Creeping October-ness

Yes, it’s October, and the lovely deadly monkshood (Aconitum) is in bloom.

monkshood flower

This is quite exciting for me, because typically my monkshood plant does not bloom, deadly or otherwise. I moved it in the early spring, to a more shaded location, and it has done better than last year. But still the flowers are few and it isn’t entirely happy.

I think I over-reacted, and now it suffers from a lack of light. But it benefited from not drying out. So perhaps I just need to give it another year of adjusting to the location.  Or perhaps I should dig it up again and find it a bit more sun.

rainy monkshoodHere is the monkshood after the rain this morning, looking a little drenched and appearing, in this image, more accurately purple.

In any case, it is a beautiful, dramatic plant, but all parts of it, even the pollen and the roots, are toxic. It is also called wolfbane, and its poison was used on arrowheads and on bait left out for marauding wolves in medieval Europe.

witch Tillie

It has always been considered to be a magical plant, and was said to be one of the ingredients witches used to create the legendary mix needed for flying.

I used to avoid monkshood, because of the scary stories of its toxicity. But then I learned that some other things are also poison, like all parts of rhododendrons and azaleas, lily-of-the-valley, larkspur, hellebore, foxglove… it is a very long list. Really a hungry person just shouldn’t seek lunch in the flower garden. And don’t eat the rhubarb leaves or tomato leaves either.

Oregon viburnumWe have some color. This is an Oregon native viburnum (I believe it is Viburnum edule). I love it’s soft rosy look– I don’t know if it’s poison. (It would be pretty in a salad–but no.) It is also called highbush cranberry, and there can be edible berries.

Oregon viburnum summerThis is the same plant in early June. The flowers are delicate and snowy white, and it is a great garden shrub, growing to 12 feet tall if unchecked. It grows rather easily from summer cuttings. (Tip: could be because the hormone powder I use on cuttings is so very, very old.)

sumacThe sumac has turned blood red. I don’t like the sumac, so its autumn color is about the only interesting thing I can note about it. (Mr O and I have a difference of opinion about the sumac and the outcome is still pending. Enjoy the color while you can because I might win the argument.)

If you read my previous post about the my yellow jacket crisis, you may be interested to know that it only took one more day before I lost my resolve to wait it out. I couldn’t work anywhere outside without wasps landing on me or circling or giving me angry looks. (You know those wasp looks.)

So I became busy searching online for mint spray (deadly to wasps, just as Ben suggested in his comment) but at the same time Mr O quietly found some powdered boric acid he had on hand, took it outside and poured a cup of it over the nest entrance.

boric acid on wasp nest

The image above shows the site, with frustrated wasps planning their solution. They dug back into the hole, but boric acid is pretty much bad news for any insect, and now, maybe five days later, the wasp population that was scattered all over the yard is missing.  Mr O was even able to cover the powder against the rain, so the remaining wasps are still tracking it into the nest on their wasp feet. 

Yes it is autumn. Things are changing every day, and it’s making Max a little nervous, but now he doesn’t have to hide under the bathtub.

westie under the bed

It’s just that I heard noises in the house again last night.  Mr. O says it’s squirrels, or mice. Moving in for winter. I don’t know…

I find comfort working outside in the gardens, until it begins to get dark.

woodsDo take care.

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About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in actual plants, insects, Max the Westie, Pacific Northwest native plants, Tillie and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to Creeping October-ness

  1. Roberta says:

    Well I’m glad to hear that someone is enjoying Fall. It sounds like you have the wasps under control. I wonder of the boric acid would work against fire ants?

  2. Angie Case says:

    I’m with you Linnie! Kind of excited about the changing of the seasons this year. It will do away with at least this season’s grasshoppers! Your garden photography just gets better and better! Give Max a snuggle for me, a big Hello to Mister O and enjoy the colors of the season my friend. Happy Autumn!

    • linniew says:

      Hi Angie
      I am completely certain that you won’t be missing those miserable grasshoppers. I ascribe to the “take a million pictures and get one lucky one” school of photography. (I benefit a great deal from the little erasable memory cards.) Happy autumn to you too!

  3. Holleygarden says:

    I love sumac’s beautiful color in autumn, too. But other than that, I agree with you. I’ve never tried monkshood, though yours is very pretty. It is amazing how many plants are poisonous. It makes me wonder how people knew what to eat, and what not to eat (guess there were “tasters” in olden times). Glad you took care of your yellowjacket problem. Poor Max! I hope he gets to come out and play now.

    • linniew says:

      Don’t worry, Max gets outside every day. He has the run of the gardens and yard and always spends some time outside unless there is an actual downpour. He is frightened of wasps though– he’s been stung several times over the years and he learned! That’s an interesting thought, about the process of discovering which plants were bad to eat. I guess it has to do with humanity having been on the planet a very long time. I expect some mistakes were made occasionally. It still happens sometimes…

  4. b-a-g says:

    Linnie – I was going to say that sumac produces a nice spice but apparently there are closely related plants which are toxic: http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Rhus_cor.html
    I’m on your side, just in case.

  5. To me, you have found the perfect spot for your monkshood. It is lovely. The color is so striking, deep, and even haunting in a very beautiful way.

  6. That Max is such a cutie! Monkshood…had loads of it years ago…then someone told me it was highly poisonous so I dug it all up. I do like it’s flowers though.

    • linniew says:

      I dug one up once too Bridget, for the same reasons, then I got another plant some years later. It is hard to resist the color and all the wonderful history. I have handled it and never been killed by it but maybe later.

  7. I read a great book about how animals survive through winter by Bernd Heinrich called Winter World–fascinating. Anyway sumac berries in the plumes are the single most important survival food for overwintering birds because they last into the very end of winter. Sumacs also have beautiful flowers, interesting leaves, great fall color, outstanding architectural habit, and they are native. I rest my case and Mr. O can take over from here.

    • linniew says:

      Wow Carolyn, you arrived armed! I do love birds. This year the sumac in question had a late summer drought problem so there aren’t any berries, but I think it’s had them in the past. The architectural look of it is one of the things I initially liked…OK Counselor, the jury is definitely still out!!

  8. Greggo says:

    Plants can disappoint and reward. Kind of like people I suppose.

  9. Lyn says:

    Poisin, shmoisin! The first and usually only thing that people say to me when I tell them I love Oleander is – but it’s poisonous! Yes, I say, but I don’t eat it. And their gardens are full of poisonous plants too, they just don’t know it… okay, I’ll get off the soapbox now and say that I love the photo of Max and that wonderful atmospheric shot at the end.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Lyn! Yes many of our plants are out to get us, but we sort of knew that didn’t we? Really I’ve given up keeping track and just assume they are all poison. As the fall equinox and Halloween approach, things around here do get sort of atmospheric, as you say. I had an exhausting dream last night, ghosts, doing terrible pranks, but they weren’t in my house at least. Fun to think of you having lovely spring!

  10. andrea says:

    lovely colors, yet i can sense a foreign spirit there, haha! Now it’s really getting dark and your last photo looks ominous. This is a bit naughty post, so i just joined in. But i really like that photo of the witch, i wonder how you did that! I most love those purple flowers, although of course we dont have it here in the tropics.

    • linniew says:

      Oh Andrea, I’m certain you have more colors and some equal toxicity in your region. I think of those graceful trumpet flowers– Brugmansia and Datura? They are quite deadly and I believe tropical. I love their look. The witch is of course our friend Tillie. She comes around my blog now and then just to share her bad attitude with everyone. You can see her in other places if you click the “Tillie” link at the bottom of this post. She kind of came with my house and I can’t seem to get rid of her.

  11. Lona says:

    I agree with you there are so many beautiful plants that are considered poisonous it would be terrible to eliminate them from our gardens. I tried to grow Monkshood once but it would not grow for me. I really like the flowers on it. The scariest thing I see pictured is that board game. Hate the things. LOL!

    • linniew says:

      Yes I love the monkshood plant and I hope to make a success of it eventually. The ouija board is from around the 1930’s, and is made of wood. (The history of spiritualism is one of my interests.)

  12. cynthia says:

    I’m with Mr. O on the sumac. The flame-leaf sumac (is that what you have?) is one of the few things with fall color in central Texas. And now that I know (thanks to Carolyn) that it provides winter bird food – hurray for sumac!

    • linniew says:

      Oh Cynthia I feel my position re sumac is weakening here. It’s becoming more and more indefensible I am afraid. I don’t know if it’s called flame-leaf, but I doubt the sumac will be whacked any time soon. Who knew there were so many Sumac Supporters out there? But really it’s those birds we all love isn’t it? We are in their power…

  13. Sheila says:

    I think you should leave the monkshood where it is. It’s blooming and beautiful.

  14. Alberto says:

    I have to start planting aconitum too. The only thing that holds me back is that it’s flowers looks very similar to alien heads and I don’t want Mina to have some monkshood baby like Sigourney Weaver…
    Your viburnum is very nice and I want a white vintage bench like yours to put it under the cherry trees… You can keep the cabala ghost table or whatever it is called! 😉

    • linniew says:

      That’s a ouija board Alberto, and you will find them on all the vintage benches I think.
      I will look forward to Mina’s blue puppies!

      • Alberto says:

        Shhhht! Mina is in her days so Rudy has been sent pasturing up the mountains with my mom. If Mina had blue (or whatever colour) puppies then I will retain you partly responsible. I might send another gondola full of puppies to Oregon this time.

  15. If only I looked as pretty as the lovely looking lady in the stylish green hat!

  16. Grace says:

    I must say, Tillie is looking mighty fashionable these days. My Monkshood is the same way. I’ve got in full shade and it has two, very tall, now-horizontal flowering stalks on it. I’m kind of hoping it will die this winter. Borax into the hole seems much more prudent than a brick. 🙂

    • linniew says:

      Yes the borax seems to have done the trick. I learned that full shade is too much for monkshood, but it can be beautiful in the right light. Just put on some serious gloves and dig it up Grace– this is the Move All the Perennials time of year!

  17. Alistair says:

    I like your Aconitum just fine, Our garden was once surrounded with conifers making the garden very shady and the Aconitums which we had at the time, instead of being three feet tall, grew to six feet, not a good look. Does Tillie maybe turn up when darkness sets in, I think she would have been more than capable of getting rid of your wasps.

    • linniew says:

      Oh Alistair, I expect Tillie would be capable of doing a great many useful things, but if she isn’t actually missing then she tends to be watching Johnny Depp movies or making trouble. Really I am at a loss as to how to cope with her.

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  19. R Brightman says:

    I think if you check you will find the shrub is Viburnum opulus.

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