Thursday, 1 May 2014

Right plant, right place

What to put where?
I love it, but it's got to go ...
It's often a problem, needing thought about whether plants you'd like to have in the garden will thrive in the soil and location you have available. Not just that, but thinking about the size it will be.  Like puppies, some can have the habit of growing and growing, and in a few years time that cute and attractive little shrub you fell in love with at the garden centre might turn into a huge space-hogging triffid by the time it has attained its full growth. This Ceanothus is about to become a casualty - sadly, because I love the incredibly intense blue clouds of flowers, and the bees adore it. On sunny days it hums with life. But once it has finished flowering, it will have to go - entirely my own fault, as I bought one which grew too big for the area I had earmarked for it, and it's now impossible to mow beneath it, and the branches are in danger of drooping into the pond. 

If you own a dog, you need to do a bit more research still, to ensure that it's not going to cause problems for your pet. If your dog likes to nibble, then toxic plants definitely need to be avoided. Even if you haven't actually spotted your dog sampling garden plants, many do graze while out on walks, so don't rule out the possibility that the habit might one day be extended to the garden as well. And if your dog enjoys hedgerowing, having learned to pick his own blackberries while out on walks, you may also need to be careful about any plants in your garden which bear berries that he may help himself to, but which aren't necessarily going to be good for him. 
Although many people talk about dogs 'self medicating' by picking out herbs and plants and grazing on them, I'm afraid I just don't subscribe to this idea. How are they supposed to acquire the knowledge as to what plants are good for them? How do they know which ones are toxic? No dog would ever suffer the effects of poisoning if they were able to distinguish between safe edibles and dangerous ones. Most are governed by a combination of curiosity and greed, and will taste things through a spirit of experimentation rather than because it is driven by a nutritional or medicinal need for a specific plant. Offer a dog a grape and it is likely that it will eat it - even though it is toxic. Many years ago, I used to give mine the occasional one as  a treat, before the potential danger was publicised, and they were never, ever refused. While I'm happy to provide a selection of herbs and to leave a few patches of long grass for them to snack, on, I'm not convinced that they are doing anything other than that - snacking.  Angel especially, will try anything she can put in her mouth: I found her delicately picking off viola blooms the other day. Hence the desirability of dog-friendly plants in the garden!      
Herb basket out of reach by the
kitchen door

Archie and Angel catching up on some
sunbathing while I work in the garden.
Enjoy the Bank Holiday!

Finally ... 
Don't miss the opportunity to snap up a copy of Dog Friendly Gardening, signed by actor Anthony Head, who also wrote the foreword. You'll remember him as one of the stars of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Merlin amongst many other things! Find out more by visiting the iheartwhippets charity auction HERE

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