Pets & Landscaping: A Conversation with Alicia Blas of Firmly Planted

By Andrew Manning

When it comes to creating a gorgeous garden, no one does it better than Alicia Blas of Firmly Planted. Her gardening knowledge has *deep roots* (just check out her incredible videos @FirmlyPlanted) and I couldn’t think of a better plant professional to chat with about all things pets and landscaping. Here are some of Alicia’s best tips for fur-baby-friendly yards: 

ANDREW: What’s your No. 1 piece of advice when landscaping for pet owners? 

ALICIA: Ask yourself: “How trained is your dog? Is he/she a digger? Do they eat things?” If I can find these things out first and foremost, it’s the best way for me to get started (not to mention the most economical). I also want to know if the garden is about the dog or is the dog OK no matter what? Because the answers to those questions will create two totally different gardens.

What are some landscape features that add form, function and are pet-friendly? 

I believe that if the dog is a big part of the garden, then the importance changes. I like wider paths and paths that are 100% dog-friendly. I also believe the best floor in a garden with pets is DG (decomposed granite). Gravel is easy to lodge in a pets’ paws. Turf can get really hot and grass is messy and so digable! I also love plants that smell good because that is always an added bonus for the pets and the homeowners. A fountain can be very dog-friendly if you plan it that way and continuously add fresh water!

For those looking to start a garden, are there any pet-friendly ways to prevent our four-legged friends from munching on the newly growing plants? 

I do feel like pets should be a bit trained before you go and spend a boatload of money in and on your garden! If they are diggers and chewers then we should be thinking totally differently than if they are well behaved and tame! If there are big paths to run in and smaller garden beds, I believe that helps as well. If your dog likes to run and jump, you may just want to keep all your plants in containers and leave the garden to them?! I like that idea much better than a garden that looks as though a bomb squad has just forged through it! 

What are some pet-friendly California native plants for homeowners to consider in their yards? 

I always like to use water wise plants in all my gardens. A few good, and even delicious-smelling plants that are extra California friendly are Osmanthus (charming and delicious smelling), Euonymus Green Spires (a very cool plant that grows beautifully here) and  Nandina (also known as heavenly bamboo), which has lovely color that changes with the seasons. These are just a few good choices!

What are the best pet-friendly options for water-wise grass replacements? 

My most favorite option for water wise ground cover (takes 75% less water than grass and is totally dog friendly) is StarCarpetⓇ. I cannot say enough good things about this fabulous ground cover and I use it whenever I am able! Another good ground cover but not as water wise is Mazus. It’s lovely and can take sun and partial shade, but I’d pick that only after StarCarpet – both are good and hardy dog-friendly options!

Anything concluding thoughts about homeowners, landscaping and keeping things pet-friendly? 

I believe grass and turf are not what I would call pet-friendly! Grass gets messy if you have diggers and turf can lead to burned feet and paws. Who needs that? I believe rocks can hurt and get lodged, so nobody needs that either. The best choice if you want to use anything other than ground cover is DG with stabilizer (and stabilizer is the key). It will not get caught in any paws and once it has been really tapped down, animals are free to run their little paws off on it (as is all and any foot traffic).

Also, always decide first who is the boss of the garden before you do anything. We live in such a fabulous place to grow pets and plants. The sky’s the limit and there really are no rules! But I always like to know what I am dealing with in advance and then plan and plant accordingly!

To learn more about Alicia and her Firmly Planted Services, visit

Andrew Manning • REALTOR® • Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties • DRE: 00941825 • 818-380-2147 •