Potentially harmful garden plants

Top to bottom: Autumn crocus, Lily-of-the-valley, Delphiniums, Lobelia and Chrysanthemums.My granddaughter Grace is really getting the hang of this walking lark! As a typically doting granny, this has set me thinking about her toddling around the garden this spring, with me pointing out my favourite plants. And then, being an eternal worrier, I started thinking about harmful garden plants and whether I ought to start digging things up!

After a quick scoot around the RHS website, I had calmed myself with the knowledge that, fortunately, serious poisoning by plants is very uncommon in the UK. Some garden plants do present a hazard, but the risk of severe poisoning, skin reaction or allergy is low.

So, what are the hazards?
Some plants may cause digestive upset or discomfort if eaten. Obviously, children are most at risk as we adults tend not to go around stuffing garden plants into our mouths or up our noses! A small number of common garden plants are more toxic and could cause severe poisoning. Obvious ones that I think we probably all know include Laburnum, Laurel and Yew. Less obvious nasties include Autumn crocus, Lily-of-the-valley, Delphinium and the innocent looking Bluebell!

Other plants cause problems when in contact with the skin. Irritant sap can cause a burning sensation and sometimes blistering of the skin and anyone can be affected if you get enough on your skin. Some unexpected candidates include Daffodils, Lobelia and Chrysanthemum.

What to do if there’s a problem…
If you think a child or adult has eaten part of a doubtful plant, seek medical advice immediately from a hospital Accident & Emergency department. Do remember to take a sample of the plant with you. Do not panic and DO NOT try to make the person sick!

If you think an animal has eaten a poisonous plant, get them along to the vet as soon as possible and, again, remember to take along samples of the plant concerned.

Better safe than sorry:
Really, as I said at the start, the chances of anyone poisoning themselves in this country are very slight, so please don’t be concerned! In addition, if you follow these few simple guidelines and all should be well!

  • If it is not a food plant, do not eat it!
  • Teach children not to play with or eat growing plants
  • Use gloves when pruning or weeding and keep skin covered
  • Do not leave prunings or uprooted plants in reach of farm animals or pets
  • Check plant labels for toxicity warnings (sometimes stated on label)

Plant poisons information
The RHS website www.rhs.org.uk has an extensive list of harmful plants, so I’d suggest you refer to that if you want to check out your existing plants, or are considering buying new ones, and you have a young child or wayward pet!

For information about particular risks presented by potentially harmful plants, try the following contacts.

RHS Gardening Advice Service – tel: (0845) 260 8000, 10am to 4pm

Kew Gardens – tel: (020) 8332 5000




Thank you!

Do we all say ‘thank you’ enough? I know we are all polite and always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when we are given things, or someone does you a favour or something unusual occurs. But I wonder how often we think to say ‘thank you’ to someone who is always there or who constantly does things for us?

My mother made me a card (not this one) to say ‘thank you’ for doing her online Tesco shop for her as she can no longer cope with either list making or get out and about for shopping these days. It is something I will always treasure and was a lovely way to say an extra big ‘thank you’ for something that I have been doing for quite a while now.

This picture comes from the Howard Robinson decoupage pack on the website and has a lovely cottage but a great bit of decoupage going on that shows the flowers and birds – so bright and cheery.

The problem with being a cardmaker is that it’s sometimes hard to find enough occasions to feed our habit – there are only so many family birthdays after all! So maybe there’s someone in your life that is around a lot for you, and who perhaps gets a little take for granted, so why not make them an extra ‘thank you’ card? I am sure it will bring a smile to their face, and yours too!


Some Boxing Day musings…

Well, it will be Boxing Day by the time you get to read this post, and I do hope you’ve all enjoyed a lovely Christmas Day and are looking forward to the New Year… resolutions or not!

We have been snuggled up with my girls and gorgeous granddaughter Grace, having a very ‘family’ Christmas, which has been super.

Partner in crime writing Julia, and myself, got together to pose for this daft Christmas shot a few days ago – so much for snowy scenes to go with our antlers, it’s been positively balmy down here in Devon with all sorts of things in bud in the garden. Who knows, a cold snap may yet come along and catch us all out! 

And so, to matters literary. Julia and I have made a start on Swaddlecombe book 3, but we’ve both had a few hiccups along the way with work, families and life in general getting in the way of fiction(!) – so we are really going to start writing in earnest in the New Year. We have our plot, we know ‘who dunnit’ and we also have a title, but we aren’t going to tell you just yet – we don’t want to tempt fate! Let’s just say some feathers might be about to get ruffled…! Watch this space… 

Health and happiness to you all and here’s to a peaceful 2015.




Shabby chic camelia

Here’s another shabby chic style card which I think are always so effective. To make a card fit this sort of theme you need to use muted colours and help things along with some distressing or antiquing.

The image comes from a Daphne Brissonet pad – pad number 1 in this case (but they are both wonderful). The border and sentiment come from the sheet in the pad as well as the main image. The backing paper comes from Jane Shasky’s Heart of the garden CD – but there are a mass of other designs you could use.

If you haven’t got exactly the right backing paper for this colour scheme – the trick is to pick a rose covered design with a pale background and then use something like a ‘Tea Dye’ or ‘Antique Linen’ distress ink pad and wipe it gently over the paper until it is discoloured. Another way to get aged effects on papers is to choose a backing paper from a CD and instead of printing it on white paper as we usually do – choose dark cream or beige or anything you think might give a more antiqued effect.

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Carrot cake for a first birthday

Although Grace was technically one last Wednesday we decided to have her celebrations at the weekend as it’s quite hard to celebrate and work at the same time!

We gathered at my daughter’s house and Grace’s cake was (as it’s her favourite) a carrot cake with some reserve cupcakes for those that would rather have chocolate! The recipe was tweaked to have the nuts and sultanas removed to make it more baby friendly but was a huge success and Grace quickly devoured her mini portion and we felt quite mean saying no to any more!

I bought Grace a little teddy bear fancy dress outfit some time ago and now seemed as good a time as any to wear it! She does make me smile, she is so sweet – but then I am also amazingly biased!


Serves: 16 

  • 650g grated carrots
  • 220g dark brown soft sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 250ml vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 250g crushed pineapple, drained
  • 375g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  1. In a medium bowl, combine grated carrots and dark brown soft sugar. Set aside for 60 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 180 C / Gas 4. Grease and flour three 9” tins
  3. In a large bowl, beat eggs until light. Gradually beat in the caster sugar, oil and vanilla. Stir in the pineapple. Combine the flour, bicarb, salt and cinnamon, then stir into the wet mixture until absorbed. Finally stir in the carrot mixture. Pour evenly into the prepared tins.
  4. Bake for about 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until you are happy that cake tests done with a skewer. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from tins. When completely cooled, ice with your favourite cream cheese icing recipe.