Expert tips on creating a dog-tastic garden, plus tales of mischief with Rabbit’s sister Gina.
Life goals: run your own design business, make that business garden design, absolutely take your dog to work with you.
Sounds like Chelsea gold medal winner Tommaso del Buono has pretty much nailed it. But how does having a slightly naughty Norfolk Terrier/Jack Russell cross really fit in with an international career designing high-end gardens?
We spoke to Tommaso about life with Gina, including squirrels, cat flaps and one particular disgrace involving baby deer.
“I’d been thinking about getting a dog for a long time but I travelled so much it was difficult,” he told us, “When I set up my own practice, I decided now was the time.”
“A friend’s dog was pregnant and once I saw the puppies that was it. I had wanted a boy dog – Gina was meant to be called Gino. But she was the one I loved.”
A cheeky little bundle of Norfolk Terrier/Jack Russell cross, Gina’s got a big personality for such a wee pooch.
“She’s very clever and very affectionate and she’s quite naughty,” said Tommaso, “She’s very small – but has no notion of her size.”
In fact, here at LoveMyDog we’ve got a pretty good idea about Gina’s personality; she’s the sister of our very own Rabbit, both pups of the lovely Tulip.
Once an unstoppable bouncing force of nature, Gina’s now a grande dame of 12 years old and has slowed down a bit – thank goodness.
Tommaso explained, “She still to this day likes chasing sticks, balls and squirrels. In no particular order.”
Just one look at Gina’s beady little eyes and you know it: that doggy boisterousness has landed her in hot water more than once.
One particularly epic squirrel hunt saw her scurry enthusiastically into the undergrowth in hot pursuit, only to scurry out equally swiftly sporting a nasty bite on her neck. It seems that Gina had accidentally trespassed on the property of a large and fearless rat.
And sassy Miss Gina’s not afraid of taking on much bigger creatures.
“On one occasion she chased some baby deer,” grimaced Tommaso, “I was working on a project in Berkshire, near Newbury. Luckily she didn’t catch them but that was the last time I could take Gina to that particular project …”
Obviously Gina is queen of the castle when it comes to her own garden, though. Tommaso and his partner have a country place where Gina has room for lots of doggy manoeuvres – and she makes sure the humans don’t get too comfy after a tough week at work.
“She always tries it on!” exclaimed Tommaso, “We’re constantly having to throw balls and sticks for her.
“Dogs and gardens don’t necessarily mix very well. She’ll dig where we’ve been digging and she runs through newly-planted beds – but she’s a small dog so the damage is limited.”
Even in the urban sprawl, the pair make the most of London’s green spaces. When Tommaso lived in Bayswater, Gina was a regular in Hyde Park. Her favourite hang-out now, though, is hip Victoria Park, which is particularly well-stocked with squirrels, not to mention a temptingly big lake for cooling doggy paddles on a sweltering day.
Having a four-legged best buddy has actually helped Tommaso when working with dog-owning clients. There’s nothing like experience to give you a special insight when asked to design pooch-friendly areas, so he’s all over important touches such as non-toxic planting and dog-friendly ponds.
“We don’t design around the dog but you have to bear the dog in mind,” he explained, “One thing that’s really important is making a place secure for a dog.
“I used to have a cottage in the middle of a field and Gina could get through the cat flap. She was very used to letting herself in and out and dogs are quite curious – they do like to explore.”
Sometimes more unusual challenges come up. Tommaso’s business del Buono Gazerwitz Landscape Architecture recently completed a garden where they uncovered an old air raid shelter.
Everyone agreed the shelter should stay, so they left it in situ but designed a bespoke metal grille to prevent the owner’s inquisitive Pomeranian dogs from wandering in.
Overall, it sounds like a bonus to us – hire Tommaso to design your garden and you get to hang out with Gina too.
“Still to this day Gina and I are quite inseparable,” he said, “She’s come with me to many sites, on many projects. Many clients know her and she’s come very much part of the office – and part of me really.”
For more proof that gardens can be dog-tastic havens AND gorgeously designed, check out the Dogs Trust garden at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show on Tuesday 5 – Sunday 10 July.
Image source: Dogs Trust
Designed to celebrate the charity’s 125th year, this contemporary space includes sneaky sniffer tracks woven into the herbaceous borders for dogs to forage and sniff out treats. We might even have a try ourselves.