Thursday, August 28, 2008

The scent of oleander filling the air...

Touring a lake home back in May, I walked around the side, through large flower beds filled with shrubs and bushes that passed me in height. The most heavenly scent filled the air. I stopped and asked the realtor, 'what is that wonderful smell?' A tall 'bush' next to me was covered with small flowers and I leaned in, determining that the scent did indeed come from this plant, but having no idea what it was. It's surprising how big a difference there is in what will grow from point A to point B when you have over a thousand miles in between. I knew we didn't grow these back East.

The realtor , who toook great pride in his tomatoes, and had actually driven me over to his own house to check them out, didn't know much about flowers but told me he'd ask the home owner. 'Oleander' was my answer. I'd heard of it before. Even the sound of it conjures up southern thoughts, older ladies in flowerdy dresses, stockings and prim hats perched atop their heads, having lunch together, which would include sipping tea on sun porches. In spite of the lovely mental picture I conjured up, the realtor told me the plant is very poisonous, the leaves, the flowers, all of it. A few leaves ingested will kill a small pet.

Soon after that I was back at home, on the phone with a Texas resident. She told me she'd brought home a load of plants from the nursery and one of them was oleander. Oleander to plant outside her children's bedroom windows, because it smells heavenly, and apparently it grows quickly to a height that produces shade or privacy. I asked her about the poisonous issue and she told me if the dog was dumb enough to chew on it then she would be minus a dog or two, and that wasn't necessarily a bad thing in her book. She assured me her children know better than to chew on yard plants and, just in case, she feeds them regularly enough that they won't be getting that desperately hungry.

It ends up our newly purchased, one acre plus homestead has four huge oleander bushes. Standing like sentinel soldiers, they line the sidewalk next to the sea wall. Taller than me, they somewhat block the view of the lake. Having cried 'Uncle' to the August heat, they didn't sport blooms. Much like those ladies I'd envisioned sipping tea, it was just too hot to strut their stuff. Any sassy shows had been on display back in May when the heat was less intense. I'm sure I would have recognized that aroma the second time around.

The dilemma. Do I keep the plants and enjoy the delicious smell of their blossoms coming up across the yard on a summer day? Should I chop them down, ensure the safety of our grandkids and all the four-leggeds who own us, while opening up the view, but miss the party a few of our five senses would be enjoying if we leave them there? I have to imagine the previous lady of the house would be horrified to think we'd chop down the oleanders she lovingly planted there, and as I'll be leaving behind bed upon bed of beautiful perennials, praying the next owner will love them for me, there's a sense of respect and responsibility to treasure what she trusted to my care.

Surely I can teach the grandchildren that the tall, wonderful smelling plants are off-limits. Maybe they make Officer Ug Poison labels in extra large, ones that will stick to tree bark? And how many pets do we have? How many leaves would a ninety pound beast have to eat to bite the dust, literally? One of them once consumed half a chocolate cake, supposedly deadly, and nary a burp passed his lips, so maybe he'd have a tolerance for oleander foliage?


Diane@Diane's Place said...

I don't know, Bev....There are plenty of other flowering shrubs with heavenly scents. What about lilacs, or maybe honeysuckle? As good as oleander smells I don't think I'd want to risk anybody or any animal getting sick or dying from eating the leaves.

If I'm not mistaken, it's also poisonous to hummingbirds, but I could be wrong about that part.

I can already tell I'm going to enjoy your transition back into a dainty Southern Belle. You cain't git here fast enuff to suit me! ;o)

Love and hugs,


Jen said...

I just love are coming back home.....I have subscribed to you girl...

mombo said...

We had an oleander bush in our back yard in Texas. We had three dogs and three kids - no one ever tried to eat them. Interesting story - after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, it was said that no plant would grow there for 40 years. In less than half that time, the first plant to return was the oleander - bringing hope of new life to a devastated land and people.

Paulette said...

Oh man I just had grits and cheese for breakfast and okra last night!!
I have 2 of the biggest oleander bushes in my walkway to my porch and oh the aromas. I am with Diane as well, lilac is wonderful and has such a smell!!
I am sooo glad you are coming to Texas. I Love Texas. I live in the Arlington, mansfield area.
I am so happy for you, it reminds me of my adopted parents home on cedar creek lake where we all spend our time fishing, boating, the kids wake boarding.
I love this new blog!!!

Doris said...

I truly don't think either of my kids ever ate any part of a bush. OTOH, I am quite certain my dog has.
View vs. scent....hmmm I don't know what I would do. I will be watching for your decision. :)

KM said...

We have oleander in my front yard. My dogs and my child from birth to 4...have never attempted to ingest it! Of course, when we haven't trimmed it in awhile, we have to walk around the blooms...but we've never had any problems. Where we're located, the wind takes care of any blowing maybe that will help.

kristi in texas

Linda said...

Welcome to Texas in advance Bev. I wasn't born here, but (as the bumper sticker says) we got here as fast as we could. I have never lived anywhere I love more than Texas. There is something special here - and it is HOME as no other place has ever been.
I vote for keeping the Oleander. They are so beautiful and don't require a lot of "fussin'".
Perhaps some day we can have a Texas get-together. I love your new blog!

Sarah said...

Well, you already know how I feel, and since it's my dogs and children who'll be visiting, then my vote should really count, right? It would be a shame to cut them down, especially since I've never noticed even Shadow eating the leaves of ours--and you know that dog'll eat anything, including batteries. I figure if the battery acid didn't kill him, a few oleander leaves wouldn't, either :)

I'm far more concerned about your alligators than your plants!

Betty said...

I added the new blog to my reader. Even though I rarely comment I am a reader who loves your blog. I see that you get so many comments and then I think, you don´t "need" my input as well. But I love your writing and be assured I am there.
Hope you have a great move to Texas!

Fonda said...

It will be fun following your new blog. I have enjoyed Scratching the Surface the past year or so. It has become one of my favorite blogs and I try to visit several times a week.

Can you believe I just had grits for dinner? Don't know why, just got a hankerin' for them.

Texas is waiting for you!

Oh, and I vote with Sarah...if she says keep the oleander, I would keep it.

Barb said...

I don't think I could cut the oleanders down. It's just not in me to destroy a living and thriving bush and besides, if they really posed that big a threat, no one would grow them and they're all over the south.

I'm with Sarah. Worry about the alligators. Honestly, I'm as overprotective as it's possible to be and I wouldn't cut them down.

Gretchen said...

Sweet new blog, Bev. You know, when we traveled to Europe, about 12 years ago, there weren't 1/2 of the signs and fences and precautions that we take here in the States (e.g. no fences or signs in front of passenger trains). I guess they just thought we were able to use our common sense, parent our children, and keep our pets penned in if needed.

I found it interesting, and a bit refreshing. I don't think I'd cut them down, either.

Deb said...

Hi Bev ~ Love your new Blog! How was Canada? I also LOVE Oleander :-) Ohhh how I miss Texas... Anyway, I don't know what I would do about the exsisting bushes. I think maybe the view is more important.


Nomad Realta said...

Depends on the Children and 90 lb beast.

Children generally don't eat plants. If they have a hard time eating their vegetables, they'd have a hard time eating a tree.

I used to be very attracted to the scent of oleander as a child. I loved how the plant smelled like candy instead of perfume. And it grew EVERYWHERE. But never did it make the news that a child had died or been harmed by oleander poisoning.

As for the beast, if it's a dog, you needn't worry. The worst it will do is pee on the plant. If it's a herbavore like a goat however, dig the plants up and dispose of it or you will have a dead plant. A few leaves won't just kill a small pet. They can kill a large pet like a horse as well.

Hummingbirds and butterflies stay away from the plant. (Except for the oleander moth, which devours the plant as a caterpillar.)

And if you replace the plant because of it's poison, please don't replace it with honeysuckle. Honeysuckle is also poisonous, so it would defeat the purpose.

Hope this helps.