Friday, September 3, 2010

Before and After: What Can Happen in Just 6 Months!

A couple of posts ago I took a shot of the palm tree corner of my garden, commenting on the overgrown quality of a few plants, and it got me to thinking.  I have lots of pictures of this corner, having started it from scratch in March.

I love posts from others where I can see time march on, though because I see this little corner every single day I sort of forgot what it used to look like.    Many say that it takes years to fill in a garden, and perhaps it does, yet Mother Nature has done quite a bit here, no?

March 4th

March 21
April 2

April 22

June 11

September 2

September 2

This last one has nothing to do with this post... just the Brugmansia is blooming again...despite that I went on vacation for a week and it didn't get watered and lost 75% of its leaves.  It doesn't seem to care, at least for now.  Have a great holiday weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Visiting OPG (other people's gardens)

OPG is gardening nirvana in my opinion.  Flowers you'll never grow, varietals you've never seen, all there to be sniffed and ogled and then you get to walk away easily without pulling at the crabgrass bunch or wondering if those few small holes in the leaves of that exotic plant are portentous tidings of an all night leaf feasting orgy.  Those flowers are there, already staked and watered.  They have been dug and redug to find their perfect plot of dirt.  They do not remind you that if you don't deadhead they will not bloom again, and they keep their mouths zippered about previous bouts of pestilence and disease while company is around.  

They are just there for you, in that moment, for that moment.

I love them.  And like all love, you decide you want it all the time.  Every day.  Permanently.   Forever.  Despite indisputable ephemeral perfection, OPG in all its glory has to come live at home.   And hence, now we all have gardens too, don't we?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Results Of Being Lazy

This houseplant (Tradescantia Zabrina), underneath, is in an 8 inch pot.

This is a picture of laziness.   I meant to put up the hanger outside my door within the week of getting 10 or so sprigs and putting them in dirt.  I meant to do it the following week too, when I actually moved the plant outside and put it in a semi shady area which used to be my holding pen area. 

I grew up calling this plant "Wandering Jew" and I can see where the wandering tag might have come from.  Anyone around here want some?

This blushing bride hydrangea was in a gallon pot.  This is another picture of laziness.  I bought 3 hydrangeas on the same day.  Hydrangea #1 was planted within a few days.  Hydrangea #2 took me about 3 weeks to get in the ground.  This hydrangea, over to the right - nearly 2 months.   When he did get out of the pot, he had to have the majority of his roots shredded because he was so pot bound that unless he was sitting in water he would droop.  Now he has no rootsystem to speak of, and its the hottest part of the year.  Therefore he looks like crap every day for hours and he is tiny compared to everyone else.   He called social services on me twice, and has refused to bloom. 

A picture of gross negligent laziness. (really bad)  Too much sun.  I knew there was way too much sun... kept saying "must get ladder out and move that plant."  As you can see it is still there, having died of heatstroke.  No amount of watering can make a plant who hates sun tolerate a dozen 100 degree days in the sun.  I am taking his corpse down today. I promise.  As soon as I drag down that ladder.  Maybe tomorrow.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Brugmansia Mania

Most of you who have read my blog for more than a post or two know I live in an area that can support tropicals for the most part, but that growing up north of here, I don't really have an affinity for the vast majority of them.    We all have our likes and dislikes, and some of my favorite bloggers *gasp* hate coneflowers, which is as difficult to comprehend as the infinite space of the universe for me.    Aside from houseplants which can grow back each year without coming inside, I only have one tropical love: the Brugmansia. 

It actually started in Charleston, when I was walking around one September and came upon this small tree literally coated in foot long tubular blooms.  The thing looked exactly like a Dr. Seuss tree in Seussville.   I wish I had taken a picture of it, but I didn't.  It looked something like this.

I somehow can also see each of the tubes playing like trumpets ala Alice in Wonderland.  I had to have one.

I bought the very first one I ran across, about 1 foot tall, and a tiny sprig of a tree, in April.   By May it was 4 feet tall, straight as an arrow, looking like a 4 foot tall woody weed.   A few cuttings were taken off for relatives, which also rooted easily, but no flowers, and no branches.   Then came July.  The base had sprouted out a new limb, and the main stalk, now over 5 feet tall had V'd.  Or more correctly W'd, and within a week of this happening I had 13 blooms on the thing in quick succession.

Mine was growing in the middle of my patio until early July when I decided that it had to move into some shade.   It was flowering, yes, but the leaves were also burning and turning a not right very light shade of green, despite DAILY watering.  So he's been moved until the end of September to the spot I have reserved for my statue that only exists in my imagination.    Now I only have to water him every other day, and the leaves are turning green again.

Here's a picture of a 4 month old Brugmansia (ignore burnt leaves please).  I can't wait til next season when I move him up a pot size and he becomes a real tree.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

MIA but not DOA

Well?????, you say...where the heck have you been?

I have been MIA, since June, I know.  I apologize to all those who wrote me and I have yet to get back to.   I am back now.  I have had a #*!$) of a summer.   New job, new relationship, massive family in town, out of town on vacation and I don't know what other excuses I can throw at you, but please add in any others you can think of.

The good news is, despite blog neglect, and moderate garden neglect, the garden is doing really quite well.  Particularly since it hasn't been below 90 degrees during the day since the last time I wrote in May, and I refuse to water regularly when I should because I've been so exhausted every day when I get home.  Plus its still 90 degrees out with a dew point of 85, and even 5 seconds out there with the hose equals a total sweatbath.   It apparently still doesn't matter, they are all still alive save for 1 pot which for a few weeks failed to drain adequately, and boom.  Everything dead.  Yet another example that overwatering can kill something 8.7x as fast as underwatering can.

I have learned some more from my first hot season as a gardener in the south.
1)Do not plant stuff that only blooms in the summer.  You *might* see it from your window but you will never get to enjoy it.   I am going to spend next spring and this fall replacing some of these plants. 
2)Beebalm is really mildewy.
3)David Phlox is awesomely NOT mildewy.  Even though it is right beside the beebalm, it is perfectly fine.  I am buying more next spring.
4)I have a major ivy problem.  If I were to leave the garden untended for 2 years, I am 100% sure that it would be entirely, ENTIRELY covered and coated with ivy.    I also have a passionflower vine and some other vine problem.   Oh, and the jasmines, which I actually planted, are slowly trying to permanently shut the gate.  Vines do really well here.
5)Full sun, in this climate, means death to most things. (not vines) Full Sun plants need partial shade.  The prettiest part of my garden this spring is the hardest part to keep looking 'alive'.  Angelonia seems to be thriving, but even the knockout roses are looking parched constantly.   There will be a lot more angelonia in my garden in those spots. 
6)While I haven't purchased any new roses, when they go on sale here in October, I'm getting some more.  They really are awesome plants.  My MAC rose (Madame Alfred Carrere) which was one stick and 4 leaves when I mail ordered it from Antique Rose Emporium in May, actually bloomed.  It is in a spot which I frequently ahem, forget, to water, and though it looks wilty during the day, it still is growing like a weed with rosebuds on it.  I have yet to: a)fertilize it, b)train it, c)spray it for any pests, or d)do anything really at all to it, and yet it is thriving.  It has grown 4 feet in 2 months of intense neglect.
7)It pays to pay attention to your plants, and when you take 2 weeks off because you are so busy you don't even have time to go to the bathroom, things like 'tiny bugs coating 100% of both sides of your elephant ear plants' happen with disastrous effects.   Then, probably too late, you go to spray them with something, anything that will get rid of the bugs that are now crawling up your arm, and you find that some neighbor has decided your insecticide was too good to pass up from the backyard potting bench, and stole it.  While leaving a $50 ceramic pot sitting there.   I guess when ya gotta have bug spray, ya gotta have it.  Anyhow.  My elephant ear (colocasia) is looking a bit compromised.  Its only been a week since this happened, so hopefully there will be recovery.

Okay, well here's a pic of the garden :)  I'll be writing more regularly again because my schedule has returned to 'somewhat' normal.   And I'll be visiting everyone's blogs again with my new found time.  I started last night! Missed ya'll.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shady Sanctuary

In my opinion, shade gardens are harder to pull off design wise, but when done correctly, can create a sense of space, peace quiet and nature like nothing else.    The riots of color from your average sunny border always bring a smile to my face, but a cool shade garden is the place that makes me want to sit down and feel the humidity, the slight breeze though the trees, and take a deep breath of that green/dirt/growing things smell.

It could also be that I've noticed that sitting down in a not-shade garden here, from May-October, is torture.

My shade garden, which is my SW corner (NE exposure) is the only part of my garden that doesn't get direct sunlight, and it is the part of my garden that has the least cohesiveness to it, despite the fact that it is also the only part that has any actual 'backbone' to it, in the form of the palm tree and small raised bed.  

The fact is, my collective images of gardens and experience from my mom's gardens (which has about zero shade in it) has left me without a solid image of how to get what I want.    Also, the shady south isn't the shady Midatlantic or Northeast, and a lot of stuff just doesn't like it here... at all.  

But I have hope that one of these days I'll be able to create my little slice of inky shaded paradise, because shade gardens abound in Charleston, and I only have to walk around a little to get some good ideas.  

Our city is covered in closely spaced 18th and 19th century houses, nearly all 2 to 4 stories, nearly all with 10+ ft ceiling heights, and it makes for some shady lanes and moss covered brick patios.  Think hidden nooks with crumbling statuary and benches under a massive arching live oaks with moss and ferns hanging from above.   I have no hope of this, my patio garden just gets too much sunlight, but that macro feeling is what I so love about those shady spots.  It is shadowed, dark and an inviting retreat from the glare of the sun.  Like you might just find a romantic Anne Rice-type vampire or witch hanging out there in the twilight.

Now I'm not quite exactly sure what to PUT in the shady spots to make it look like that but I'm working on it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Yarrow Flop House

About a week ago, without pausing to look at any note I might have made to myself on, lets say, plants that should not be fertilized, I went and fertilized the entire garden.    Even the roses got their own special fertilizer.  

Before, when I still looked good
Within 20 minutes, the 'Appleblossom' yarrow grew an additional six inches and promptly flopped all over the place, sprawled over every plant near and far.  
Still looking good....on May 5th

Somewhere deep in the back of my mind, when I planted this stuff, I knew that it liked lean soil.   But until the great flop this week, I had quickly failed to be bothered with remembering.   Now reading the likes and dislikes of this plant again, I am recalling all sorts of stuff.  Like it is going to be huge.   I am not joking here either.  I planted this mid to late March and it was a 5 inch round 1 inch tall mat of fernlike bristles.  I planted two of them because there is some gardening compulsion to never buy just one of anything.    Following the directions properly I did plant them about 2.5 feet apart, so I must have had some inkling at the time.   Today each of them are probably about 24 inches tall (ahem, long) and about a 20 inch round wild floppy mat.   And growing.   5 weeks old and they are monsters. 

Today...not so good :(
See how small I was in March?

I must stop and say I do love the look of the flowerheads.  They are exactly like the picture of them in the magazines.  The colors are great.  But this sprawl.  I am not liking this.  It isn't a pretty let me just intermingle with your flowers and leaves kind of messiness.  I love that look, but no,  it looks like a dog laid on it and had a full night of running dreams.

Okay, so what to do?  Can I stake it somehow?  It looked much better before the great fertilizing event, but its a little late now to reverse that.    

Monday, May 10, 2010

Honest Scrap: About Me

Heidi, over at Gippsland Garden, has passed on the Honest Scrap Award to me a few weeks ago now, and I'm finally getting down to it.  I think it is a very nice idea.  Many of the blogs I read regularly have a little something to them that keeps me coming, and its generally the personality behind the blog.   It's always peeking out here and there and it makes following those garden stories richer.

The whole idea is to list 10 things that readers might not know about you... honest stuff :)!  So here you are, a few things that might be hard to guess:

1)I consider myself a world traveller.  What I mean by world travel is that I have tried my best to experience different places and cultures from various angles.   You can do this across town as well as across the world and I have done a lot of both.   I have been fortunate enough to be able to do some things that no getting around it, you just have to pay for.  Going on a first class overnight train trip is something that sticks in my mind.  I had my own fancy room, but I also had a porter waiting on me, I met great eccentric people in the first class cocktail lounge and dined in fine form with a sharper than me 80 year old woman who had just gotten married for the 5th time.  What a riot she was.  It really was like Murder On The Orient Express.  Minus the murder part... I did bring the book though.  And I'm not sure my dinner partner didn't off one or two of those husbands.  On the opposite spectrum, I spent an entire 63$ for 2 weeks in Bolivia, camping in the altiplano at 17,000 feet.  I saw children working in a mine we bribed our way into (very scary) where the average age of death is 40 years old.  I saw otherworldly landscapes entirely made of salt.    I didn't take any showers and we jumped in some hotsprings to help ourselves out in this department.

2)I wanted to be Indiana Jones when I grew up.  I had acquired a whip and the hat by age 9. I was ready.

3)Before I moved to Charleston I lived and worked in Manhattan for 13 years.  I definitely had my 'Sex in the City' years (though I worked a heck of a lot more than those girls did), and I feel that that city will always be a huge chunk of me.  Yes, I was there during 9/11 and it was horribly awful. Still don't talk about it much.

4)My favorite hobby, bar NONE (even gardening) is reading.  I am a reader of all things.  Put the Cheerios box in front of me at breakfast and by the end of breakfast I will have read the back enough times to be able to recite to you the Niacin content in your spoon.

5)I am an anglophile, and can't remember a time when I wasn't.   I definitely think this has to have come from reading as a child.  Have you ever noticed how many classic children's books and tales take place in England?   I mean, they have a)princesses b)dragons and knights c)wizards and witches d)worlds inside of rabbit holes e)worlds inside of wardrobes and f)Sherlock Holmes.   They also have secret gardens, grand estates and seem to throw fabulous black tie cocktail parties at an alarming rate, at least in fiction.   Anyhow a piece of me lived there even before I ever set foot in the country.

6)I am the eldest of 6 children.

7)I rarely ever watch TV.  6.5 out of 7 nights I never even turn it on.   However, I'm not sure I would survive without my laptop.

8)I own, let say, a lot... of shoes.  As I was mentioning to Meredith, I have been known to be dressed to the nines with 4 inch heels on in the garden with my watering wand helping out a few plants that need a drink before I have my cocktails out on the town.   Not as into clothes and handbags, but the shoes thing gets me.

9)I am 100% a type A personality.  Occasionally I pull off looking like a type B person, but it takes a lot more work than just being my normal type A self!  And besides, only a type A person would even try something like that.

10)I have won the NCAA basketball pool I've been in for the past 2 years straight, picking the champion.  I've won another NCAA pool, and have also won an NFL perpetuity pool, 2 Superbowl pools and an Oscar pool.   I do not watch sports.  I just get lucky. That said, I haven't won a round of Texas Rummy with my family in 4 years.

Now, a lot of people have already gotten this award, so I won't list new requests here, but if any of my readers who have blogs are up for it and haven't done it before, let me know right here and post some Honest Scrap yourself!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Pretty Shots

Into The Garden Gate

More Coneflowers Coming

Double Knockout

The Yarrow Is Growing (a lot)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Star Jasmine With Or Without You

Great Griefous, I have been working like a maniac.  It's out of control.  I've checked on the garden each day for about 2.4 seconds, and fortunately it seems to be growing just fine without me.

My kitty, Siggy, who has decided that she'd rather run away then never see me if I was going to be at work all the time, took off one night this week out into the streets of Charleston, and after a full 10 hour day of work, half a second to eat something and 2.5 hours of trying to find her and finally succeeding, I have had enough for one week.

She really really wants to be a garden cat.

During the week without me, the star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) went from half bloomed to fully bloomed, with the heavenly smell so strong that I can smell it inside when the doors and windows are closed.  This might potentially be because my house has the R-value of a pasta strainer.  It IS the most smelliferous at night though really all the time its just pretty fabulous.    The night bugs also came out this week.  Yay, night bugs.   You can tell they are still a little trigger shy, like "Oh crap? Am I the only one out here? chirrrrrrrp. Dang. This would suck." But they are starting up bit by bit.

Last fall I planted a small stick of star jasmine by the gate not realizing that the anemic looking vine on the other part of the fence, with most its leaves fallen off due to scale, was also a star jasmine.  A few treatments last fall, and a good dose of neem oil in February and what do you know, healthy and happy and blooming back wall.  And the real treat is over on the other side where my parking area is.  (ignore trashbin area please).  

They are also blooming everywhere in town.  I'm not sure how this can be because I feel like the banksia roses are also everywhere, like there could not possibly be enough fences in the city to support such populations.  When one fades the next seems to take over the city.  I wonder what will be on those (same fences?) come July?

PS. for those of you considering this plant, its hardy to about 40F (5C),  but seemed to handle a few below 30 nights we had this past year.  The ground never freezes here, so thats probably a consideration.  Also, mine blooms in both shade and sun.  Its says its a sun plant, and certainly its more bountiful on the sun side, but it has plenty of blooms in what I would call a full light shade situation.  Evergreen too, if you don't have scale all over it!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Foxg-Love and Bloggy-Love

I got the best compliment a few hours ago from a neighbor and friend who was sharing a glass of wine out back in my garden. (Btw city gardens do have one single advantage over country and suburban gardens who have all the space, lack of noise, tons of sun, blah blah blah, everything everything.....we have neighbors all up and down the street who stop by because they are dying to see what is going on behind the white picket fence!  It kicks butt, I have a bottle of wine on the chill for just such occasions which happen about once a week.  They bring stuff too.  I just got a jar of homemade preserves out of this, last week I got a vase full of roses from a neighbor who has to be away the entire month of May and picked all the roses on the bush for me!)

Ok, back to the compliment.  (I have been drinking wine, as mentioned,  so plan on this being incredibly verbose with lots of parentheticals and no editing - as you suggested I do IG, eat your heart out).    She said, "Wow.  This garden looks like an English country garden!"  Cha-ching.  She can come back forever anytime she wants and camp in the backyard too!    I was so self-proud I was almost rendered speechless but due to the two point five glasses of wine before the comment I was, in actuality, rendered nothing of the sort.   I haven't shut up for a moment since.

After I got finished blabbing how it was nothing, and anyone could do it, and no I really haven't spent 40 hours a week working on this garden (lies, all of em), I honed in on what exactly she meant.   We actually have a style of garden here, outrageously known as "Charleston Style" which 90% of gardens around here adhere to.  First, it looks 'right' (semi formal) and second the things in them tend to be no brainers here and make for beautiful easy gardens.    People love Charleston gardens around here, myself included.  My front garden, if I should ever actually get the wild onions out, will eventually look like that too.   I've got tourists to impress, after all.    I cringe at what they must think now, but hey, my house is Carribean pink, that has to count for something.   Ps. for those of you who are curious what a double porch style house or the front garden looks like (flowergardengirl), its coming, its coming, I just have to actually plant something out front so I am not embarrassed on the internet here by the 800 wild onions, unlevel dirt, and ugly hedges.  Its one thing to talk about them, its another to display.

Okay, so I'm off topic again.  What she (my friend with the wine and jam) was talking about, really, that made my garden so English?  The Foxglove.    It is starting to bloom and it is majestic.    In my garden most of them get about 3 hours of sun, and would be happy to be in a lot less I'd say, judging by what they look like at 1pm.   But once the sun is off of them they look divine.  One of them, a Camelot Cream (the white one), isn't really totally bloomed yet and is already around 3.5 feet tall.  He is going to be a giant when fully bloomed.

So anyhow also now that I am typing typsy, and I have your attention and I continue to go off topic, cheers to you, all my loyal readers, my new readers, and of course, Jean, who adopted me when I was two days old.  I would bring you some jam and come and visit your garden too if I could.  Meredith, when I go camping this summer out that way,  I might just be lurking in your yard.... (not in a creepy way though, I'd ask first.)

Love, Jess (with an english country garden hehe, probably until July when it all goes into heat shock)

(next post will include no parentheticals I promise)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Gift Plant

O, I got me some free plants!   Doin' the little jig of free plant joy.  Unlike plants that I have bought or seeded, of course, I don't have much basic knowledge on these, which I can imagine can lead to danger.  I am sure none are invasive weeds, but I have a little research work to do on some of them.

Free plant #1.  Its a good thing this one is so unusual looking because even after asking twice, I couldn't remember the common name given me, and I kept wanting to call in Jacob's Ladder, even though I knew that wasn't right.  Don't you hate that, when something gets into your head that you know isn't right yet it seems to short circuit your brain from any other neural pathway?

This is Alternathera "Party Time" or Joseph's Coat.

Next up a variety of coleus, I'm not exactly sure which.
Then I have received a double red knockout rose, which is going to join my single red one.   I have quickly gone from zero roses to 3 roses.  And I'm thinking about getting one more.   Well, truthfully I just bought another one from the Antique Rose Emporium.  A Madame Alfred Carriere to climb up the side of my house out back.  Sigh.  That didn't last very long.  0-4 rose bushes in 1 month.   My house smells so ridiculously lovely though.  

Let's see, what else is in my haul: a couple of sprigs of Bridal Veil (Gibasis Geniculata).  Three achimenes bulbs started in little blue pots.  A couple of Wandering Jews, as replacements for the ones I accidentally froze to death this January.    Not so bad for trading away 6 Hostas, huh.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Time Travel Without the Hot Tub

Clearly, I can't seem to get it together to do a post for GBBD on actual bloom day.   Next month, I keep telling myself.  But then I'm buried in work, family, laziness or some other excuse each 15th it seems.

So, lets just pretend it is the 15th.  I'm making that funny sound and your vision is blurring just like in old "I Dream of Jeannie" reruns.   There, its the 15th, just like that.  No WABAC machine or small ultra heated pool needed, and everyone looks slightly younger and has a 'dated' hairstyle from 5 days ago.

Here's what is blooming in my garden.  These flowers might never ever bloom together again, but this April, I have representatives from early spring, late spring, summer and late summer, through combination of crazy weather and nursery plants.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Truly A Garden To Die For

In my quest to read 100+ books this year, as inspired by ChickenFreak, I have read a few Agatha Christie novels since January.  They are short, entertaining, and bring back really good memories, filled with lush country mansions and the idle rich of a bygone era.   

Have you noticed that Agatha loved to kill off everybody with poison?  AND, no matter who did it, they either got the poison out of the gardening shed or grabbed some leaves from that rambling estate garden on the Devon coast, and threw it in the port.  Or the afternoon tea.

Some met their death through peach cultivars (prunus) from whose pits come the famous cyanide.  Others choked on their last words with a good gulp of something from the Nightshade family.  Digitalis, arsenic and morphine all found their way from garden to dead person in her novels.

I did a quick inventory of my murderous potential growing outside today, just for fun of course, and really...  Nobody better mess with me.  Just saying.

First there is the common foxgloves I have poking out of various places.  In medical circles this is known as Digitalis, and its either a heart medication, or a heart stopper, depending on how much you take.

Next stop, the Easter Lilies I picked up at the grocery store after Easter.  Its not terribly harmful to me, but deadly poisonous to my cat, Siggy, who has already used up 7 of her 9 lives in less than a year as it is.  They aren't in the house anymore.  And pretty much all lilies are bad for cats, though squirrels don't seem to mind them.

Back behind my little parking area: the oleander.  Now this is a seriously poisonous plant, can easily kill children and pets, and it is everywhere in this fair city.   I bet there are more than 30 planted on my block alone; they line the streets.  I think I have always known it was poisonous, but folks it is knock your socks of deadly in small amounts. All parts too.

Right smack in the middle of the patio is my one tropical love, the Brugmansia, which if you listen to everything that is said on the internet, is poisonous to even smell.  I'm pretty sure thats an exaggeration,  however, it, along with Datura is the prime candidate for poisoning by the Deadly Nightshade family.    I have no issues handling it, but it is one of those that cannot under any circumstances be ingested.   The potato is a relative and this is why for years people were scared to eat them.   I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been jumping at the chance either.  I mean if you really look at a potato objectively, not like a future french fry, doesn't it look kind of poisonous?

I've got a few delphiniums growing from seed in the sunny border.  Yep, poisonous too.  They contain delphinine, which causes gastrointestinal issues and has felled many a cow.  Delphiniums and larkspurs near fields and meadows = bad plan.

And finally my lantana, which is about as native naturalized as you can get here, disrupts the mucus lining of stomach membranes, and to some people is even irritating to touch.

So that's just in my tiny yard.  There are so many more out there.  Autumn Crocus ingestion can cause massive multi-system failures, Lily of the Valley, theoretically you shouldn't even touch without handwashing, as it can cause cardiac arrest.    Yews, azaleas, poppies, dieffenbachia, daffodils, hyacinths, iris, wisteria, jasmine, bleeding heart, daphne, wolfsbane, and sago palms.  All poisonous.  Some very deadly poisonous.  (i.e. don't go eating your azaleas).

All of this and we haven't even gotten into whatever the heck is in Miracle Gro.  No wonder the British gentry of the 30's could pull this off so easily, right?