Oleander: The Plant You Hate To Love

Wikipedia defines Oleander as “an evergreen shrub or small tree in the dogbane family  toxic in all its parts. It is the only species currently classified in the genus Nerium. It is most commonly known as oleander. It is so widely cultivated that no precise region of origin has been identified, though southwest Asia has been suggested. Oleander is one of the most poisonous of commonly grown garden plants.”

So there you have it.  All parts of the plant are poisonous.  And not just a little.  My search on the web reveals that even a dose as small as one leaf ingested can stop the beating heart of a good-sized dog or toddler.  In fact it is named dogbane – can’t really be much clearer than that.

So why am I blogging about Oleander you might ask?  Well, the truth is I love this shrub.  It is definitely a plant for warmer climes hardy only to zone 8 and then with die-back in freezing temperatures.  But for all that it is one tough plant.  It is extremely drought tolerant, blooms all summer long with pink, magenta, or white blooms, doesn’t need pruning and will fill a large sunny to partly shady space of 10′ X 10′ with long graceful evergreen leaves and gorgeous tropical looking flowers.  It doesn’t sucker nor is it invasive here. Down on the Gulf of Mexico, it grows with abandon snubbing its pretty nose at hurricane winds and salty spray alike.

When I first started my gardens six years ago, it is the very first thing I planted on the back wall of our shed.  I choose a soft pink flower but it now blooms both pink and magenta flowers (don’t ask me – I just enjoy them) At that time it was a neglected area in the dog’s yard and never got watered.  Didn’t matter.  Our Oleander just grew and grew.  It is now about 10-12′ tall and I expect at least 4′ more in height and width in the next 2-3 years.  I have since added my cutting garden with plenty of water and fertilizer about 3′ away from the tips of this shrub so it now enjoys better treatment but you really would not know the difference.  It just blooms and grows.

And yes, it is in the dog’s yard.  In fact, I purposely planted it in the dog’s yard because I have lots of flowers and the neighborhood kids love to smell and pick them and even have helped me plant over the years and I didn’t want the kids to be able to reach this plant.  I trust my dogs’ judgement but kids are another story! Our four dogs run past the Oleander bush everyday chasing cars and whatever else dares too close to the back fence.  I have even seen Buck, our Australian Shepherd rolling around on his back under its branches.  Never, not once, has any dog I have ever had or known been even tempted taste the poisonous Oleander.  And my dogs love to eat plants.  They annihilated my Stevia the afternoon I planted it, love to munch on Lantana leaves, are merciless thieves with my tomatoes when they can get to them, and think nothing of grabbing a tasty snack of green grass when out with me in the garden.  So I am careful about what I plant in their side of the yard.  But Oleander was never a worry.  I am told that it smells noxious (I smell nothing) and tastes even worse.  I have trusted my dogs to be sensible (even our big dumb chocolate lab mix who is a legendary chow hound) and they have not let me down.  So I enjoy both my blooms and my babies.  Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

Happy Gardening and remember to “bee” positive!

Diatomaceous Earth

I know I talk a lot about organic gardening. Here is a great discussion on Diatomaceous Earth (DE). DE is a great organic alternative to pesticide for many garden pests. If you have dogs, spread this in the yard instead of using strong pesticides directly on your pets for flea control.

Happy gardening and remember to “bee” positive!

Diatomaceous Earth is a natural, organic garden pest control, it is a powder made of 100-percent organic ground fossils of diatoms that came from fresh water

Diatomaceous Earth kills by physical action- not chemical. While it seems like a harmless powder to us, it is actually quite sharp and hazardous to insects. It must come in contact with the pest to be effective. It will scratch and puncture the exoskeleton of soft-bodied insects, thereby causing them to dehydrate and die.

I dust it on the plants to reduce numbers of whiteflies and aphids, I first spray the plant with organic insecticidal soap, then I dust the powder on the wet plant and it sticks for days.

I didn’t really know I had an aphid problem until I noticed the drying and yellowing of my out of season watermelon plant that was doing pretty well until its infestation, and one of the corn plants. I…

View original post 89 more words

Fall Garden Chores: Turning My Compost Heap

This summer the compost heap got away from me.  It kept growing and I only turned it once.  So I had lots of leaves to incorporate into the active compost heap.  So with the weather so beautiful, it was time to turn it and add the leaves piled around the fenced compost.  My design is really simple.  It is contained by a four foot diameter circle of fencing and when I am ready to turn the pile, I just lift the fencing off, set it next to the pile and start re-filling.  This time I left the current pile alone except for the very top which had not yet broken down at all.  I started filling with that to about two feet deep along with a few large sticks to ensure air circulation into the middle of the pile on the bottom and then added a handful of Blood Meal.  Since I have lots of brown stuff and not very much green stuff, the Blood Meal adds the nitrogen needed for the pile to “cook” and break down all the stuff.  More leaves from the ground around the pile to another two feet and another handful of Blood Meal.

Handful of Blood Meal

I alternate brown stuff and Blood Meal until the pile is about 5-6 feet tall.  This seems high but as the stuff breaks down, the pile will shrink.  I cover it with a kiddie pool that I use for all sorts of things and let it sit.

Finished pile

As for the compost that is now ready, this is what you are looking for:    I like to sift through the finished compost and remove any plastic or trash that has found its way into the pile and also get rid of any larger sticks that are still intact.  You can add these to the new compost and they will eventually break down but usually I just throw them away.  They have done their job by letting air circulate to the middle of the pile and I have no shortage of sticks.  The compost will be spread in all my beds and also anywhere I need to add soil or bulk.  This year I will be filling in around my pond and to the azaleas behind the pond as they were planted this year with lots of peat moss and the dirt has settled down around the plants so they need a little dirt.  Plants can be set down into pure compost so I don’t even turn the soil to mix as long as the bed has already been worked.  This is the secret to magazine quality plants.  Compost.  Even if you don’t compost yourself, you can purchase bags of it at any garden center.  I add it fall and spring.

Happy gardening and remember to “bee” positive!

The Lay Of The Land

So today I went out to really look at what it all looks like after the tree cutters trimmed up and pruned the eight trees in our yard.  For those of you who have asked exactly how our yard is laid out, I made a drawing of our property so you can kind of understand where the cutting garden is, the shade garden, etc.  So here it is:

We live at the end of a cul de sac so we have yard on both sides of the house.  We have a large two story shed in the back and all those circles are trees.  Hopefully this will give you a point of reference.

So I loved what they did with the trees but they left the shade garden all moved around and they stacked all the limbs right over my bedding plants in the front.  At first I was annoyed but these three young men worked all day in the 104 deg heat and still planned to go out that night and go dancing.  You have to appreciate their stamina.  Here are some photos of the pile of limbs and the trees after they were pruned.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Happy Gardening and remember to “bee” positive!

The Trials of a Gardener: Summer Heat and Being a Good Neighbor

Still hot as blazes: 107 deg F (42 C) so I stayed in today and painted.  I made a couple of mini signs for the garden.  I am training Buck as a model.  He really will do anything for a treat!  I am going have to brave the heat.  We just got a notice from the city that my flowers are growing too high in the alley so I have to go out and sheer them back.  Some people are just haters. ; )!  Seriously, I want to be a good neighbor, I just don’t want to die from heat exhaustion doing it.  Well, OK, that’s a little dramatic.  Say a prayer for me.  At least I’ll lose a couple of pounds – even if it is water weight!

Happy gardening, stay cool, and remember to “bee” positive!


Meet the Dogs: Buck

This is Buck.  He is an Australian Shepherd.  My husband, Randy, really wanted this kind of dog so we did the research and found a breeder out on a farm and met the mother and father and saw the litter.  He is a beautiful dog.  Raising him from a 10 week old puppy was challenging.  I usually like rescues that are fully grown.  But we did get him house trained and Bear, our Rottweiler immediately adopted him and took care of him in the sweetest way.

Gardening with Buck has been a challenge because he is super smart and a herder.  So, everything I planted, he dug up and relocated to a pile in the middle of the back yard.  I guess he wanted to be sure the roses wouldn’t get out of line!

Buck is a truly sweet and beautiful dog.  His full name is Sidney’s Little Texas Lone Star Buckeroo.  If you look closely, you will see that both his eyes are two colors – blue and brown.  He loves to go to Lowes and Calloways with me and he is always a big hit there.  Next post will really be about gardening I promise!