Sunday, July 21, 2013

Poisonous Berries In Your Garden (Backyard)

There is a whole other realm of gardening that we need to educate ourselves in. The by-product of many "beautiful" plants that provide visual interest in the garden, can also reek havoc with children and pets if their "beautiful" fruit are ingested.

Here are two of the most unsuspecting noxious berries in my garden right now.

1.  Convolaria majalis (Lily of the Valley). I love this plant in flower. Once the white bell flowers wither and die, green berries mature to these bright red ones. I've placed it in the garden where I know no children or pets are around to be lured or interested in picking. I've even placed a wire mesh at the base of the fence where it is situated. No cats or dogs can get through.


Here Convolaria berries are drying in late summer with their foliage. The berries hold on until some major frost hits them.


2. Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna). I did not introduce this plant to my garden. It showed up and began twining around my trellis. I have a young evergreen vine just establishing here, but this Nightshade made it's way up the trellis faster than the evergreen vine.  Considered a weed, you can find this vine nearly everywhere. Surprisingly, I've witnessed birds eating them with no troubles. They intern poop out the berries and help the vine seed itself just about any where.


I kept it because of their lovely purple clustered flowers and the fact that it grows well in shade, but don't let that fool you. The Deadly Nightshade vine berries have been known to harm and kill unsuspecting pigs when ingested.

They produce numerous berries and have an attractive look about them. A distant relative to the tomato, this plant should be ripped out in any garden where children frequent.

Have a look at the easily recognizable leaf of the plant. Deadly Nightshade is a fast grower and vegetative. Plant growth dies down to the ground overwinter, but root is still alive - a herbaceous vine that returns each spring. 

Here are two great resources on poisonous plants that we should bookmark:

Common Poisonous Plants and Plant Parts

Garden Plants Poisonous to People

If a child or pet ingests either of these, please call your local poison control. Ontario Poison Centre 

Monday, July 08, 2013

Common Garden Pests - Slugs Deroceras reticulatum

One of my fondest memories, is my aunt and I waking up early in the morning to pick slimy, sticky slugs (called Schnecken in German). We'd have a bucket full by the time breakfast was ready, only to sit and laugh with a cup of coffee on the patio. Mind you, the slugs in Germany are HUGE compared to here in Ontario. It was the most effective method, since their large size made most other controls useless. They made considerable damage to my Aunts veggie garden and her prized Dahlias. It was well worth the effort to pick that early.

The Ontario Slug: Deroceras reticulatum - causing me grief. Unlike the German Schnecken, these guys are much smaller. Scrunched up, they are as tiny as 1cm long.

Small slug - half an inch or so long.
Unfortunately the slugs in my garden stay away from my view, as I only end up seeing their devastation when it's too late. Plus, I have an early start to work, and can't putz around in my garden that early to comb over the plants. However, this morning, instead of running to the coffee machine, I went outside to make sure it was in fact them eating away. It was time to find my slimy enemies.

I have many hostas, lettuce, lamium, kale, swiss chard.... and I am tired of seeing their foliage turn out like swiss cheese.
Having a blissful morning munch.

Apparently yesterdays meal. (Rudbeckia)

Munch, munch, munch... (Lamium)

Even damage on some of the tougher leaves in the garden. (Ligularia)
Grrr...

In the past, I've managed to "kill a few with the good old brew". Yes, beer. I used to dig out small areas of soil to place a shallow sour cream container filled with beer over night to see in the morning a few had died in the blissful brew. Not worth the wasted beer. I've also used newspaper sheets, rolled up, soaked in beer. Ya, a bunch of slugs, pill bugs and earwigs were tucked in there, but my garden would need the entire Saturday Star and the weekend flyers to do the job. Rolled up paper, wet from water does the same trick too.

Because my small backyard is fenced off between my neighbours, no matter what I've tried thus far...they come back. I prefer harmless solutions. So here are other options I've used before:
  • eggshells 
  • diatomaceous earth 
  • hair 
  • coarse compost (leafy and mulch materials)
  • coffee grounds 
  • lemon and orange rinds  
  • sand
Yet, I'm afraid this wet summer has produced persistent moist conditions. Perfect conditions for the slug. They are multiplying quickly and the above methods aren't working. This has been the worst year, so I've caved in and bought myself some "friendly" Slug B Gone.
Scotts EcoSense: Slug B Gone. Non toxic to pets, birds etc...
Small pellets. Spread per directions on the bag, just before expected rain.
I still have three full months to enjoy my perennials before the frost comes. I'd like to see less damaged foliage. Should of done this weeks ago. I'll report on the results soon.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Photo of the Month - July 2013: Viola labradorica

Decided to do a photo of the month. No major info or verbiage attached to the photo. Just God's creation - nature at its best and why I like it.

Viola labradorica

Opened seed head. Love how each seed is so perfectly situated and tucked in. No wonder I get little seedlings everywhere.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Perennials That Never Fail To Overwinter In Containers

I own a lot of outdoor containers that can withstand the winter months. Instead of hauling them in and out of my garage to keep plants from dieing, I experimented with perennials these past years to see if any survive, regardless of my efforts.

I have found several plants "keep on keeping on", in my containers when spring arrives.

Here is Lamium maculatum "pink pearls". Dead Nettle is the common name. I use it in the corners as a trailer to spill over the container. Quite drought tolerant and has great frost tolerance too.
Here it is again. There are many cultivars are on the market with silver foliage, white, pink, pale purple flowers. Some golden foliage, some variegated. Plenty to choose from.

This is called: Lysimachia nummularia 'aurea' or Golden Creeping Jenny.  In this cast iron urn, both plants have come back for over 4 years. I just replace some of the soil at the top of the container, and top dress with a slow release fertilizer. I water more regularly, simply because of it's small diameter.

This plant in the centre is also a member of the Lamium family. This one is however rather aggressive in the garden, used often as a fast covering ground cover. It's called Jade Frost Lamiastrum (Lamiastrum galeobdolon 'Jade Frost'). Here I planted it with an obelisque. As the plant tendrils reach out, I gather and weave the stems throughout the obelisque. It really works well as a vine. Yellow flowers begin in late April, early May and then larger variegated foliage continue to grow through til frost.
This hosta looks as though it's planted in the garden.

Nope! This hosta fills a spot easily and can be moved to change the garden design when necessary. One great aspect of hostas in containers: less watering than annuals. This is a great choice for those cottage dwellers on weekends. ;)

One key element that needs to be mentioned is drainage. All these pots have good drainage. This is essential. Any perennial that stays soggy and freezes in total water may not survive in a pot. Be sure to notice that the containers drain thoroughly. If you're worried that soil will wash out from the drainage holes, stick a pine-cone or large gravelly stones over the hole. This way water drains, without soil.

With hostas, it's better to group the pots together, insulating them a bit if placed in an exposed area. Sometimes hostas require no garage placement, sometimes they do. If the hostas have outgrown their pots (root bound) some dieback is noticeable overwinter. If you leave them outside in pots, group and situation in an area with just enough protection from the prevailing winds.

What perennials have survived overwinter in your containers?
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