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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - June 04, 2010

From: Denton, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Planting, Shrubs
Title: Puppy-proof plants in Denton TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I recently got a couple of puppies that stay outside in a fenced off area of the backyard. Of course, they love trying to dig under the fence and get out. I placed cement landscaping border stones along the base of the fence to prevent the digging but I would like something more attractive such as some plants or grasses. The area is on the west side of the house and the fence is 6'-7' tall. It gets direct and full mid-day sun for about 5-6 hours. The soil is almost always dry except when the dogs knock over their water. If there is any hope of getting the dogs to leave a plant alone long enough for it to get established I'd like to get something planted along the fence and possibly something to provide the dogs with shade during the afternoon hours. I work at a nursery that deals mostly with heat and drought tolerant perennials so I have access to lots of candidates. But I'm not sure if there's anything the dogs won't just dig up and chew to bits. They have destroyed many plants I had sitting out in the backyard in pots still when they got out before. I figured I could lay some of the landscaping bricks around the base of the plants to prevent any initial digging then remove them after a couple of weeks.I was thinking tall grasses and anything that may deter ticks an fleas(I hear Artemesia 'Powis Castle' does this, though it isn't native). Thanks ahead of time for any help you can provide in selecting the ideal plants for this purpose.

ANSWER:

This particular Mr. Smarty Plants is not a dog owner, but we have observed that puppies + plants = puppies. And not only will it be expensive to keep them in plant chew toys, but many plants have poisonous parts. Puppies are not too discriminating, apparently, and you don't want sick puppies in your side yard. We are trying to visualize the layout of your property, so we're not sure what will work, but our suggestion is that you continue to place some sort of barrier to keep the puppies from digging their way out, but do the planting outside of the fence. Plants on the west side of the dog run will provide shade in the middle and late day, whether there is a fence between them or not. Your best bet there is shrubs, as they will attain a height for some shade fairly soon, as opposed to more slow-growing trees, but will not get so large that they are unmanageable (as opposed to the puppies.) Since, as you say, you work for a nursery, you probably don't need plant suggestions or even plant care from us, and can make selections that have no poisonous parts, like berries, that might grow through the fence (assuming it's a chain link fence).

 

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