Women, Dogs and Plants

It will come as no surprise to you that here at TPH, we are big fans of (wo)man’s best friend. We can’t quite put our finger on what it is about dogs that tickles our fancy most – is it their wise old eyes, loyal nature or the way they potter around the garden beside us, squashing through our hedges and smothering newly planted seedlings with their backsides? Whatever it is, we love it. And, what better way to celebrate our canine pals than chatting with four of our favourite plant loving ladies – Evi O, Jardine Hansen, Chris McLean and Georgina Reid, to find out all about their life with dogs and plants.

Evi O and Henri. Image by Daniel Shipp

Artist and designer Evi O and her whippet, Henri.

Please tell us about you and your life with your dog. We’re only fresh, Henri’s only 20 weeks so really our relationship is only 12 weeks young. But I like him a lot, I think he likes me too. I do art and design from my studio in Marrickville. Henri is a very handsome grey brindle whippet who loves food and humans.

We do walks and parks during the week and more adventurous places on weekends. He comes to art galleries with me too, sometimes.

He changes my life for the better as he’ll turn into a cute terror if I sit in front of the computer for too long. I used to do 352 steps on a Sunday, now I do at least 6k.”

Does Henri have a favourite spot around your apartment? It’s one corner of our sofa where my favourite giant monstera plant (named Don Draper) looms above it. Sadly, Henri thinks those leaves are fresh salad. Sorry Don, you’re delicious.

What are three traits that you love most about Henri? He’s the friendliest dog. He’s the gentlest sook, except when he’s having his ‘zoomies’. He’s so curious he gets himself in funny situations!

Are there any plants that he especially likes/dislikes? Henri loves sniffing any plants, but he loves the dangly ones the most. Be careful ferns!

Is Henri helpful/unhelpful around the garden? If so, how? Unfortunately, not the garden at the moment, but I can imagine he’d be helpful if I have a backyard and a veggie patch. He’s a natural born digger. I’d love to train him to dig veges out one day.

Why do you think pets and plants play such a significant role in the lives of people?

As any living things, a plant, or a dog, is another soul in the room that gives you emotions (mostly nice ones) and if you nurture them well, I think they nurture you back.”

If Henri were a plant, what would he be? I thought he would be one of those sensitive plant that closes up when touched but after a studio discussion we decided he’s not that timid and more of a hoya, always finding his way to corners and crevices.

Jardine Hansen and Dash. Image supplied by Jardine

Jardine Hansen of Jardine Botanic Floral Styling and her border collie, Dash.

Please tell us about you and your life with your dog. Dash is my two-year-old border collie, living with us on our place in Tassie, 25 acres in Longley about 25 km south of Hobart. She’s great company, always keen to hike, swim, kayak (she gets into the hold of our sea kayaks and becomes a small hairy captain) and play fetch. She’s also very happy to hang out near by when I’m gardening, keeping an eye on me.

Does Dash have a favourite spot around the garden? She loves sleeping under a big tree fern just outside our house. She is also quite fond of laying on a pile of finished compost and swimming in our dam

What are three traits that you love most about Dash? She’s capable, willing and responsive. She fits in so well with whatever we’re doing – she’s happy to nap by my feet when I’m stuck inside doing admin but always ready to leap up and go off for any kind of adventure.

Are there any plants that she especially likes/dislikes? She’s a gentle girl and seems to respect plants. She does love to fetch any kind of stick so I suppose she has a fondness for trees.

Sometimes she tries to bring tiny leaves and twigs inside the house to play fetch with. She knows not to bring balls or large sticks in because we won’t play fetch inside but I think she thinks the tiny pieces of vegetation are acceptable and that there’s a glimmer of hope we might play if the twigs are small enough.”

Is Dash helpful/unhelpful around the garden? If so, how? She is learning to defend our plants from possums. We have big brushtails that enjoy climbing our silver birch trees and snapping big branches. They also like to eat every leaf of geranium in my garden, leaving just a sad stalk. So Dash’s night time patrols are very welcome.

Why do you think pets and plants play such a significant role in the lives of people? They remind us to slow down and focus on the quiet little joys in life.

If Dash were a plant, what would she be? I think she might be a weeping willow, fond of water and graceful but also kind of tough. My kind of lady. Actually she may also be an Agonis flexuosa ‘After Dark’. Similar willowy traits but Australian, I might have to ask her.

Dash the border collie. Image by Jardine Hansen
Christina McLean and Scout. Image supplied by Chris

Chris McLean of TRADE THE MARK and her springer spaniel x collie x kelpie x heeler, Scout.

Please tell us about you and your life with your dog. Scout is my 9yr old cross springer spaniel/collie/kelpie/heeler. I got him from Braidwood where he was the runt from a litter of 11. I met his mum Niniku, a beautiful kelpie cross heeler/collie, when I went to pick him up. I only saw a photo of his dad, a shaggy looking springer spaniel and the local truffle dog on a nearby farm.

I’m an artist and a maker and most of what I do is influenced and informed by nature on some level. At my creative business, TRADE THE MARK, where I make ceramics and textiles, Scout is always by my side. He has his favourite spot right by the kiln in winter.

Having a dog certainly helps me to be more physical. He needs a lot of exercise so we often go for long walks.

Our favourite local spots are Sydney Park and the Cooks River, always by water and loads of trees.”

When it comes to holidays, it’s all about pet friendly – lots of coastal breaks by the sea as we both love the water. We go to a specific beach in Sydney, just so he can come with us. He’s pretty spolit really, but god I love him!

Does Scout have a favourite spot around the house? Scout really loves sitting at the back door when it’s open and sticking his head through the Frida beaded curtain we have, sitting there watching what’s happening in our garden and surrounding neighbour’s gardens. This spot is quite high and he’s kind of the king on his throne. I love walking through the house out to the kitchen and seeing him perched there.

What traits do you love most about Scout? Oh, he’s a real snuggle bug, I can wrestle with him on the ground and he gives me boundless amounts of love and FUN – he loves to play, even at 9 he’s still a nut. When I’m about to leave the house he’ll do a little dance up the hallway backwards which is hysterical. Scout’s the biggest softy but when he’s at my front door he puts on the tough guy act and barks quite ferociously when other dogs go by. It’s his attempt to protect us and the house – it’s all an act but it’s kind of endearing.

Are there any plants that he especially likes/dislikes? Scout’s indiscriminate when he’s searching for a buried bone or chasing a rat on the hunt for my herbs.

He’ll tread on anything in his path and sometimes I find crushed plants and upturned pot plants in his wake.”

Is Scout helpful/unhelpful around the garden/house? If so, how? Ha, that’s a resounding no to helping! When Scout was a puppy a good friend made him a toy out of two plastic black pots joined together with a ball inside which was meant to keep him entertained when I wasn’t with him. Unfortunately he worked out very quickly how to get that ball by totally tearing the thing apart. For about 6 months after this he systematically chewed a lot of my plant pots in the garden. I’d come home to a massacre of plants and plastic strewn across the backyard.

Why do you think pets and plants play such a significant role in the lives of people? Companionship for one, you’re never alone. There’s always a furry friend following you around and our plants are in our homes, our studios our gardens and of course all around us in nature. We receive so much love and joy through these interactions.

Our pets and plants nurture our souls, they challenge us at times but any good relationship does this. I’m truly at my most happiest when I’m walking in nature with the hound.”

If Scout were a plant, what would he be? I have a Himalayan Magnolia (Michelia champaca) next door to me in my neighbour’s yard. I’ve lived in my house for 17 years so I know that tree well. I reckon Scout would be this Magnolia. It has shaded my plants and backyard from the full effects of the summer sun. It’s protected my little wooden house from all the elements. This type of magnolia has huge thick branches that support an amazing amount of large leaves and delicate flowers, it’s really a beautifully strong tree.

Georgina Reid and Bess. Image by Daniel Shipp

Founder and Editor of The Planthunter, Georgina Reid and her Cattle Dog x wire hair Jack Russell Terrier, Bess.

Please tell us about you and your life with your dog. I met Bess (aka Scruff) at an animal shelter in western Sydney. I was looking for a small, scruffy dog that would fit in the basket of my bike. All the dogs were at the front of their cages, barking and yapping. “Pick me, pick me,” they were saying. Bess was sitting quietly at the back of her cage, just staring at me. She looked like a wolf. I fell in love with her on the spot. I think the feeling is mutual. It is like we have a piece of invisible elastic between us – wherever I am, she’s always nearby.

Does Bess have a favourite spot around the garden/house? She tends to like being under things – her latest spot is under the house. Or rolling about in the dirt after a swim in the river.

What are three traits that you love most about Bess? Loyalty, weirdness, aloofness. Bess is incredibly loyal – she has to be with me always.

Recently we left her at home whilst we drove our boat to town. I looked out and there she was, zooming along the side of the river at 6 knots.”

We had to turn around otherwise she would have tried to run the whole way there, following the boat. She’s also a total weirdo, like all dogs, and regularly does hilariously strange things. Lastly, and I am not sure this is a great thing, she’s very aloof. It takes a very long time for her to trust anyone. Once she does, however, she never forgets. You have to work for Scruff’s love!

Are there any plants that Bess especially likes/dislikes? Bess is not really into plants. She likes eating grass occasionally, but tends to spend most of her time lying in the garden, watching me garden.

Is she helpful/unhelpful around the garden/house? If so, how? Not in a practical sense, but definitely in a mental health sense.

She went up to my parent’s place in the country recently and I got rather sad. “She’s my mental health!” I lamented to my partner, “what am I going to do?!” I have survived so far, and she’s having a magnificent time, I hear.

Why do you think pets and plants play such a significant role in the lives of people? Both animals and plants take me out of my head and remind me of the beauty and wonder to be found in the world outside my tiny little mind. They do similar things, in a way.

They offer a sense of perspective, and reward care in an incredibly pure way – sometimes humans can complicate things but with an animal or plant, it’s simple.”

Offer care and love and you will be rewarded with care and love. No strings attached.

If Bess were a plant, what would she be? She’d be something a bit curious. Maybe some sort of hakea – an Australian native plant that can sometimes look a bit scruffy, a bit rough. But, once the flowers arrive, all scruffiness is long forgotten in the glory of the plant’s intricate and beautiful blooms. Bess is a bit like that, she takes a while to open up.

Bess (aka Scruff) the cattle dog x wire hair Jack Russel. Image by Georgina Reid