Pet friendly garden design

Pet friendly Garden Design with couch lawn and potted plants.

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Lawn Selection

A patch of lawn, even if it a small patch, will provide recreational space for children and pets in your backyard. In this garden design, a stepped brush fence creates a screen for the colorbond garden shed. If you have a lot of brush fence, consider breaking it up with some vertical gardens. Having a shed in the backyard means that all of the fertilizers, garden machinery and fuels can be safely locked away. A grevillea and a feature garden as well as screening plants add to the effect that makes the garden appear larger than it actually is.

Couch lawn for pets

A couch lawn is ideal for pets and children to play on.

The lawn creates a valuable space for pets to play or for entertaining guests as well as contrast and a beautiful green space for the garden.

Hard wearing couch lawn

Hard wearing couch lawn can be an ideal surface for pets and children to play on.

Couch Grass

The grass chosen was Santa Ana couch Cynodon dactylon x Cynodon transvaalensis which is a hybrid variety of Nullarbor couch. Its soft matt is ideal for pets and small children. For the Gold Coast and south east Queensland it will require regular thatch removal, so take a look at other varieties better suited to the Queensland Climate. For example Oz-E-tuff. If you are in a colder climate, your couch may go a little brown over winter. In this picture you can see where the shadier part of the lawn has just started to brown. This is a temporary condition and your couch will revive once the warmer weather returns. This is not usually a problem on the Gold Coast with its mild winters. If your dog likes to wee on the lawn keep a bucket of water or a hose handy to wet the lawn down where your dog has been.

Rear Couch Lawn

The potted plant and pedestal with the lawn pavers create an illusion of depth in the lawn

The lawn slopes gently down to a stained sleeper edge and raised garden bed. The blue pansies contrast beautifully with the white alyssum and white garden chairs. Herbs for the kitchen are also grown in this raised garden bed. Raised garden beds and pots help to keep young dogs and puppies away from plants. The garden design features wooden decking and a rendered concrete retaining wall. Pavers sunk into the lawn help to reduce wear marks and create a contrast with the rich green couch lawn. The potted plant and pedestal along with the pavers create an illusion of depth in the garden. The lawn pavers lead to garden steps to access the lawn area.

Lawn Pavers

Lawn Pavers and edge paving leading to garden steps.

Sandstone edging is used at the top of the antique slate step. The sandstone provides a wonderful contrast to the lawn and its neat edge helps with maintenance of the lawn edging. The steps can be used as seating for entertaining as well as providing access to the lawn area. Small dogs and older people might struggle with steps this height, so a ramp is provided by the edge of the lawn. This ramp also helps when the mower needs to be brought out to the front yard.

antique slate steps

Sandstone lawn edging and antique slate steps.

Plants to avoid

For pets and small children there are many plants that should be avoided. There are plants that are toxic to pets, and some which will cause skin irritation. For example, Moses in the Cradle (Tradescantia spathacea) and Zebrina ‘Wandering Jew’   (Tradescantia zebrine) should be avoided if you have a dog, as they have been associated with allergic skin disease. Other plants to be avoided include holly, poinsettias, cycads and oleander. Another plant to avoid is the Duranta erecta which is often sold as a hedge plant but is poisonous for your pets and children. When planning your garden, talk to the horticulture expert at your local plant nursery for help with pet friendly plant selection. Even the pebble mulch we have used in this garden will be a problem if your dog likes to chew on stones. It is important to keep your dog entertained with toys and chew bones as well as keeping an eye on them in the garden

Plants in pots.
For splashes of colour around the garden, viola, pansies and lobelias were added to the shrubs growing in pots. Out of the reach of puppies and small dogs. Snail pellets should also be avoided if you have a puppy or small dog.

Pansies and lobelias

Pansies and lobelias add a slash of colour to the courtyard.

Paved Courtyard

For the paved courtyard a dark green magnolia grandiflora “little gem” was planted in a square garden pot. The pot was painted dark brown to create an aged ceramic look. (The pot is actually fibreglass.) As its name suggests, little gem is a compact variety of magnolia. It will help to give your garden a tropical feel.
The orange marigolds go well with the blue lobelia and dark green Magnolia. Around the pot you can see the start of a box hedge and the pebble mulch. In the background climbing roses in concrete pots, and wall mounted pot plants add to the effect.

magnolia grandiflora “little gem”

Magnolia grandiflora “little gem”

Magnolia grandiflora “little gem”

Magnolia grandiflora “little gem” in a planter pot.

Magnolia grandifolia ‘Little Gem’ is a compact cultivar that will flower at a young age. Shiny oval-shaped leaves are dark to mid-green. Large creamy-white chalice-shaped flowers are very fragrant. You will see these flowers appear through summer and autumn. A slightly acidic, rich soil with plenty of organic matter is recommended. In this courtyard, the plant is protected from hot northerly winds. The elevated pot keeps the plants out of reach for puppies and small dogs.

For more information on magnolias go to

For information on plants to avoid for your pet got to


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