Creating an Animal Friendly Garden
When choosing plants for our gardens, consideration is usually given to visual attributes such as seasonal interest, foliage, flowers, fruit or fragrance, but little attention is paid to the toxic reaction that some of these plants may cause in relation to our pets.
I have highlighted below a number of these that perhaps should be avoided if you have dogs or cats that roam free in the garden and are by nature inquisitive, but bear in mind that rather than avoid these plants altogether, they can be still be utilised in a part of the garden which is fenced off from your furry friends or planted in pots which are raised well off the ground and therefore out of reach.
- Spring flowering bulbs, such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinths can cause problems if ingested and this is of particular importance at this time of year when bulbs are scattered on the ground prior to planting. A willing helper decides games with bulbs instead of balls might be quite fun, removing one or more of these and depositing them in another part of the garden where they might remain above ground undetected and swallowed before the squirrels have added them to their winter cache.
- The pollen and petals of all the Lilium family, such as Hemerocallis – Daylilies and Colchicum – Autumn crocus, should be confined to pots, as even a brush of pollen can cause reactions.
- Animals love to poke about in damp shady corners and this is where plants such as Convallaria majalis – Lily of the Valley and the native Arum maculatum – Lords-and-ladies naturalise and thrive. The strong fragrance of Lily of the Valley flowers seems to attract animals and the bright orange berries of the Arum may look palatable, but do contain toxic substances. Pick Lily of the Valley flowers for the house and remove the seed-bearing stems of the Arum when the berries start to ripen to prevent dispersal by birds to other areas of the garden.
- Azaleas and Rhododendrons should also be confined to pots instead of planting in borders. Their requirements of an acid soil can then be easily provided and their beautiful blooms can be appreciated at close quarters on the patio. All parts of this genus can cause a toxic reaction.
- Taxus species should be avoided along boundaries where grazing animals could come into contact with the foliage; all clippings should be removed immediately as the harmful substances it contains do not diminish as the plant withers
- All plants contain complex organic compounds which may or may not be toxic to animals. Some have been cultivated for centuries for their medicinal properties, for example, Foxgloves contain a powerful cardiac medicine and Poppies are grown for opiates, but whilst they are of benefit in medical science, in the garden they can be toxic to animals. One to be completely avoided is Aconitum napellus – Monkshood, due to the alkaloid aconitine. To replicate those beautiful deep blue spires, use a Salvia, such as Caradonna or Amistad
If your pet shows any sign of falling ill having ingested plant material, it is advisable to seek immediate veterinary assistance, taking a sample of the plant, if known, for diagnostic and treatment purposes.
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