Tour a Pet-Friendly Garden

Find out how an Atlanta artist creates a cozy garden space for animals and people.

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Pet Portrait

Pet Portrait

Photo by: Photo by Angela West

Photo by Angela West

Tiki freely trots through the garden, including hanging out on the brick center planter filled with ‘Burgundy Glow’ ajuga (also known as bugleweed) and dwarf mondo grass. Because her dogs play in the yard, Ann-Marie Manker is careful not to use plants that are toxic to animals.

After gardening in a tiny space, artist Ann-Marie Manker was thrilled to find a big backyard when she and her husband, Todd Briner, purchased a home in a historic Atlanta neighborhood full of charm and character. 

The yard they “inherited” wasn’t move-in-ready for a gardener. Their 1/3 acre lot was defined by a swath of dirt, a few trees and lots of weeds, plus a broken plastic pink flamingo and one azalea.

“We just kind of stumbled upon it,” she says. “I just knew immediately that I wanted to hardscape it and landscape it. Dirt, and weeds, aren't acceptable.”

Manker drew a design for a garden with symmetrical elements and brick walkways, inspired by a visit to Paris, and shared it with her landscape company. Japanese maples layer the landscape, which has an abundance of hostas and hydrangeas.

Now, the garden is a haven for real and fake animals, from her two dogs to her chickens and rabbit. Manker has learned lessons along the way, about gardening with pets in mind: don't try to grow anything but dirt in a chicken run (the birds will eat anything you attempt to cultivate) and make sure you keep pets safe by banning plants that are poisonous to dogs from areas where critters are prone to roam. Manker's artwork is also inspired by the animal world, so her garden is a paradise of make-believe and whimsy, filled with a pretend animal menagerie of birds, rabbits and the odd gnome or two. Clever animal sculptures peek out from behind trees or from leafy groundcover, a charming effect enhanced by the number of unique, vintage elements in Manker's gardenscape.

“I think it’s fun to decorate with little critters,” Manker says, and her Atlanta garden is living proof that quirkiness and elegance—with a dash of fun—can coexist.

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