Once more it’s time for this household’s annual blood sacrifice to our garden demons. Aided by a pal with infinite patience, I made a foray to a nursery/garden center to buy candidate perennials for our front mulch garden, and shrubs for along our northern shady side of my neighbor’s stockade fence.

And in doing so, I inadvertently added to our already growing collection of poisonous and poison-associated plants. First, for along the fence I bought four elderberry bushes. Anyone who has seen or read Arsenic and Old Lace knows the reference. The Resident Male will help me plant them over the weekend. Here they are in the garden center, innocently ignorant of their coming fate at my hands:

For the much garden my plan is to scatter specimen perennials across it, with taller ones in back, and infill the spaces between the survivors with additional plants in future years. This area faces east and gets morning sun, but quickly goes to shade for the bulk of the day, eclipsed by the house’s shadow. Here’s this year’s rogue’s gallery:

Top left – An aconite, also known as wolfsbane and monks hood. One of the poison players. It is supposed to top out at about four feet (about 122 cm), and sport tall blue flower spikes.

Top center – A strange mounding hosta variant with thin, curly crimped leaf edges. Too weird to pass up. He’s only going to be about 6 inches tall, and is in the front. Hostas are poisonous to dogs and cats.

Top right – a brunerra. Apparently we already had another variety of brunerra, a survivor of last year’s plantings. It has tiny star shaped blue flowers just beginning to open. Not sure what color flowers this one will have, but he is a much larger leafed variety, or will be when he’s mature. He’s in the middle area, and will be about 12 inches tall (about 30.5 cm) . Blissfully non-toxic.

Bottom left – A Heuchera, aka Coral Bells. I am also not sure what color flowers this one will have but it doesn’t matter. I got it because of the dramatic foliage. He will be about 16 inches tall (about 41 cm), bigger than the brunerra and is further back in the plot. Also non-toxic.

Bottom right – An astilbe. A BIG astilbe. This one will have purplish pink flowers, and grow to about 2 feet tall (61 cm). He’s in the back near the aconite. Not poisonous.

I moved a resilient peony that survived our decimation of the fence plot late last summer. He’s also in this garden in the hope he makes it. Big floppy white flowers with a pinkish tinge. He’s in a tomato cage in towards the rear.

These denizens join my small ground-hugging brunerra and my hellebore from last year. Sadly the blooms on the hellebore appear to have been knocked around in the recent windstorm, and their stem is snapped, but the foliage is growing nicely. And of course hellebore is infamously poisonous to humans and pets.

The backdrop to this garden with its mix of toxic and non-toxic residents? Why, a glorious Mountain Laurel of course. Itself on the lethal list. By the end of May it will look like this.

And the family photo – all the boys tucked into the bed.

4 responses

  1. The mountain laurel is so beautiful! It’s too hot for it to thrive in Melbourne, Australia – some people can keep it alive and it will grow in the nearby hills, but it’s not well known. Please post an occasional pic of your perennials too. We don’t have a snow season so, apart from bulbs, not many people grow things that disappear over winter even though they can be stunning in spring.

  2. What variety of elderberry is that? I wonder if it might be a good replacement for the ill-behaved Tiger Eye sumac that didn’t make it through a tree being dropped on it in the derecho. It has very similar colors. I just saw Arsenic and Old Lace a few months ago… hadn’t seen it in years and forgot how funny it is. I had no idea hosta is poisonous to cats & dogs.

    1. I believe it’s the Lemony Lace variety – gold to yellow green leaves very frilly leaves that emerge reddish in the spring. It’s hardy here in zone 6b, shade tolerant, and low maintenance, but according to the garden center staff, does better with pruning to keep it dense. It’s supposed to flower sometime in the late June/early July timeframe, and set berries on younger wood, that are ripe when they are black. And except for the berries when ripe – it’s yet another plant with foliage that is poisonous to people. I have it planted along the north side of a stockade fence, in an area that is not boggy, but is both shady and the last place to dry out completely in the garden. So far the four bushes seem quite happy there.

      1. Thanks for the name!

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