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Children-friendly urban garden

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Question from Angela Rahe-Blomfield


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I have a very small urban garden and expecting a baby very soon. I'd love to be able to plant and enjoy some beautiful flowers this summer and into the fall. Are there any flowers or plants that I should be aware of in terms of toxicity?

  • Views: 1150
  • Replies: 5
  • Posted: Sun. 15th March 2009 20:17

Toxic plants

Reply from Kathy C

Hi! Definitely good thinking to find out what is toxic, particularly with a little one soon to be roaming around. I have become extra sensitive to posionous plants as well since I have a 20 month old who loves to explore (with hands and mouth!) and LOVES to dig in the soil - she gets that from mummy! It is surprising how many common garden plants are poisonous. This list is certainly not complete but includes ones that come to mind right away. When I think of others, I will add to the list ASAP:
1. Aconitum (Monkshood) - lovely, hooded purple flowers but all parts of the plant are highly poisonous. Just a little bit ingested could be deadly.
2. Yew (Hard to believe, I know!) - leaves and seeds are highly toxic. The fleshy part of the red berries is harmless, the dark black seed inside is poisonous. Just as deadly as Aconitum.
3. Nerium oleander (Oleander) - Not too much of an issue for you - pretty tender for the UK and is bigger than you would probably want in your garden but a deadly plant nontheless.
4. Holly berries - One or two berries if eaten may cause an upset stomach. Eating more than 20 could be deadly (though this is not confirmed).
5. Euonymous berries, Lily of the Valley berries - both cause severe stomach upset, disorientation ,etc.
6. Euphorbia species - contact with sap may cause severe skin irritation. Poinsettia leaves (in the same genus) are quite poisonous.
7. Ricinus communis (Castor Oil Plant) - Ricin, found throughout the plant, is one of the most poisonous naturally occuring substances known.
8. Atropa belladonna Deadly nightshade) (not a popular garden plant but one to be aware of.
9. Brugmansia (Angel's Trumpet)- tender but it is grown in the UK. VERY hallucinogenic.
10. Conium maculatum (Hemlock) - not a garden plant but found growing throught the UK, usually along roadsides, at the edges of fields and in damp places. Usually fatal if ingested.
Well, that's probably the top 10 baddies.
I'll add more as I think of them.
Kathy C

  • Posted: Sun. 15th March 2009 21:53

my response to a child friendly garden

Reply from Mark Pumphrey

Creating a child friendly garden by removing all poisonous plants can be one approach but my preferred suggestion would involve education. My children grow up in a garden full of poisonous plants but were supervised at a very early age. This means they are aware of the hazards and means when they visited other gardens where there could be poisonous plants they knew not to touch and eat anything. Yes it can be testing when a child is determined to place everything into his/her mouth but I believe it was the right approach for my children. How you bring your own child up is very personal and there is no hard and fast rule. Use your own judgement and you should be fine. Try encouraging them to grow their own in a set area this means they learn to find only edible plants in one area.

  • Posted: Sat. 21st March 2009 10:59

Thank you

Reply from Angela Rahe-Blomfield

Thank you both for the great reply to my forum question. This gives me a few things to think about when going about planting my garden and how I want to raise my child. Many thanks for your input and advice.

  • Posted: Tue. 24th March 2009 11:53

Re: Toxic plants

Reply from Sally-Ann Livingston

I'm new to this site, just as new to gardening and have a 2 year old explorer. Good to know the top 10 baddies (of which I have two in my budding garden) but I agree that education is the best prevention. Our garden rule is 'don't put anything in your mouth, including your hands'. We always wash our hands when we go in.

It occurred to me that the site could use an additional entry with each plant about safety, especially with a mind toward children in the garden - dangers of ingestion, skin irritation - maybe a rating between 'action you can take at home (like wash your hands, drink water)' to 'call an ambulance!'

Hopefully our gardening experience will be a thoroughly positive one. I'm certainly enjoying creating from a bare lawn back garden canvas!

  • Posted: Sun. 3rd April 2011 22:25

Re: Re: Toxic plants

Reply from Nicola

Hi Sally-Ann, Welcome to Shoot! We do list if plants are toxic or not see here this Aconitum carmichaelii 'Arendsii' You'll see a skull and cross bones icon and a description in the main page if the plant is toxic or not. In this case we say "All parts highly toxic if eaten; also harmful via the skin." Hope that helps!

All the best,
p.s. Cannot wait to see some pics of your garden when it is ready to show off! My new garden (build underway) is here.

  • Posted: Mon. 4th April 2011 07:14