One of the most wonderful things for me about our new home is the beautiful perennial flower gardens the previous owner had put in. “All of the beauty with none of the work!” I thought. For the first season anyway, I could mostly sit back and just enjoy what came up, pull a few weeds, and that should be it. That is certainly the case with this gorgeous garden she put in an old barn foundation.
All I’ve done there is add my own little decorative elements – bird feeders, bird bath, flags, garden statues and lights; and of course my pet memory trellis from our old house. I also picked up a few annual flowers to put in planters and outside of Sam’s window.
What I didn’t anticipate was how much more there was around the house, which was good and bad. Our home is surrounded by perennial flowers and bushes; and is really a gardener’s paradise.
It was all wonderful until we fenced in the dog yard and I realized how much of all of that they could get into. At our old house, I had moved all of my gardens outside of the dog yard, when we got our digging golden retrievers. However, I wasn’t concerned with the possible digging, peeing on, trampling over, and lying on top of flowers.
My concern was the safety of the dogs, especially Luke and Sheba, who sometimes eat vegetation. Mostly they chew on grass, but how could I take the chance of them chewing on something that could potentially make them sick, or even worse, be fatal?
That’s when the real work began. I didn’t know what many of the flowers, plants, and bushes were in our yard; much less whether or not they were safe for our dogs. I’ve been a gardener my whole life but I am amazed by the number of flowers that I didn’t have a clue about. Even if I recognized them, or had them at our old house, I didn’t always know about their safety for dogs because my dogs never had access to any more than a few annual flowers in pots on our deck (that I always made sure were safe).
Finding answers wasn’t easy either. First step: identify the flowers or plants. I had to use a combination of internet research, posting photos on Facebook and asking friends, iPhone apps, and our local garden center. I have The National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Wildflowers*, and my realtor also offered to email photos to the previous owners to see if she could help. The combination of all of those things got me some of the answers I needed.
Second step: try to find out if they are toxic to dogs. It’s easy to find lists of poisonous plants for dogs and cats (thank goodness Sam is an indoor cat or that would have complicated things even further!). The ASPCA has an extensive list of toxic and non toxic plants for both dogs and cats. The problem I ran into the most was that many of the flowers I was able to identify weren’t on the list of toxic or non-toxic. And sometimes the answers were conflicting if I researched more than one place.
Once all that was done, I had to do physical digging – digging up those I found that were toxic and either moving them outside of the dog yard or disposing of them. If I was unsure and couldn’t find the answer, up they came. There was one group where there were so many that I had to fence off an area, because digging it up was just too much work, plus they were beautiful flowers and I wanted to enjoy them! The original fence I put up didn’t keep Cricket out, so I had to get a new fence. Getting one tall enough so Luke couldn’t jump it, and with no areas wide enough for Cricket to squeeze through was not easy (or cheap).
Before we could do that, this had to happen:
I was able to identify this as a hydrangea bush and discovered it is toxic to dogs. It hung over the temporary fence I had put around that area, and since all parts of the bush are toxic, that concerned me. It had to go. We did that a few weeks ago and so far it is doing well in its new location!
We are dedicated to our dogs; but I think the Dadz was OK with this excuse to play with his new tractor anyway.
Because my research turned up so much information, and I wanted to share some of what I found with my readers, I’ve decided to make a series for this subject. Along the way, just for fun, I’m going to share some photos of flowers/bushes and see if you can identify them and whether they are toxic or non-toxic. On second thought, we’ll even have a prize for the person who can get the most right! Stay tuned for that.
In the meantime, if you’re planning a garden or already have one you’re not sure about the safety of, here’s a good place to start: Pet Poison Helpline: Top 10 Plants Poisonous to Pets. It’s worth noting that the toxicity of Sago Palms is so bad that I’ve even seen stories about it on the news, and some garden centers are starting to put warning labels on them. I actually wish they’d do that for all plants. They already have tags that show best conditions for plants; i.e. sun or shade, how to plant etc., and even if the deer like them or not. Why not a little symbol with a cat or dog with a line through it if it’s not safe for them?
In subsequent posts I’ll share more about what you need to know about the toxicity of plants, have our little quiz and share the results, and also let you know some of the flowers and other plants I found that were safe or not safe.
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