Dig deep with the garden goddess, Cynthia Brian

Posted on August 17, 2022
Dig deep with the garden goddess, Cynthia Brian
Colorful African daisies. Photos Cynthia Brian

“Flowers have a facial expression as much as men or animals. Some seem to smile, some have a sad expression, some are pensive and shy, and still others are simple, honest and upright.” ~Henry Ward Beecher

And may I add. some are very poisonous!

Since growing up on a farm, I’ve adopted and raised all manner of creatures, domesticated and wild. Dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels, chickens, ducks, geese, cows, horses, sheep, ponies, deer, birds, pigs, goats and more roamed our bass -Classes. My family never allowed pets inside, but many of our animal friends followed us around our expansive gardens as we did our chores, occasionally munching on roses or gnawing on low-voltage wires, but never never getting sick. It seemed that our animals had an innate knowledge of which plant was poisonous and stayed away from oleander, foxglove, hemlock, and hundreds of other poisonous specimens.

Recently I was hired by a lovely client to provide a colorful garden design for the family’s backyard. The project’s caveat was that their adorable pup ate anything that grew. As we walked around the yard, the dog indeed tasted everything. When I submitted my suggested planting list, I was confident that my choices would be suitable for a herbivorous pet.

I was wrong. Many of my picks could have caused health issues based on the amount consumed, potential allergies, or other issues.

In general, plants considered poisonous or poisonous to humans are poisonous to most animals. For example, although humans enjoy many types of mushrooms, there are many mushrooms that are deadly when ingested. If your pet nibbles on a mushroom in the wild, it should be treated as poisonous. There have been cases where a plant harmless to humans has been poisonous to an animal. Often animals eat larger amounts of the plant, leading to a bigger problem.

As I went back to the drawing board to research a list of non-ruin flowers, it became apparent that contradictions and confusion reign. In one report a specimen was listed as safe and in another it was listed as unsafe. It has become important to study the scientific name as well as the surname. For example, 1,000 species and over 10,000 hybrids of begonia, Scientific name: Begonia spp., Family: Begoniaceae are poisonous, while the climbing begonia known as Rex Begonia, Scientific name: Cissus dicolor, Family: Vitaceae is fine. The health, age and size of the animal as well as the amount it eats are a determining factor in whether your animal will be affected. The ASPCA is a useful website as a guide to poisonous plants for dogs. Visit https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/dogs-plant-list.

After reviewing many sources and talking to experts, my recommendation is to check with your personal veterinarian before landscaping, as your doctor knows your pet best. Many plants with no known toxicity could nevertheless cause an allergic reaction under the right conditions. The juice or sap of some plants contains oxalate crystals that are shaped like tiny needles that can cause mouth irritation or, in severe cases, cause throat swelling and difficulty breathing. Exposure to selected juice or sap may cause itching or burning dermatitis. Plants with minor toxicity may cause no symptoms or induce mild vomiting or diarrhea. Plants with major toxicity could have serious effects on body organs such as the heart, liver or kidneys. Just as each human being reacts individually to stimuli, so do animals. For this reason, consultation with your veterinarian is advised.

Of course, there are also other circumstances. Roses are considered safe for people and pets to eat if they have not been treated with pesticides, insecticides or other chemicals. However, a puncture wound caused by a thorn can cause irritation and pain in humans and animals. Does this mean that we do not plant roses?

It’s summer and tomatoes, peppers and beans fill many vegetable gardens. I saw several friends’ pets roaming the garden munching on the juicy ripe vegetables straight from the vine. The leaves of tomatoes, peppers and potatoes contain solanine which can cause gastrointestinal upset and slow heart rate. Beans could cause extra gas while potatoes need to be cooked before eating. Don’t we plant vegetables?

What about garlic and onions? Plants of the Allium family can cause anemia in animals. Some publications indicate that plants of this family should not be given to pets. Yet garlic has been a medicinal food for centuries. It is rich in nutrients that boost immunity to many ailments. Our family feeds our pets small amounts of raw garlic as an agent to deter worms and repel ticks. Our pets are always healthy. The level of danger must be weighed by you, individually for your animals in concert with the expertise of your veterinarian.

I have always thought of goats as environmentally friendly weed-eating and fertilizing animal machines. If you’ve ever seen hundreds of goats clearing a hillside of blackberry bushes, poison oaks, and a variety of tall grasses, it’s easy to believe that these ruminants can and will consume anything. and all. Yet there are over 700 species of plants that could cause toxicity in goats. Luckily for them, their internal antenna keeps them away from poisonous plants unless starvation is a factor.

This is a curated list of “safe plants for pets” selected from extensive research. That being said, remember that you and your vet know your pet best, so be sure to check that your beloved friend won’t eat anything harmful at home or while traveling.




lemon balm





pot marigolds (calendula)




lemon balm

Canna lily





magnolia bushes (need full sun, purple, pink, white)


star jasmine

ginger lily


african daisy

blueberry (Bachelor Buttons)

rabbit’s foot fern

sword fern


chervil (french parsley)

heuchera (coral bells)


Easter lilies


grape hyacinth

baby tears (stonecrop)


ice factory


Crepe myrtle

mahonia (Oregon grape)



scabious (pincushion flower)

astronomer lily




sweet potato vine


torch lily (hot red poker)


Currently, my landscape is full of an amazing sea of ​​swinging naked women. In the genus Amaryllis, this flower bulb contains a variety of toxic alkaloids, the most common being lycorine. Again, the lethality posed by ingesting pets is contradictory and there are no reported pet-related cases in the medical literature. Luckily, my pets are not interested in this flower, but if you have animals that nibble on nature, be careful, not only in your garden but also during your walks or hikes with your animals.

Do your homework. Keep your plants and pets safe from poisoning. And in case I haven’t written enough, talk to your vet!

Happy gardening. Good growth.

Blue Plumbago is eye-catching and safe for pets in the garden. Photos Cynthia Brian
Roses and snapdragons grow well together, but roses have thorns. Photos Cynthia Brian
Sword ferns are excellent for shade gardens. Photos Cynthia Brian
Hollyhocks come in many colors and are magnets for hummingbirds. Photos Cynthia Brian
Canna of all shades adds a tropical flair.
Spectacular pink nudes grow in all soil conditions.
Mahonia, aka Oregon grape.
Muscari, also called muscari.
Cynthia Brian and Bunny are blessed by a garden angel!
Cynthia Brian, the Garden Goddess, is available for hire to help you prepare your fall garden. Raised in the vineyards of Napa County, Cynthia is a New York Times bestselling author, actress, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach, and founder and executive director of Be the Star. You Are!r 501 c3. Tune in to Cynthia’s StarStyler radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com. Her new series of children’s picture books, Stella Bella’s Barnyard Adventures, will be available soon. Buy copies of his books, www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. Receive a FREE inspiring music DVD and special discounts. Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consultations and inspirational talks. [email protected] www.GoddessGardener.com

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