One of the most wonderful things for me about our new home is the beautiful perennial flower gardens the previous owner had put in. “All of the beauty with none of the work!” I thought. For the first season anyway, I could mostly sit back and just enjoy what came up, pull a few weeds, and that should be it. That is certainly the case with this gorgeous garden she put in an old barn foundation.
All I’ve done there is add my own little decorative elements – bird feeders, bird bath, flags, garden statues and lights; and of course my pet memory trellis from our old house. I also picked up a few annual flowers to put in planters and outside of Sam’s window.
What I didn’t anticipate was how much more there was around the house, which was good and bad. Our home is surrounded by perennial flowers and bushes; and is really a gardener’s paradise.
It was all wonderful until we fenced in the dog yard and I realized how much of all of that they could get into. At our old house, I had moved all of my gardens outside of the dog yard, when we got our digging golden retrievers. However, I wasn’t concerned with the possible digging, peeing on, trampling over, and lying on top of flowers.
My concern was the safety of the dogs, especially Luke and Sheba, who sometimes eat vegetation. Mostly they chew on grass, but how could I take the chance of them chewing on something that could potentially make them sick, or even worse, be fatal?
That’s when the real work began. I didn’t know what many of the flowers, plants, and bushes were in our yard; much less whether or not they were safe for our dogs. I’ve been a gardener my whole life but I am amazed by the number of flowers that I didn’t have a clue about. Even if I recognized them, or had them at our old house, I didn’t always know about their safety for dogs because my dogs never had access to any more than a few annual flowers in pots on our deck (that I always made sure were safe).
Finding answers wasn’t easy either. First step: identify the flowers or plants. I had to use a combination of internet research, posting photos on Facebook and asking friends, iPhone apps, and our local garden center. I have The National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Wildflowers*, and my realtor also offered to email photos to the previous owners to see if she could help. The combination of all of those things got me some of the answers I needed.
Second step: try to find out if they are toxic to dogs. It’s easy to find lists of poisonous plants for dogs and cats (thank goodness Sam is an indoor cat or that would have complicated things even further!). The ASPCA has an extensive list of toxic and non toxic plants for both dogs and cats. The problem I ran into the most was that many of the flowers I was able to identify weren’t on the list of toxic or non-toxic. And sometimes the answers were conflicting if I researched more than one place.
Once all that was done, I had to do physical digging – digging up those I found that were toxic and either moving them outside of the dog yard or disposing of them. If I was unsure and couldn’t find the answer, up they came. There was one group where there were so many that I had to fence off an area, because digging it up was just too much work, plus they were beautiful flowers and I wanted to enjoy them! The original fence I put up didn’t keep Cricket out, so I had to get a new fence. Getting one tall enough so Luke couldn’t jump it, and with no areas wide enough for Cricket to squeeze through was not easy (or cheap).
Before we could do that, this had to happen:
I was able to identify this as a hydrangea bush and discovered it is toxic to dogs. It hung over the temporary fence I had put around that area, and since all parts of the bush are toxic, that concerned me. It had to go. We did that a few weeks ago and so far it is doing well in its new location!
We are dedicated to our dogs; but I think the Dadz was OK with this excuse to play with his new tractor anyway.
Because my research turned up so much information, and I wanted to share some of what I found with my readers, I’ve decided to make a series for this subject. Along the way, just for fun, I’m going to share some photos of flowers/bushes and see if you can identify them and whether they are toxic or non-toxic. On second thought, we’ll even have a prize for the person who can get the most right! Stay tuned for that.
In the meantime, if you’re planning a garden or already have one you’re not sure about the safety of, here’s a good place to start: Pet Poison Helpline: Top 10 Plants Poisonous to Pets. It’s worth noting that the toxicity of Sago Palms is so bad that I’ve even seen stories about it on the news, and some garden centers are starting to put warning labels on them. I actually wish they’d do that for all plants. They already have tags that show best conditions for plants; i.e. sun or shade, how to plant etc., and even if the deer like them or not. Why not a little symbol with a cat or dog with a line through it if it’s not safe for them?
In subsequent posts I’ll share more about what you need to know about the toxicity of plants, have our little quiz and share the results, and also let you know some of the flowers and other plants I found that were safe or not safe.
Visit Part 2 and take our fun quiz, and then Part 3 to get the answers. After that, visit Part 4 to learn more about our dog friendly herb garden.
*Affiliate link. If you order through this link we will receive a small commission. Thank you!
Miss Molly Says says
We LOVED your post! Just wanted you to know that Miss Molly and the pack has picked it as a feature in the Pet Bloggers Showcase this week! Congrats!
Barbara Rivers says
You have your hands full! It’s a lovely garden though – I especially love your bleeding hearts in the second picture, those have always been a flower favorite of mine. I’d love to have more flowers & plants in the yard, but I just don’t have the time for gardening these days. Once I will, I’ll definitely research which plants/flowers are safe for my pups.
I love the bleeding hearts too. I had some at our old house, but the bushes never got as big as this one is!
Gardening can definitely take a lot of time. My flower gardens at the other house really got away from me, the weeds took over. I hope I can keep up with these! I plan to start a veggie garden next year too.
Wow. You did a great job inventorying your garden. Would you like to come do mine? Luckily mine don’t show much interest in the plants especially now that they are older.
Thank you for joining in the Pet Blogger Showcase!
Beth Patterson says
We had a puppy chew on a hydrangea flower and stem. I thought they were toxic and took it away from her. A few hours later on our trip home, she started foaming at the mouth. I called an emergency vet from a rest area (no cell phones back then!) and he said to bring her in immediately. He had serious doubts if he could save her, but luckily he did. It was a very frightening experience. My dogs don’t spend time unsupervised in their yard, but I am very careful what we plant out there.
Your yard looks nice and I know you enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing they aren’t getting into the toxic plants.
That must have been so scary, Beth! I’m glad it turned out OK, and even more glad now that we got that bush out of there!
Kim Brooks says
Boy that was a lot of work. When I had a garden in the past I kept it in the front yard and the dogs had the backyard – all grass and a Forsythia bush and an Althea bush which eventually came out because it just got too big and ugly and was messy when the flowers died and fell off into the yard. Now the only flowers I have are in a large pot in the front yard. I hope that changes once I move. I’m afraid I would have to do all the same research as you did – I know very few flowers. Luckily, Lady Shasta, my 9 yo Beagle, has not shown any interest ever in flowers.
I’m thinking beagles aren’t really plant eaters! I never had to worry about our beagle Kobi either.
I love forsythias! They are dog safe so I would definitely consider one for the yard. We had two at our other house and I miss them.
Kim Brooks says
As far as Beagles NOT being plant eaters – that is probably true for the most part. HOWEVER, if that Beagle is also a puppy or at least under say, 8 months then that may not be true. Several years ago, I did have one bush (not sure of the real name – I always knew it as a Burning Bush) that I had recently planted and had a Beagle puppy at the same time. But then I also had a senior YorkiPoo at the same time so maybe the two dogs were competing to see who could do the most damage to the bush – I finally moved that bush to the front yard and what once was almost nothing but bare branches not more than a foot tall – is now close to five feet and is abundant with leaves that do turn a sort of burning-red color in the fall. The dogs did not suffer any ill-effects of their bush-demolition.
Christine Caplan says
What a great post – I don’t think a lot of people realize that some plants even the ones that look harmless are actually toxic. I looked at the ASPCA list too and ended up having to remove a huge rhododendron as our beagle buried bones under it and was ingesting the roots which are toxic. What are the pretty white flowers in that pic that are toxic?
Those white flowers gave me a challenge! It took me a while to figure out what they were. They are called Carolina Anemones. They like to spread so I have to keep an eye on them to be sure they stay in their fenced in area! 🙂
We also have a rhododendron here but luckily it is out front safe from the dogs.
Elizabeth Copeland says
I’ve contemplated putting garden boxes in my front yard, well off of the road. I wouldn’t have to fence them in like I do the garden boxes in the back yard. Another concern of mine is “native” plants that are actually quite poisonous, so I watch my yard for those as well.
That’s been one of my challenges too, not knowing if the plants that are there are native or something that was planted. If I knew it would at least make it easier to find out what they were.
Miss Molly Says says
What an amazing post and so very true! In the blink of an eye, a dog can get a hold of the wrong plant or flower and then a true emergency! Love that you are bringing awareness for it!
It was something I was oblivious to when we had our first dogs. We had poisonous plants in their yard then and I didn’t even know it. Luckily those dogs were more diggers than plant eaters. I’m sure there are many more people out there that are completely unaware.
We have hydrangea bushes in the yard but Bentley never ate them. Our problem is that he liked to back up to bushes and squat on them to do his business. We had to fence off any small shrub that wouldn’t be able to withstand his bathroom breaks!
LOL. I swear, the dogs just love peeing on the little flowers that Cricket is seen walking through. But somehow it doesn’t bother them!
2 Brown Dawgs says
Flower gardens are nice but as you found out a lot of work especially when you have to identify poisonous plants. I knew of a dog once that chewed on a yew and died. We have bare bones plants here. But yours really is pretty.
I think vegetable gardens are probably easier – more clear and easy to find answers. But then again, Luke might eat all the vegetables! 🙂
Jodi Stone says
It’s a great series Jan! I never know what is safe and what is not and with Delilah being such a grazer….well I always tell her one day she will eat something and I won’t be able to fix it. (well I don’t actually say it like that, come on, you know me, but I was trying to be polite for your readers.) 😉
I’d like to know what plants are safe for dogs that also repel bugs. 🙂
I might have an idea on that last part! Marigolds have always been one of my favorite annuals, and I think I read somewhere that they repel bugs. I’m not sure on their safety for dogs though, but I’m going to have to look into that!
Bev Green says
Beautiful Jan and hard work..of course trying to garden with pets is a constant source of angst..i believe nurseries should clearly label plants that are toxic to dogs and cats..with the brown patches on our lawn we use dog rocks in the pups water..well still in Docs water ..it is harmless and stops browning.I guess we try to get so many things together that we have to really research don’t we! Looking great though my sweet 🙂 Hugs Bev zz
Thank you, Bev! It is hard work, all the research and keeping things safe….but we know the pets are all worth it, don’t we? xxoo
Bev Green says
They sure are 🙂 xxx
Little Binky and Granny says
That’s a lot of work you have in your lovely garden. We like the change surounded with the fence. So good to see that you relocated the tree, instead of throwing it away. We love that, Jan! I only eat grass and Nip, I ignore everything else. Granny says that’s my instinct 😀 Pawkisses for a Happy Day 🙂 <3
Thank you so much! Heck, I have a hard time pulling a weed that has a pretty flower, there was no way I could throw away a whole bush! 🙂
Our cat Sam will eat any plant in sight (I had to give up on houseplants)! Catnip is all she allowed, she can’t even keep the cat grass down. 🙂
Sand Spring Chesapeakes says
Such beautiful gardens. I wish mine looked like that! lol
The gardens at our old house were getting pretty overgrown and the weeds had gotten away from me. Hopefully that doesn’t happen here! LOL
Gardening with dogs would be tough. Luckily, Mom isn’t a gardener. Our few potted flowers for the summer are it. The shrubs we have are not of any interest to us dogs either.
Jackie Bouchard says
Wow, that was a project and a half! I confess I was pretty lazy about that when we moved into our new house. Angel Abby and Rita aren’t plant eaters – luckily – so I never checked out what’s in our yard. it’s a good thing they don’t eat plants too – we live on such a STEEP slope, I don’t think I could get down there to pull stuff out.
Gorgeous yard! Hope the hubs has fun with his tractor! Nice one!
I can barely get the hubs off that darn tractor, so he is definitely having fun with it!
If I just had Cricket, who rarely eats plants (grass only when she has an upset tummy), I probably wouldn’t worry so much. Well, maybe, worrying is a full time occupation for me so who knows! 🙂
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
You’ve done a great job with all your gardens! AND a great job with the research as well. Shadow usually only eats grass, and then only when she’s either hungry or not feeling well (or both). Ducky? Ha! She’s my see-food diet (see food? eat it!) dog, even if what she sees isn’t food. Strangely enough, she has never bothered the day lilies or daffodils. Neither have Shadow or Callie. Maybe they all think/thought the flowers were too pretty to eat?
It’s so cute when you see them actually smelling the flowers, so maybe they do appreciate them! Day lilies are safe for dogs (but not cats), and with daffodils it’s only the bulbs that are the issue so as long as they’re not diggers they’re safe!
I don’t think I’ve ever asked or read it, but do you know what breed or breeds Ducky is? It just seems like Labs are the see-food eaters so I wondered if she had Lab in her!
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
According to the shelter’s adoption paperwork, Ducky is part Cardigan Welsh Corgi – like Taryn’s boys – and part (black) Lab. I’ve never bothered with a DNA test because they’re just too expensive for me to justify.
I knew it! 🙂 We did the DNA test for Luke just for fun. Though they got the Lab part right (we knew his Mom was part Lab), we didn’t hold much stock in the rest of it.
Two French Bulldogs says
You are obviously a professional gardener. Did you taste the dirt yet?
Lily & Edward
Oh no, is that a requirement? 🙂
Pam and Sam says
It’s a nice surprise to find an “already planted” garden in a new house – someone who was totally into gardening made some great additions to your new yard for sure but then there’s the toxicity issue – – – something that you absolutely have to deal with and you did! Bravo! Sure do have some beautiful things there though – HUGE hostas obviously very happy where they are planted………
Hugs, Pam (and Sam)
Thank you, Pam and Sam! I can’t believe the number of hostas here….it’s crazy! At our old house, the deer ate all my hostas, but here they don’t bother them (and I know there are deer around). Not sure why!
easy rider says
Easy fortunately eats no longer plants… he was a vegetarian as a puppy but now he is 100% carnivore. We had to remove a lot of plants and I went to a garden store where I picked new ones… after I had a wonderful collection I asked the garden guy which one are safe for dogs and I left the store with two plants on board LOL
LOL….I’m not surprised! It’s certainly much easier if you just have dogs that don’t eat plants at all! Cricket is the only one I wouldn’t worry about…she’s only seen eating grass when she has an upset tummy. Luke definitely still thinks he’s a vegetarian!