Max's Garden

Making a non toxic and dog safe garden for Max, our inquisitive Welsh Springer Spaniel, was not as easy as it should have been, with conflicting and often incomplete information online.

Over the past 2 years we have removed the most dangerous plants and planted safer replacements, while recognizing that many mildly toxic plants are unlikely to be a problem unless eaten in quantity.

When Max is happily running round nearby woods and fields, it is also useful to know which of the wild plants and garden escapes pose the most risk.

We have tried to be as accurate as we can but please get in touch if you spot an error!

We take no responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the lists, information and links herein.

Meet Max!
Information sources on toxic and non toxic plants
Garden structure
Plant lists
Plants removed from garden

Please consult a vet if your dog is showing symptoms of poisoning

On the north side of the house, heavily shaded at lower levels, the lower path is flanked by beds of Hart's Tongue ferns, Dryopteris (?) ferns, Astilbe and assorted fuchsias.

All these plants are thought to be non-toxic to dogs

Behind are sections of natural bedrock built higher using local stone to stop the steep slope from slumping down. Here can be found fossilised crinoids, and once a solitary coral. Atop this wall is a path, some 12 feet above the lower path, with a safety fence to prevent the gardener from falling. Here are two narrow long beds, mostly in full sun and these are used to grow spring and summer bulbs, several of them toxic.

Max's entrance to the high path is prevented by a narrow swing gate, as the fence is built from posts bolted to the wall with bull wire strung between, with many dog size gaps view more »

Photo taken from the path leading to greenhouse and utility area, facing south and looking up along the valley.

The garden is on an west facing slope with underlying carboniferous limestone. When the house was built part of the site had to be dug into the bedrock to create a flat area exposing a steep natural rock face, the part natural rock and stone wall is 12 feet tall with a path on top! Crinoids can be seen on the rock surface.

Over the years the garden has been fully terraced with access steps to the different levels. The photo shows the main rear garden area which used to be a highly productive fruit and vegetable growing plot and even had room for chickens. Ill health and age necessitated a redesign of the garden with low maintenance the key and the current structure was largely completed before Max arrived. The paths… view more »

These plants are ones to which Max has free access:

Photo: Potentilla, lavender and olive in south facing rock beds

Some of the plants appear on one or more of the lists of toxic plants (#) but are ones where Max has shown no interest (or if he has in the past he didn't like the taste!) or where plant does not appear to be very toxic.

  • Apple# (worth noting that pips are toxic so it is necessary to stop Max eating windfalls. He loves slices of apple as a beneficial treat and sees windfalls as an opportunity)
  • Apple mint
  • Astilbe
  • Bay tree#
  • Beech
  • Bottlebrush
  • Busy Lizzie (impatiens)
  • Camellia
  • Coreopsis
  • Cotoneaster#
  • Dryopteris fern
  • Escallonia
  • Fuchsia
  • Gerbera Daisy
  • Hardy alpines
  • Hart's tongue fern
  • Hazel
  • Hawthorn
  • Hebe
  • Ivy#
  • Japanese Maple
  • Lavender#
  • Leylandii#
  • Marjoram#
  • Olive tree
  • Petunia
  • Potentilla
  • Rosemary
  • Roses. In the summer we often see Max with a mouthful of rose petals nabbed from our huge Champagne Moment rose bush!
  • Sedum rupestre (stonecrop)
  • Spirea
  • Thyme


Other plants where access is deterred or prevented by fences or walls or in greenhouse

Known toxic plants marked #

  • Bugle
  • Clematis#
  • Daffodils#
  • Daphne#
  • Cotoneaster horizontalis#
  • Cucumber
  • Gladioli#
  • Grape
view more »

  • Yew (taxus species)
  • Rhododendron
  • Rhubarb (Rheum species)
  • Azalea (Rhododenron occidentale)
  • Black elderberry (sambucus nigra)
  • Gooseberry & Blackcurrant (precautionary due to similarity to toxic grapes/dried currants/raisins). There is conflicting advice online. is adamant that Currants and Gooseberries are very toxic. Contrarily PetPoisonHelpline maintain that blackcurrants are not toxic. All agree that dried currants and raisins and grapes ARE toxic.
  • Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) though it grows through hedge.
  • Foxglove (Digitalis species) Self seeds from wild, we keep this to the restricted access areas
  • Wisteria

view more »

Which geranium is which?

Wikipedia states: "Geraniaceae is a family of flowering plants placed in the order Geraniales. The family name is derived from the genus Geranium. The family includes both the genus Geranium and the garden plants called geraniums, which modern botany classifies as genus Pelargonium, along with other related genera.

Pelargoniums are the summer bedding plants found in many gardens and garden centres. They are not winter hardy and are toxic to dogs.

Cranesbill (see photo) is hardy, and we understand it to be a non-toxic geranium plant and so is on Max's safe list. view more »

ASPCA list of plants that are toxic to dogs and non toxic to dogs The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a mission, as stated by founder Henry Bergh in 1866, is "to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States."

Dog's Trust factsheet of poisonous plants, garden and household substances
The household poisons list is worth a read, as are the labels on many cleaning products.
Example: We spread a small amount of fish, blood and bone meal around our roses and raked it into the soil. Max was attracted by the smell and started to eat the the traces of fertiliser (and some soil as well!). We have not used this on the accessible garden since and now feed our roses with liquid feed.
Example: Max was suffering from a yellow discharge from his… view more »

Max is a lovable Welsh springer spaniel who joined us in 2016 when he was one year old. At that stage he was still like a puppy and had a habit of taking leaves and flowers from garden plants. Not much has changed!

Researching toxicity of plants showed that we had some real problem plants in the garden such as yew, rhododendron and azalea. So we set about removing some plants and replacing with others that are safer. We also were far more careful about using garden chemicals.

Are we taking the risks far too seriously? We don't think so. Knowing that Max does take leaves and petals makes plant poisoning more likely. Removing the most toxic plants, those that can cause serious harm or even death, seems the common sense approach.

Gardeners World state on their toxic plant list: "With help from Dogs Trust, we've created a list of… view more »