Old dogs and children, and watermelon wine (Tom T Hall). I cannot vouch for the watermelon wine, though imagine it would be a very pretty colour and very lethal to taste. However, I am well placed on old dogs and children and feel they can most certainly help us use our gardens well. I think both should be considered when designing your living spaces in a garden.
If you do not have an old dog, you need not wait until it ages to use my dog-in-garden- theory. A young dog will be equally as beneficial and when combined with children, powerfully so. Perhaps not quite as subtle though? The same for children; if there are none handy, just have some friends with children over for lunch, you need not invest in them simply to benefit from this gardening wisdom.
Most of us like to use our gardens as additional living spaces and there is nothing more reliable than an old dog to find the most liveable and best aspects in a garden, winter, or summer. Simply look out the window on a cold winter’s morning: where the old dog is lying is where you should sit for morning coffee, the same for afternoon smoko. This system is infallible unless your old dog can recline under the house on a hot afternoon, which may result in cramped seating conditions and unwelcome banged heads.
A couple of garden chairs are readily whisked around from morning to afternoon, or you may invest in a full garden setting situated for the time of day you spend most in the garden; perhaps evening drinks with the Old Dog? There is one thing for sure though, no matter how splendid the vista, you will not sit there if it is too cold, too hot, too windy, or too sunny; nor will your old dog.
The same theory extrapolated applies to children and younger dogs, particularly when working in tandem. Children love playing in a garden, as do young dogs. Believe me, despite your best efforts with artfully laid out paths of various beautiful surfaces, unless they lead onwards in a practical manner, they will not be used. Children, especially when being gleefully chased by young dogs, will find the quickest and most logical paths to tear around on. In particular, if you are considering some sneak tracks through larger garden beds, observe without judgement the tracks children and young dogs make whist enjoying your garden to the fullest, and place your little paths and trackways accordingly. Otherwise, you will be fighting a losing battle and will end up with a duplication of pathways, trodden down beds and cut corners. As it has been a long time since I have torn around the garden with the dogs without a snake being involved, I am convinced this is the best gauge for success.
The garden here is slowly morphing into its autumnal glow, every day a little more colour emerges to enjoy this gentle, quiet time of year. The grasses are all in full seed, waving and nodding in a coolish breeze this morning. My one and only cotoneaster is still not looking like it will ever berry-up; I long for autumn berries to pick for vases and branches full to fill the house; however year after year pass by with berry little to show alas. The Chinese Elms are flowering here and picking well for vases though, if you are looking for a filler and dreaming of berries like me. Or look again to our old favourite Crepe Myrtles. The seed pods might just fill the void; not colourful but still sculptural enough to give the nod to winter.
The ornamental grape vines are poised to blaze away, as is the Virginia Creeper, both so reliable with our marginal seasonal change: hot, then cold, then hot. The Crepe Myrtles and White Cedar are hailing in the autumn as well, though the Chinese tallowood is still clinging to its summer green, not for long I feel. I have not seen the horses for a week or so but imagine with the shortening days they too will be changing their coats, losing the summer sleekness for a woolly winter look.
Of course, the Chrysanthemums are just flowering, we have a little button one here which I impatiently pick in bud, lovely little green clusters that look wonderful in a jug. I have my Mother with me this year, so I will be able to wish her Happy Mother’s Day with a fistful of garden come Sunday.
I hope you can find the perfect spot in your gardens to share with your favourite Old Dog,
The Moble Gardener.