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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Sunday 20th May 2012

Although, yesterday, you wouldn’t have believed it possible today saw the start of ‘open garden’ season, the time of year when people allow the public to look round their gardens as a means of raising funds for a local or national cause.

Luckily, however, today turned out to one of those times when the north/south divide works in reverse. Listening to the cricket commentators from Lords in London complaining about how cold and gloomy it was it didn’t seem possible that we were having our best day, so far, this year.

The start of the new ‘season’ was a reminder that the anniversary of starting this daily blog is approaching because one of my early entries concerned a local village where a great many of the gardens had opened for the day. Today, however, was a single garden that of a large traditional Border’s country house. It would be truer to say grounds because a large part of the area is covered in very mature woodland.

As with last June, I was looking to see if my belief that every garden is a poison garden would stand up. Given the size of the garden and the wooded areas I didn’t expect to face much of a challenge.

Within a couple of metres of stepping into the garden this large clump of Arum italicum, Italian cuckoopint, told me I was not wrong.

Arum italicum, Italian cuckoopint

I expected to find Digitalis, foxgloves, because they grow very freely as this one growing in an old wall demonstrates.

Digitalis, foxgloves

The plants growing under the trees included many of the usual suspects; Symphytum (comfrey), Urtica dioica (stinging nettle), Helleborus (hellebores) and  Hyacinthoides (bluebell) though I’m not sure whether this was the native English bluebell, the nonscripta species or the imported Spanish bluebell, the hispanica species, or even hybrids of the two.

Hyacinthoides (bluebell)

The house has a long history and many of the trees are long-lived including this Taxus baccata, yew, that in spite of its great age still has very obvious new growth.

Taxus baccata, yew

You know that an Ilex, holly, tree has been around for a good few years when you see that the lower foliage retains the classic sharp leaves

Ilex, holly

But higher up the leaves are much more rounded.

Ilex, holly

Someone suggested I should get some cast iron plaques made, the sort people like to hang up in their gardens or attach to fences or walls, saying ‘Every Garden is a Poison Garden’. I’m not sure people would want to buy them but it could be a useful reminder that we don’t need to be fearful in our everyday lives.

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