Monday, May 26, 2008

Gardens and Dogs

Gardens and dogs don't go together naturally. Not only do dogs dig, they also make trails, and they trample and break plants. However, I love both, dogs and gardens, so I (with the sturdy help of my mate) find a way for these to coexist and thrive. We have subdivided the acreage around our house with a makeshift system of fences and gates to keep the flowers up and the dogs out.

It would require a great deal of space to describe all these fences, gates, their locations, functions, and the directions they channel traffic, so I won't try. I will explain, however, that my own garden, that small, variable, personal plot where I indulge my whims and overwrought sympathies on this species or that, is carved out of a larger lawn we call 'the dogyard.' But even this 'dogyard', the last garden-free sanctuary of our 3 (soon to be 4 again) dogs, is not immune to my gardening urges.

Here, though, in the wild acre of Canis, I have to limit myself to the hardiest plants because they must not only stand up to the rough treatment of the dogs, they must survive without additional water and only occasional care from me.
Within the dogyard, there is a sturdy structure like an arbor, but not so delicate a thing as that word implies. It looks something like the symbol pi on steroids. On this 'arbor' (built by aforementioned sturdy aide), we grow a wistaria that nothing can kill, not even the late frost of last year, which we thought was truly the end of it at the time. (I'll have to blog about my mom's wistaria nightmares some other day.) We also have a grapevine tucked against the fence, another plant that refuses to die. I'm not sure one can kill a grapevine. There's a bamboo, which should be spreading, but the dogs and the lawn mower have managed to keep it in place, much to my chagrin. There's a cypress tree, which only survived its first few years because I surrounded the ground about with wire to keep the dogs from digging it up, although that was hell on the lawn mower if the driver forgot it was there. (There's a tale with this magnificent cypress, but I'll save it for another day.) There are two rose bushes, not the domestic, big-thorned kind or even the weedy type that grow to the size of cottages. These two, one yellow and one red, are the type with tiny thorns sprouting evenly and thickly like poisoned hairs along their stems. As the cottage type do, they sprout babies from spreading roots and expand that way. These two always stand within a ring of unmowed grass and weeds because one doesn't dare reach in with a hand due to the thorns and even on the lawnmower you don't want to get too close because the thorns rip at your pants or, worse, your bare legs. They are stupendous, however, when they bloom, and require absolutely no care so they're perfect for the dogyard. Even the dogs avoid them.

Last, and the reason I even started this post, I have a cold frame (also constructed by reliable mate) in the dogyard. (The grapevine is to the left of the frame. It died back last winter, but is coming up again from lower on the stem.) Notice the wire over the top of the cold frame box. It serves two functions. First, it's the support for different covers, plastic or garden fabric. Second, it keeps the dogs from digging out the frame. When we had a large and boisterous puppy last year, the large wire wasn't enough to keep the rascal out, and I had to cover the cold frame with the smaller mesh, leaning against the fence in this photo. In the autumn, I plant lettuce in the frame, and it usually stands empty in the summer. This spring, though, I got creative and decided to fill it with bright marigolds. These are still babies, but they have been in long enough to root themselves and flower. I expect them to fill and grow out the top of the box by the end of the summer, stamping a yellow-gold square on the dogyard.
(...and all this talk because I wanted to post a pic of my marigolds in the cold frame.)

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