Dangerous practice

In recent years, I became keen on wearing gloves. Often, unless it was partcularly thorny (Pyrancantha) or prickly (Berberis) I didn’t bother as a younger gardener. It’s so very necessary though. Alot of plants emit an irritant sap and more. No-one’s suggesting you voluntarily ingest anything toxic but may remain on your hands – you can inadvertently infect yourself. Rose thorns equally dangerous, can give you blood poisoning, it’s really not so difficult. There are many dangerous plants but to provide you with a few.

Digitalis purpurea (Common foxglove) – beautiful colours from purples, whites and reds. The common foxglove self seeds and reproduces. D. illumination ‘Ruby’ a pink hybrid – does not seed but offers an effective food source for insects. The hybrids that are crossed for resilience are usually sterile although hardy to adverse conditions. (D. x vallini). A easy plant in a herbaceous mixed border with delphiniums, monarda and rudbeckia. It prefers a sunny aspect offering foliage and flowers in summer. It is resilient in an exposed site but can be supported if needed.

Ricinus (Castor Oil) – very attractive leaves and flowers. This plant needs full sun and relatively hardy. It’s a fast growing evergreen, sought in red and green. It will flower in late summer. Very dramatic leaves and flowers, just very dangerous.

Euphorbia (Spurge) It’s worth mentioning poinsettias are part of this group. Secretes an irritant and dangerous to swallow. It likes full sun and prolific in growth. E. characias is the variety we see alot and provides blue/foliage aswell as yellow flowers. A variegated E. x Martini (Ascot Rainbow) can be sought too. It is a shame Euphorbia is so invasive, once in situ can be difficult to control. Very attractive too, but precautions are necessary.

Dandelions – a weed but does possess an irritant sap. The leaves can be eaten and is known to have detoxifying benefits. Having said this, ingested in large quantities can be quite damaging due to their high alkalinity.

Laburnum x waterei – A beautiful specimen tree offering scented flora in early summer providing a canopy of colour. Breathtaking to see, but all parts of the plant are toxic. The pea – like flowers can look edible to an discerning eye (animals and children). It prefers full sun. A very robust and versatile tree. A decidious choice but provides foliage and flowers up until autumn.

Aconitum nappellus (Monkshead) offers deep violet and white (‘Gletschereis’) hooded blooms in summer. (A. ‘Gletschereis’ doesn’t tend to self seed). An effective herbaceous perennial. It needs a sunny spot but will tolerate some shade. The soil, however, needs substance – it must be humus rich and fertile.

Taxus baccata (Yew) – dwarf varieties can be sought although usually used a hedging / topiary plant. It responds well to heavy pruning (unlike conifers) Part of the plant has been used in the production of tamoxifen although it nevertheless quite dangerous. It is an evergreen. It’s hardy. It’s an effective architectural plant that can be shaped. It likes full sun, partial sun, no sun. You just don’t want to swallow it.