After covering our yard with mulch in the spring, our problem was totally solved. There was no more mud.
The yard two months later – the mud problem is solved.
When I chose the plants initially I went for the largest specimens I could afford. I knew from previous experience that my dogs were likely to trample any smaller plants, even if I put wire fencing around them. I tried to choose only plants that would encourage the dogs to go around, instead of through. It worked pretty well. The dogs now fly through the yard as though it were an obstacle course. They love to leap the smaller shrubs and corner around the trees. Of course, occasionally their accuracy is off and they damage the plants. They boys had already established “paths” that they liked to take through the yard, and I tried keep those open when I designed the beds. Poisonous plants are always a concern, so I considered that in plant selection. Luckily my dogs have only tried to eat the grasses so far. Let me tell you how things have held up (as I write this in January of 2014) :
I planted three green giant arborvitae. These have held up wonderfully. The dogs do occasionally pee on them, but the trees haven’t sustained any real damage. I chose the giant green arborvitae because they are a fast growing evergreen, with a more attractive shape than other types of arborvitae. They can also grow in shade, and my backyard is heavily shaded. These trees can get tall but since they’re growing in shade I expect them to top off at 30 feet, with a diameter of 10 feet. If they get too big I may have to cut the tops off, but that won’t be for many years.
I planted six “shamrock” inkberry holly. I figured that being broad leaved evergreens, these would have flexible branches. They do not. Two of these little guys are in the “danger zone” and have lost plenty of branches. They’re not dead yet, though, and I’m hoping that as they get bigger the dogs will be more likely to go over or around them. These plants top off around 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide. They get tiny, yet fragrant, white flowers.
I planted two Virginia sweet spire. These are fragrant, shade loving, deciduous shrubs that get 3-4 feet high and wide. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well their branches hold up to the occasional trampling. They are planted right near a brick path and for some reason the dogs tend to run into them, roll on them, drop their toys in them, etc. These little plants have withstood the abuse gracefully.
I planted one clethra. This is a shade loving, fragrant, flowering shrub. I forget which variety I got so I can’t say how big it will get, but I expect it to be at least a medium sized shrub. It’s in an area that (for whatever reason) isn’t prone to attack by the dogs. It’s doing just fine.