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Avoid toxic and allergenic plants when designing a healing garden.
What to plant in a healing garden
Landscape architect Deborah LeFrank counsels that there’s more to healing-garden design than just plants. The exposure of the garden and the time of day it’s most likely to be used will affect design
decisions, for example, and permanent fixtures like paths and pergolas must be carefully planned. But LeFrank does favour some plants, cautioning care with others.
LeFrank warns that some plants labelled as deer-resistant can be toxic or at least have an unpleasant effect on humans – it’s always wise to check a good toxicity reference before planting.
Very young children or older people with dementia can easily mistake a bulb for an onion, for example, or be attracted to harmful flowers or leaves. Among the offenders: wisteria, euphorbia (which can cause a rash), hellebores, daffodils, monkshood, foxglove (Digitalis), tulips, autumn crocus and hyacinths. If in doubt, she suggests checking with the B.C. Poison Control Centre (1-800-567-8911, toll free).
In the meantime, LeFrank is on a “one-woman mission” to rid all gardens of Skimmia japonica: the entire plant is poisonous and can cause cardiac arrest in a child or a senior adult.
LeFrank also advises taking allergies into account (cedar, for example, can cause skin rashes). And while roses carry an emotional attachment for many gardeners, thorny rosebushes are also best avoided in a therapeutic garden.