Plant Is No Monk’s Hood

Wherever it gets its name, this plant is no monk’s hood.  Here is a plant that Pam Baxter writes about after one of her readers sent in a question and photo of a plant growing in her landscape garden.  The reader, Shirley Walton, was unable to identify the plant until she had her daughter do some detective work.  She suggested to Pam that she write a column about the plant because of its toxicity to warn readers,  The plant is no monk’s hood, but the plant is a monkshood.

This plant is no monk's hood!

This plant is no monk’s hood!

In a follow-up email, Walton added, “The monkshood really makes a showy fall flower. What a shame it’s so deadly!” When I looked up information on the plant I discovered that just as Walton had noted, all parts of the plant are toxic—especially the roots and seeds. It’s not just a question of making sure not to chew on the plant. The toxins can be absorbed through the skin, so caution should be exercised around monkshood to avoid direct contact.

I don’t know about you, but I wonder how the monkshood, otherwise known as Aconitum napellus, got in the front landscape garden.  I also found an article in which the author was praising the monkshood and claimed that it was getting too little attention and should be planted in more gardens.  Why would you want to plant such a toxic plant in a garden where people, or their dogs, are in close proximity?  I don’t quite get it, but I’d be looking for ways to get rid of the toxic monkshood.  It takes all kinds of people, I guess.  Pam writes about a Poison Garden that people can visit within England’s Alnwick Garden.

Signs on the black iron entrance gates bear the skull-and-crossbones image, and the warning, “THESE PLANTS CAN KILL.” The warning is not an idle one. Even with rules in place that prohibit visitors from smelling, touching or tasting any of the plants, some people still fall victim.

Isn’t there always something fascinating about what is strange or odd in some way?  Aren’t you just a little bit tempted to check out the plant that is no monk’s hood now that you’ve read about it?  You can read more by clicking here or on the link below to get to William’s article.  I want to know more about tht Poison Garden.  There is a bit more information about the garden in William’s article, and there is a reference to another article that you can check.




Photo by OliBac

Grow Berry Bushes In A Pot

In today’s rush to still be able to garden with limited space, it’s nice to know you can grow berry bushes in a pot.  If you like the taste of fresh blueberries, raspberries or blackberries, you can grow your own berry producing bushes without a lot of trouble.  William Hageman has written an article in which he notes that younger gardeners living in apartments are spurring the growing industry to produce berry plants that are able to be grown in smaller spaces.  There is also interest in using berry plants as ornamentals, and you can put them on a patio because you can literally grow berry bushes in a pot.

You can grow berry bushes in a pot.

You can grow berry bushes in a pot.

The increasing popularity of berries as ornamentals is part of the trend toward urbanizing gardening, thinking smaller and trying nontraditional plants, said Steve Raczak of Twixwood Nursery in Berrien Springs, Mich. “There’s a movement toward reducing sizes and increasing the variations of color,” he said. “There’s lots of movement in berries, fruits, herbs, vegetables, so the convenience of growing and harvesting can literally be done on your patio.”

You may be more interested in growing berry bushes for their produce, but honestly, you are not likely to produce more berries from one plant than enough to put on your cereal one morning.  So to produce a greater amount, you need to think of planting multiple berry plants, several per pot and several pots.  It makes sense why berry plants are being used as ornamentals in home or apartment gardens rather than for the berries themselves.

If you’re thinking of using berries as ornamentals, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are among your best bets. They’re compact, they produce fruit, and some are even attractive. There’s also a geek factor, something to impress visitors.

Don’t give up on the idea of having berries when you grow berry bushes in a pot.  In his article, which you can read here or by clicking on the link below, William includes information on what kinds of berry plants you might consider planting for berries, including strawberry plants.  In addition you’ll find information on how to care for those plants and on how to get the most produce from them.


Photo by gailf548

Millennial Gardeners Benefit From Scotts’ Plans

I don’t usually curate press releases, but this one has some interest since millennial gardeners will benefit from Scotts’ plans.  Scott Miracle-Gro announced the formation of a new company, the Hawthorne Gardening Company.  Scotts Miracle-Gro is hoping to capitalize on the increasing interest in indoor and urban gardening.  The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Scotts Miracle-Gro, and it will focus on products that appeal to the younger and more urban population.  That is the reason that millennial gardeners will benefit from Scotts’ plans, millennials being those who tend to live in more urban environments and fall in the age range of late teens through to the twenties.

Millennials will benefit from Scotts' plans.

Millennials will benefit from Scotts’ plans.

Based in New York, the Hawthorne team will focus on building a portfolio of niche lawn and garden brands and products that appeal to younger and more urban consumers. Chris Hagedorn has been named general manager of the Hawthorne team reporting to Barry Sanders, president and chief operating officer.
“All across the country, more and more folks are living in urban areas, leading us to the conclusion that we needed to give them the tools they needed to garden,” said Chris Hagedorn. “Whether through container gardening or countertop hydroponic systems indoors, we need to be top of mind for urban dwellers who are looking for fun, inventive and sustainable ways to nurture plants.”

Though the Hawthorne Gardening Company may develop products for millennials, I suspect that Scotts Miracle-Gro won’t mind if those products are purchased by non-millennials.  Scotts is a company that has had a long presence in Marysville, Ohio, and I hope that the Hawthorne Gardening Company is successful, as it reaches out to make an investment in the US economy.  Here is what the release says about the new company.

Hawthorne Gardening Co. is a house of brands that provide an incredible array of tools for a multitude of gardening needs, and yet, all share one mission: to help people live happier, healthier lives through gardening. Our company is dedicated to creating high-quality products founded in social and environmental responsibility. We create engaging consumer experiences and products with the ease and innovation to empower more people to garden – no matter where they chose to grow.

An interesting marketing thought comes from Chris Hagedorn, who has compared the need to target garden millennials in a similar way as has the beer industry.  Millennial gardeners will benefit from Scotts’ plans as they have benefited from beer companies that target millennials’ taste for niche craft beers.  You can read the entire release by clicking here.  We don’t know how soon it will be before we see products on the shelves, but my guess it won’t be too long.

Good Garden Things We Hate

I’m not sure why it is, but there are several good garden things we hate.  Maybe it’s because we don’t think of them in relation to a garden.  Mark Cullen writes about bacteria, bats, snakes, wasps, grackles and squirrels.  There’s not a one of them about which I don’t have some negative feelings when I think of them out of context.  Maybe in the context of the garden they would be more likeable?  Are they really good garden things that we hate just because we think of them outside of the context of the good they do for our gardens?  Here’s Mark’s take on bacteria.

One of those good garden things we hate.

One of those good garden things we hate.

We need the autumn leaves to fall to the ground and for the bacteria and mycorrhizae that live there to do their work. Through the miracle of decomposition, your maple leaves become the essence of a great garden in a matter of months. . .where did it get such a bad rap? Remember when some genius introduced us to mouthwash: the scientific answer to bad breath and gingivitis? So we dutifully rinsed our mouths with it for some years before someone else put up their hand and announced that the majority of bacteria in your mouth are good guys. We need them to battle disease and to help break down food before it enters our stomach and digestive system.

This year I’m going to save a lot of my leaves, after I’ve chopped them up over and over with my mower, and I’m going to spread them in my gardens.  In the springtime my gardens are going to require less mulch, and the plants in my gardens will benefit from the decomposition of the leaves and from the insulation they’ll receive during the winter.  How about grackles?  These creatures are my least favorite birds, and I admit to having chased them away from my bird feeder.

They travel in huge herds, eat all of the bird food, don’t have a nice song, and generally are considered the bullies of the bird world.  Well, Jody Allair has a different opinion. He is the chief ornithologist at Bird Studies Canada ( and he defends the lowly grackle as an important member of our bird world. Allair says, “Sure a grackle eats more than a house finch, but it’s also a fascinating bird. Males put on an amazing show during courtship. And if you look closely at their black plumage you may appreciate the beauty of their iridescent purple and bronze feathers.”

I’m still not convinced regardless of what Jody has to say about grackles.  You’ll want to read what Mark has to say about the other good garden things we hate by clicking here or on the link below.  What he says about wasps is interesting, and he even pardons the snake for making a mistake in eating something helpful for our gardens.  Mark says a lot in what he doesn’t say about squirrels.


Photo by bob in swamp

Moss In The Garden Does Not Signal Neglect

Contrary to what some people may think, moss in the garden does not signal neglect.  There are gardens that are entirely made of different kinds of mosses, and there are people who plant and work to grow mosses purposefully.  Bunny Guinness writes an interesting article about people who moved into a rundown property and took advantage of the climate in the area to cultivate mosses.  Usually if you think about moss, you usually associate it with some deficiency or lack of care.  However, for those of us gardeners who cultivate moss, as did the people in Bunny’s article, it is definitely the case that moss in the garden does not signal neglect.

Moss in the gardendoes not signal neglect.

Moss in the garden
does not signal neglect.

When Diane Hewitt and David Kinsman moved there about 30 years ago, it was a very different prospect. The previous owners had not removed any rubbish in the previous five decades. The garden started as Diane and David began clearing the ground immediately outside the house. . .They have each spent significant periods in Japan and China, and they were inspired by the moss gardens of Kyoto which they visited in the Nineties. They also found that moss, lichens and algae thrive in the humid climate of Windermere (70in of rain a year).

Windermere is in the South Lakeland District of Cumbria, England.  You may not have the climate that is conducive to the growing of moss, but the climate in Windermere is perfect, but you could possibly imitate the conditions of Windermere in your area to grow a moss garden.  When I think of mosses, I usually have a mental picture of some low-growing, green plant adhering to a rock.  I have seen lots of lichens in rock outcroppings of mountainous areas.  But in reading Bunny’s article, I’ve learned more about mosses.

One of their most prolific mosses is.  This forms lovely hummocks, up to 4in high, of a verdant, almost luminescent emerald-lime colour. . . They have carried out other experiments, too, such as cutting the mossy hummocks of Polytrichum formosum, to see if they could “engineer” it. This failed, though. It all sulked and turned brown, and only perked up again two or three years later. Mosses are fascinating plants. In dry periods, the humidity-loving species will turn brown. But if Diane and David have a party visiting, simply wetting the mosses the night before invariably ensures they will be super green the following morning.

I’ve never purposely tried to grow moss, but Bunny’s article, which you can read by clicking here or on the link below, has me intrigued.  There have been places in my yard where I have tried to eradicate moss, but maybe I should be taking a different tack.  If I looked at it differently, that moss in the garden does not signal neglect, maybe I could make a positive out of mosses that grow in my yard.



Photo by kimubert

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