Beware of poisonous plants in the garden

Published 6:00 am Friday, June 11, 2021

Hello, fellow gardeners. It’s me, Anca.

Some of you already know me. I’m my mom’s new gardening assistant. She says that I’m more trouble than I’m worth, but I’m learning, and she couldn’t do without me. You see, I’m a very clever helper dog. I can carry my mom’s trowels and clippers all over the garden and generally produce them on demand. I also know how to dig in flowerpots to help her when she’s removing soil. In fact, I’m probably more efficient than she is.

Unfortunately, I haven’t learned how to curb my urge to tear through flower beds at full speed, wreaking havoc in all directions. I seem to have an unfortunate ability to destroy (or prune) the most expensive plants in the garden. Nevertheless, I’m learning.

I thought I should tell you about common garden plants that are poisonous for us canines. You see, I did an inventory of my mom’s garden and found so many toxic plants that I’m afraid she may be trying to get rid of me. First up is English ivy. It’s growing on the stone walls around our garden, and I know that my mom hates it, but when she tried to remove it, part of the wall fell. English ivy is only mildly toxic, causing mouth and stomach irritation, so I’ll give her a pass on this one.

My mom also has more than 60 hellebores. Now, these are potentially more problematic. According to legend, powdered hellebore root was used to poison Alexander the Great. The Greeks were rumored to use hellebores to poison a well in the city of Kirrha, thus rendering the inhabitants unable to defend themselves. Even the Gauls used hellebores to help kill enemies. These plants aren’t for the faint hearted. If we canines decide to nibble on them, we may suffer from all sorts of gastrointestinal problems.

And then there are the foxgloves and lily-of-the-valley. My mom loves both. The foxgloves are tall, stately and look lovely in cottage gardens. The lily-of-the-valley smells divine, just like her favorite perfume. Both plants contain toxins that can affect the heart and cause other symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea and even seizures. I suppose it’s good that I don’t have an urge to nibble on these plants.

Even daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, irises and lilies can harm us dogs. While all parts of these plants are poisonous, the toxins are most concentrated in the bulbs. Daffodils are the most dangerous of this group and can cause hypotension and seizures, while the other plants can cause gastrointestinal symptoms. Daylilies, however, aren’t true lilies, so they aren’t poisonous.

Do you sometimes leave open bags of fertilizer around where we inquiring canines can find them? Some of us just can’t resist sampling the stuff. One of my mom’s previous gardening assistants loved fertilizer and once ate quite a large quantity. She should have died, but was a tough girl who lived to tell the tale. Fertilizer is very dangerous for us canines, so please don’t leave it where we can sample it.

It’s probably impossible to dog-proof your garden, but please be aware of the dangerous plants that you have and where they are located. Sometimes, we canines just can’t resist the urge to munch something that we shouldn’t.

Your friend, Anca.

DR. CYNTHIA WOOD is a master gardener. Her email address is