only just getting into the growing season, but I will update at the end of the spring with news of casualties.