A cottage-style garden in Dickinson is created with canines in mind
Dickinson resident Kathy Wagner rises each morning at about 5 a.m. and greets the day with coffee, her newspaper and a brisk walk with Bradley Cooper.
They stroll with companions, Beamy and Abby, for several blocks before returning home.
Bradley Cooper isn’t the American actor and filmmaker, but the youngest of Wagner’s three remaining schipperkes, a fox-like dog breed sporting thick black coats. Wagner raised and showed this breed for 17 years, but now she just enjoys their company, while they all appreciate retirement.
Because Wagner is an avid gardener who likes the outdoors, she decided to design a separate garden area exclusively for her pets. It even includes a doggie door that allows them to go inside to their very own air-conditioned quarters.
“It’s actually just one section of my three-car garage, so it ended up being the perfect place to display their award-winning ribbons, trophies and photos as well as allowing them to come in out of the heat,” she said.
Although the schipperkes might think they’re the owners of the property, Wagner’s “Yard of the Month” sign for August is proof this tropical landscaped backyard is much more than just a canine haven.
A covered patio with sunflower and butterfly art graces the walls, along with a sign: “Welcome to Paradise Where It’s Always Happy Hour.” A teal and green wicker settee topped with toucan-themed pillows reflects Wagner’s love of everything beachy, but her attraction to the Smoky Mountains and its bears meant she needed one in the mix.
“This wooden statue was carved by hand with a chain saw, which is amazing, so I just had to have it,” she said.
There’s much to take in at the small backyard.
“When we moved here in 2009, not much of anything was here,” Wagner said. “I did all the landscaping, put down the flagstone pathways and bordered the flower beds with bull rock.”
Those beds take up most of the yard and are full of azaleas, impatiens, geraniums, vincas, hibiscus, ginger and a variety of artful objects. Sea otter wind chimes dangle in the breeze, a metal sculpture of an octopus, crab and turtle is an innovative birdhouse, and lots of colorful toucan objects are noticeable.
“This is my bird area, where I have all my birdhouses, either standing alone or hanging from my magnolia tree,” Wagner said. “I get a lot of cardinals and they are out here every morning feeding.”
Tucked away in a far corner near the back of the garage is the fenced canine area, covered by a large palapa, floored with brick pavers and furnished with colorful chairs and a hanging swing.
The schipperkes’ indoor quarters are just a doggie door away.
“When outdoors, they like sitting in the swing with me,” Wagner said.
The back of the fence in the main yard is covered with a variety of climbing vines — Rangoon creeper with red tubular flowers, coral, passion and bleeding heart.
Rose-pink vincas are in abundance, while society garlic with their star-shaped purple blooms keep the mosquitoes away.
Shrubs huddle together as planters of terracotta, Talavera, ceramic and stone are showy vessels for the many varieties of succulents, ferns, bird of paradise and Dutchman’s pipe, to name a few.
A red and white striped spider lily tucked away in a far corner is the oldest plant with a family history.
“It’s the same one that was in the yard where I grew up,” Wagner said. “We lived in Clear Lake Shores, and my mother won multiple awards showing that plant at the League City Garden Club. I’ve dug it up and transplanted it over the years any time I moved. It’s probably decades-old, has frozen and come back multiple times, so it’s a real survivor.”
The focal point of the yard is a seating area with fire pit table and tall teal and white Adirondack chairs.
“I originally had a hot tub here, but I wasn’t using it any longer, so I turned this into a place to just sit and enjoy the sunrise and sunset,” she said. “Dues Landscaping designed the area for me and installed the slate tile. The pergola was built by a friend of mine. I just recently purchased four solar lanterns that automatically light up when the sun goes down.”
Hanging plants and yard art are in abundance in this cottage-like atmosphere where elements of the sea dominate. But at the end of the day, Wagner gathers her pets around her as she reminisces about her years of traveling around the United States participating in dog shows.
“Being out here is therapeutic,” she said. “I think plants know things. They are alive and when you take care of them, they flourish for you.”