Wordless Wednesday: Arbutus unedo



The Devil’s Garden.


‘Woe to you, Oh Earth and Sea,

for the Devil sends the beast with wrath,

because he knows the time is short…

Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast for it is a human number,

its number is Six hundred and sixty six.’

Revelations CH XIII v. 18

(It is also the introduction to the Iron Maiden song ‘The Number of the Beast’)

This post is not going to be about Iron Maiden, though you may get the video at the end. It is going to be about plants that have a connection in some way with the ‘Devil’, along with a  few other nasties that should be in any ‘Devils Garden’. Also, I  have included some real nasties from the animal world, just to give the garden more of an edge. It is very similar to the ‘Garden of Death- Welcome to the Darkside!’ post that I done earlier in the year, but this time there are no boundaries, by using plants and animals from around the world, it really does give your garden more of an edge.

A ‘Devils Garden’ is basically a ‘Garden of Eden’ but in reverse and with the Garden of Eden came the snake, in this garden there will also be its own little twist. Many of the plants have just got the word Devil in there name and are not always dangerous, but some of the plants are real killers.

Devils Ivy (Epipiremnum aureum)

Devils Ivy is a self clinging climber that can reach up to 4m high. Conservatory or greenhouse plant for us in the UK. The sap to this plant is irritant to the eyes and skin, ingestion can cause vomiting and severe stomach cramps.

Devils Club (Echinopanax horridum)

Also called Devil’s walking stick, it is a large spiny plant from North America and the spines can cause festering wounds. The berries are poisonous and have been used to kill lice by crushing them and then applying it to the hair. This plant does also have medicinal uses.

Devils Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)

Now I like this one. Found in the southern part of Africa, this plant has hooks on it seeds which hook onto passing animals, the seed can also get caught in animals mouths causing starvation. Extracts of the plant are used in medicines, but high doses can be hazardous.

Death Cap (Amanita Phalloides)

We have all heard of this one. Just one of these is enough to kill a adult human, found between July and November, mainly in deciduous woodland areas. This one leave to the experts and even some of them have got it wrong, it is a mistake that is usually only made the once.

Destroying Angel (Amanita virosa)

It can take several hours after eating the mushroom before the toxin finally takes effect, it causes severe abdominal cramps, violent vomiting and diarrhea, followed by liver and kidney failure. There is also a short remission of symptoms 1-2 days after consumption and may give a false impression of recovery.

Castor Oil Plant (Ricinus communis)

We all know this one. The seeds from the Castor Oil plant are poisonous, to people, animals and insects. The main toxin is ricin, the seed coat has to be damaged for the ricin to be absorbed and it takes just one seed too kill. Symptoms occur within a couple of hours of ingestion which include, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

Datura stramonium (Devils Weed/Thornapple)

Most poisoning that occurs from this plant, results from the tea that is made from the seeds either for its alleged medicinal benefits or for its hallucinogenic effects.

Nerium oleander (Oleander)

One of the most deadliest of plants. This is so poisonous  that one single leaf is enough to kill an adult human. It contains several toxins in its flowers, twigs, leaves, and berries. A favourite of mine and we do have one of these in one of our small courtyards in a container.

Menispermum canadense (Moonseed Plant)

A large climber from North America that can reach to over 6m high. All parts of the plant are poisonous, it is the purple/black berries that are often mistaken for the edible Fox Grape that get eaten, can be fatal.

Devils Fingers (Clathrus archeri)

This is a real killer, if you are a fly that is otherwise its harmless. Another common name is Stinkhorn because of the foul-smelling tissue it has.

Devils Backbone (Euphorbia tithymaloides) 

Reaching over 2.5m  high, it comes from the tropical and subtropical parts of North and Central America. A very toxic plant that also has medicinal qualities.


There’s the plants for the garden, all you need now is a good mixture of wildlife. I have often wondered what it is like being a gardener in another country, where the wildlife is a little more challenging than what we have here in the UK.  We really don’t have anything that can do us any harm, we may get stung by a bee or wasp, or nipped by a ant or a rare non venomous spider. Our biggest danger at work is the two legged idiot in a car, on a cycle and in a punt, the latter being more noisy than dangerous …. with a certain amount of entertainment value as well.

So what is a good one to start with….

Brazillian Wandering Spider

This has attitude and it is the most deadliest spider in the world. Its aggressive, biting several times in a row, highly venomous and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the planet’s most venomous animal. This arachnid kills more humans than any other, they have often made it over here in the UK hiding in Banana boxes … you’d better mind out next time you are in Tescos.

Black Mamba 

The fastest snake in the world, it is also the longest venomous snake in Africa, reaching over 4m in length.  It is not the most venomous snake in the world, that one goes to the Fierce snake in Australia, but its aggression is second to none.

Black Fat Tailed Scorpian

Fast, aggressive and highly venomous, this scorpion can kill. From the Middle East and Africa, their Latin name originates from Greece and it means ‘Man killer’.

Black Caiman

This one is bigger enough to give it a cuddle, that’s if you don’t mind losing the odd limb here or there. It can reach over 5m in length and eats anything from a perch right up to things the size of horses and cattle; so we are definitely on the the menu.

Japanese Giant Hornet

This giant of an insect can kill forty European honey bees in a minute. A group of  around thirty hornets can destroy an entire hive containing over 30,000 bees in around three hours; biting off the bees heads and taking back there thoraxes to their  nest for their larvae to feed on.

Whip Scorpion

Scary looking critter, non venomous but it can squirt an acid that smells of vinegar from its abdomen. Not dangerous to humans but certainly an ugly looking bugger.


Now, the ‘Garden of Eden’ had a snake in it to tempt Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. So if the devils garden is the opposite, you have got to have an animal that is unlike the others in the garden and one that has different temptation.

Red Panda

Ahhh …. the Red Panda. For me it has to be the cutest animal on earth, native to the Himalayas and China, its area ranges from Nepal through to Eastern China. Only slightly larger than a domestic cat, it has the cutest eyes ever and as for the temptation …. you just can not resist giving it a great big hug!

As promised……

Grasses and no Bamboos

Why no Bamboos? They are often put together, but that one is for another day.

Now these types of grasses give me far fewer problems than the types of grass in our lawns. There’s no weekly mowing, feeding is minimal, no scarifying, no aerating and they are less susceptible to fungal problems. Also they are more pleasing to the eye, admittedly the grasses in our lawns are there to serve a different purpose to the ones planted in our borders.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberfeder’

Ornamental grasses come in all shapes and sizes and colours, giving us also winter interest and good ground cover. There are grasses for damp or dry soil; as well as shady and sunny situations and many do well in containers; this group of plants gives you everything.

Propagating ornamental grasses couldn’t be more easier as well, the majority of them can be propagated by division, or by seed and collecting grass seed is always good fun.

So in this blog I have included some of the grasses that we grow at work, but also a few favourites of mine that I have still yet to get.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberfeder’ (pictured above) has to be one of my favourite Miscanthus and is one we grow a lot of at work. It is a deciduous grass that can reach well over 6ft in height, with narrow, arching foliage and feathery silver flowerheads in late summer; this one is great for winter interest.

Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’

Now this one somewhere along the line, found itself in another one of my posts, now I wonder why and in which one….. The ……….

Some of the next bit I admit, I just copied and pasted some of it, well it was from one of my own blogs….

A truly wonderful plant. It has taken me a few years to persuade some of the gardeners to include this in our borders. Panicum virgatum ‘Dallas Blues’ is another great plant we have recently added to our gardens and I must admit, it is a better plant than Heavy Metal.

Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ is a beautiful grass that can grow to over 5f in height, it has amazing blue-grey foliage that remains upright from spring until the end of the year; a must have grass and not just for it’s name.

Stipa gigantea

A magnificent, architectural, big bugger of a grass reaching 8ft in height, that likes a fertile, medium, well-drained soil in full sun and is very hardy. It is a must have grass if you have room, if you don’t have room … make room.

Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’

A new one for me this year but it is one I have instantly falling in love with. It has wonderful purple foliage and flowers and is good for cut flower arranging, it is also a good plant to attract the birds.

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

A beautiful small grass, that I feel works well with most plants at the front of any border.  A compact, clump-forming deciduous grass that likes moist but well drained soil in full sun or partial shade.

Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’

Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ is a wonderful small clump-forming, purple black foliage grass that will grow in full sun/partial shade. An evergreen that has bell shape white/mauve flowers in the summer.

With literally hundreds of grasses to choose from, this list is only a handful of what is out there, but there is a few on my wish list that I thought were worth a mention……

Muhlenbergia capillaris

I’ve got to have this one …. it’s pink for a start. It is a tender perennial deciduous grass with pink/red flowers in early Autumn. Likes full sun or partial shade, can reach 5ft in height and is drought tolerant, what more can you ask for.

Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’

Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ is a clump-forming deciduous perennial grass with arching leaves, reaching approximately 5ft in height.

And finally……

Sesleria autumnalis

Sesleria autumnalis (Autumn moor grass), a wonderful little grass that does well in sun/partial shade reaching over 1ft in height, this  evergreen hardy grass is good for any garden especially a rock garden.

Wordless Wednesday: Autumn

Wordless Wednesday: Vitis coignetiae




War and Flowers (Flanders Poppy)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

A poem written by John McCrae, after a close friend was killed in the Flanders area of Belgium and buried in a grave marked with a plain wooden cross at the second Battle of Ypres in 1915.

John McCrae died of pnuemonia on the 28th January 1918 in Boulogne, France. He was a doctor, soldier, poet and artist.

Born in Droitwich, Worcestershire on the 28th August 1887, Arthur Footman (my Grandad, my Dad’s Dad) is my direct connection with the First World War. Joining the Bedford Territorial’s before the outbreak of the war, he became an Infantryman and then he went on to join the ‘Royal Horse Artillery‘. He fought in the Battle of Mons, the Battle of Marne, the second Battle of Ypres and was present at the first Battle of the Somme. Like many others in his time, he must have gone through hell many times, more times than any of us could of imagine. Yet through all the chaos, having known he had fought in the second battle of Ypres makes me wonder, had he known, met and or had fought along side John McCrae, this is a question I know, could never be answered.

My Grandad was very lucky to have survived the 1st World War and was then demobbed in 1919. Many of his accounts of the war, he told to my Dad later in his life. One of those accounts that he told my Dad is that, he was captured by the Germans, tattooed but then escaped on the same day. Being shelled and shot at day after day was bad enough, but being tattooed with a prisoner number, seemed to have angered him more than any of the other.

My Grandad died on the 23/05/1969 and on the 23/05/1970 I was born, a date that my Dad is very unlikely ever to forget.

I have in other posts, mentioned the reasons why I wanted to do gardening and that I had followed my other Grandad’s footsteps, though I have never forgotten about the Grandad I never met. I have often wondered if there are any similarities in Grandad Footman and myself, the one thing I have found out, is that he used to love digging the trenches; now I know they are completely different scenarios, but there is quite a lot of digging in gardening.

For many in the First World War, they fought and died by the gun, but for a lot of people, it is the the Flanders Poppy that is a reminder to what had happened.

Flanders poppy seeds (Papaver rhoeas) can lie dormant in the soil for over 80 years before germinating, which is usually triggered by disturbance of the soil. During the First World War the battlefields were often churned up into a sea of mud, especially between the trench lines and in no man’s land and in the early part of the autumn Papaver rhoeas could be seen. Because of this the ‘Remembrance poppy’ is used in many countries as a reminder to those who had fought and died in this pointless war.

So for me, it is the flower that is greater than the gun…..