Wicked Wednesday….{No. 5}

Ok…who’s been checking their gardens for wicked plants lately?

I have several in mine….I shared last summer about our Bible Garden…..

You can read about it here and here.

I guess I have the flip side…a Wicked Garden, too…and didn’t even know it!


Ever heard of Mandrake? It grows in Europe, has fruit that looks like small, unripe tomatoes; but the danger lies underground in its root.


The Romans believed that it could cure demon possession. The Greeks used it for a love potion. In AD 200, in the northern African city of Carthage, Hannibal deserted the city and left behind a huge feast…..with wine laced with mandrake. It caused the whole army to fall in a deep sleep, he came back with his army and completely conquered them.

Shakespeare used it in Romeo and Juliet…..the friar made Juliet a potion with mandrake that would cause her to look “like death when he shuts up the day of life”.

Mandrake attacks the nervous system, slows it down, and induces a coma.

Go on Pinterest and search for Mandrake…..whoa!


Oleander was once believed to be an antidote for a snake bite. But, alas….it’s no such thing. It is highly toxic…all parts. It is grown in warmer climates {like here in the South} prolifically….hence, there are many tragedies each year. It only takes a couple of leaves to kill an animal.


Campers have tragically died by using the branches/stems to skewer their food and cook it. Many children have perished from eating the leaves.

Oleander suicides are not uncommon…especially among the elderly. It is grown quite often at many nursing homes……the elderly are quite aware of its toxicity. Sadly, in Sri Lanka, it is the most common way of committing suicide.

We have two beautiful ones in our garden. Please….if you come over…just look.

It is recommended that if you have pets or young children in your home or that visit often….do not have oleander in your yard or garden.

Heading out to put up warning signs in the garden…..



Wicked Wednesday……… {No. 4}

Each time I type that title I break out into the song from Wicked….you know, the last line…

“I’m feeling wicked!”

If you have not seen the show…by all means…..see it! On Broadway preferably.


When the settlers arrived in Jamestown there was a beautiful weed that seemed to flourish. Since other food was scarce…they thought they would add it to their diets.

They died horrible deaths….complete with convulsions and seizures.

The plant? Datura.

Commonly called Moonflower.


All parts of the plant contains the toxic alkaloids…but the seeds are where they are most concentrated. A woman in Canada used the seeds in a dish she was cooking because she thought they were a type of seasoning….she went into a coma for 24 hours and was hospitalized for 3 days.

In the past many unwise individuals {teenagers} goofed around and made a tea with the leaves….it caused dangerous hallucinations for days, fevers high enough to kill brain cells, and failure of the nervous system….leading to coma and death.

Not only do I grow moonflowers in our garden each year….I give seedlings as gifts. Maybe I should put a warning label on them:

Warning: Do not chew on seeds, use in food, or make tea with any part of this lovely plant. Just look at it.


Who knew that grass could kill you. There are actually many types of dangerous grasses.

A big one is Johnson Grass…..it grows throughout the U.S.


It contains enough cyanide to kill a horse. Death is usually very quick….preceded by hours of anxiety, convulsions, and staggering. Oh joy.

Just read a caption on Pinterest that said…’Did you know you can juice Johnson Grass just like wheat grass?’ Yeah. Right.

No, thanks.

Watch what you munch on~


Wicked Wednesday……..{No. 3}

One morning in 1978 a communist defector and BBC journalist was waiting at a bus stop when he felt a painful stab in his thigh….he turned to find a man picking up his umbrella and apologizing.  Not long after he had a fever, was hospitalized, began throwing up blood, and then he died.

When the doctors performed an autopsy they found hemorrhaging in every organ in his body and a capsule in a puncture wound in his thigh that contained extract from the Castor Bean plant. It was suspected that a KGB agent was the culprit.

Castor Bean PlantCastor Bean Plant  {source}

Castor bean is in a lot of our gardens…it is sold to deter moles and voles. It is sold at most garden centers in the U.S. It has very pretty foliage….and, yes, it is the source of castor oil. Mussolini’s men used to use castor oil on dissidents….they would grab them and stuff a bottle of castor oil in their mouth as a form of punishment…leaving them with a really bad case of you-know-what! Oh, yeah. That’ll teach ’em. With such great ideas you can see how some of these people become leaders, right?

Supposedly the deadly poison ricin has been removed before you purchase your bottle of castor oil…..but just be careful! 😉


In the late 1800’s Sigmund Freud was quoted as saying:

“a cocainization of the left nostril had helped me to an amazing extent. In the last few days I have felt quite unbelievably well, as though everything had been erased…I have felt wonderful, as though there never had been anything wrong at all.”

{Hmmmm….and there are people that have trusted this man and have based the study of our minds on his opinions??? Someone not in their right mind tells us what is going on with our mind? Lord, help us!}

Coca PlantCoca Plant {source}

The small bush that had changed Freud’s life was the coca plant….or more commonly referred to as cocaine. {Here come my crazy hits!}

Cocaine is an alkaloid that is extracted from the coca plant grown in South America and was found in the earliest versions of the drink Coca-Cola.

Even though Coca-Cola’s recipe is a super guarded secret….supposedly coca is still used in the flavoring today…just without the cocaine alkaloid. Supposedly.

Hmmmmm…I wonder if that is why my great-grandmother had to start each day with a Coca-Cola in order to function? Hmmmmm………..if she only knew.

Anyone know of any fun wicked plant info for us?

Be careful what you grow……and chew on…..and swallow……….


Wicked Wednesday…..{No. 2}

I hope you are having a Wonderful Wednesday…not a wicked one! But I have some more fun, wicked plant facts to share……

Did you know that the Greeks used hellebore in one of the earliest known instances of chemical warfare?


{Source of photo}

Or that here in the American South kudzu has literally eaten buildings and cars? {I know if you live here….you already knew that one!}

Kudzu Eating a Building

{Source of photo}

Kudzu Eating a Car

{Source of photo}

Or that a killer algae escaped from Jacque Cousteau’s aquarium and continues today to smother the ocean floor all over the world?

Cousteau's Killer Algae

{Source of photo}

Encountered any of these???? =)

Have a Wonderful Wednesday~


Wicked Wednesday…..{No. 1}

Since I love to garden I have always enjoyed learning about plants, their habits, their uses through history, etc. I find it fascinating.  Over the  years I have learned so many fun facts…ones I had never heard before.  So many plants are wicked! 😉

I thought it would be fun to scour through my garden journal and share some of the fun Wicked Plants that I’ve learned about over the years….since spring is around the corner and those of us that like to garden are beginning to think about the plants we want to add to our yards.

Did you know that “Mary Wanna”…… I’m not gong to use the real name because I will get some crazy, goofy hits on my site!  Several months ago I was writing about painting a large _________-of-drawers…..and the word ‘large’ paired with the word ‘chest’ landed so many hits on our blog it almost shut down….I got some crazy followers….but they quickly unfollowed because they were definitely disappointed. ha! So, back to my story…..

Did you know that “Mary Wanna” was sold as candy on the streets of NYC from the mid-1800’s-around 1900? It was called ‘Arabian Gunje of Enchantment’.  Candy. On the street. To kids. ha!


Monkshood {source}

Did you know that Monkshood/wolfsbane/leopard’s bane {Aconite} is commonly mistaken for an edible herb? In the 1800’s a cook went outside to get horseradish, accidentally picked monkshood, and killed 2 of the dinner guests by putting it in the food.  All parts of this plant are toxic. Nazis used it to make poison bullets. The poison attacks the nerves and eventually stops the heart. Even a brief skin contact with this plant can lead to tingling, numbness, and cardiac symptons. A Canadian actor died after encountering monkshood on a hiking trip in 2004. ugh! Look at that picture up there….it’s gorgeous! It would be just like me to pick this, come home, put it in vases all over the house and then keel over dead. ha! A big sacrifice just to want lovely fresh flowers in the house.

Do you have any wicked facts about plants that you were surprised to find out about?

Trying not to get poisoned~


Top 12 of ’12 {Top Posts of 2012}

IMPORTANT NOTE:  If you subscribe to Cottage in the Oaks through a reader/RSS feed….within the next week we will be switching servers. This should not interrupt your feed, but sometimes it can. ugh. I certainly don’t want to lose any of you….I love having you here! So, if all of a sudden you don’t receive a post be sure to come back here and subscribe again so we can get back on track! 🙂 Fun things are coming in 2013….we’re getting an overhaul. 

Now, onto our regularly scheduled program…….

It’s always fun at the end of each year to see which posts have received the greatest views/hits over the past 12 months. Quite often it surprises me!

Today I pulled up our stats and made a list of the Top 12 posts of 2012.

Thought I would share them with you here in order {you can click on the name of each post to be taken to that particular one}…….

New Built-In Dining Room Sideboard

sideboard finished

Our Cottage Kitchen

cottage kitchen vignette

Winter Front Porch

winter front porch

Drop-Cloth Numbered Napkins

numbered napkinsSpring Front Porch

spring front porch

Our Cottage {Master Bath}

cottage master bath

Starting Seeds

seeds in trays

Painted Piano

piano after

Summer Front Porch

summer front porch 1

Chalkboard Lidded Jars

main pic

Chalkboard Chargers

chalkboard charger main

DIY Apothecary Jars

vintage apothecary jarsSo, there you have it…..the Top 12 posts of 2012! It was fun to see what was the most popular. Did you have a favorite?

I hope you have fun here on Cottage in the Oaks….it’s a blessing to have you as a reader. I’m honored and humbled that you guys like to see what we are up to and hopefully get inspiration while you hang out here a bit. 🙂

I hope you have a wonderful last weekend in 2012!



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College Visits and Paperwhites!

Hellooooooo! Happy Monday! The weekend went by just too fast!  We are in the midst of college visits and college applications, etc., etc., etc.  Those of you that have already done this know the deal…but those of you that haven’t…..it is a FULL TIME job!  No. 1 Son has been hard at work with applications, essays, visit appointments, and we did what I think is our last college visit this weekend. It was fun.  His interests and passions are still varied at this point….International Relations/Foreign Affairs {he just returned from 10 days in China last week!}, Law, Med School……big decisions await him! It will be exciting and fun to see how God’s plans for him unfold. To say the least…he is a joy and we love being his parents. Never ceases to amaze me the incredible things that God can package in a human. 🙂 And what an honor to be entrusted to nurture and oversee….

This weekend we also planted paperwhites….for us and for gifts. I shared last year about this time a little How To…..and thought since this is the perfect time of year to plant them and enjoy them throughout Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’d share it again.

Have you ever planted paperwhites before?

Here’s the How-To:


Now is the time to plant paperwhites…..

Each year at this time we begin planting paperwhite bulbs in all sorts of containers.

Any container will work..paperwhite bulbs have all that they need within in them to grow, so it is super easy.

You can plant them in pebbles….any sort. Or, you can plant them in potting soil if you wish.

This past weekend we did both.

Depending on where you plant them…they will bloom within 4-6 weeks.

So, we planted our first batch this weekend….and we will continue to plant them every other weekend between now and Christmas.

This ensures that from right after Thanksgiving….all the way through January that we have paperwhites blooming in the house!

I love it!  They smell wonderful….and are a treat to have inside. {They also do well outside, if you have a covered porch.}

Here’s how you do it:

1. Purchase paperwhite bulbs from your local garden center or nursery {they are usually around .99 each.}

2. Gather the containers you would like to plant in….my favorites are vintage silver bowls!

3. Fill your container with small pebbles or  potting soil.

4.  Nestle in your planting medium.

5. Water just a bit and place in a bright spot in your home.

6.  Give them just a bit of water each week…they dont’ need a lot.

These make GREAT gifts for neighbors, teachers, friends, etc.  If you will be giving them for gifts…..wait until closer to the end of November to plant them.

Even if you plan to plant your paperwhites later this month….go ahead and buy them and store them in your refrigerator.  Many places sell out of them very quickly.

By storing them in the refrigerator it will keep them from growing before you are ready to plant them.  I keep them in the back of a drawer.

Have Fun!


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A Year of Front Porches……

Our porch is our favorite place to hang out….and we eat as many meals as possible on it. It’s where we sit with friends. Have long talks. Hash things out. Visit. Catch up. Read. Curl Up. Contemplate. Have quiet times. A place for lemonade and iced tea.

Last week I looked back over a year of mantels….and I thought it would be fun to look back at a year of porches.  We enjoy changing our porch with the seasons….or for whatever happens to be going on at the time in our home.

So, here it is….a year of porches:

{You can click on the links and see the entire post of each porch with more pictures}

Christmas 2011

Winter 2012

Spring 2012

Summer 2012

Autumn 2012

fall front porch

Do you have a porch? Do you enjoy changing it with the seasons?

What’s your favorite thing to do with your entryway???

On the porch~

Sharing with:  Tip JunkieBetween Naps on the PorchThrifty Decor ChickFunky Junk InteriorsDIY ShowoffHome Stories A to Z a.k.a. DesignSerenity NowSavvy Southern StyleMy Romantic HomeJennifer Rizzo

Fun Autumn Find ::: Green Acorns

Last year when we had the disaster…..the 150 foot oak tree that fell onto our cottage during a hurricane……we started finding the neatest things all over our yard.

I guess I always knew that acorns were green while they were still growing…and not yet “ripe”. {Do acorns get ‘ripe’?} Well, you know…….

oak acorn

But usually when they started falling all over the yard and hitting us on the head {we are completely convinced that the squirrels actually are THROWING them at our heads!}…they are usually a lovely brown or, like this year, almost black. And, of course, we use them to decorate for autumn and for all kinds of other neat things.

oak acorn

But last year, all over our garden and yard, we had these fun little green acorns. We gathered them up and put them in containers. They were a fun bright spot to look at during all the arduous cleanup and repairs.

oak acorn

Aren’t they fun!?  Brown little caps and bright lime green bodies. {Do acorns have bodies?} I’m obviously NOT well-versed in acorns. Seeing as how this IS Cottage in the Oaks…and our home is named Oak Cottage…..I better get with it!

oak acorn

Even though I don’t have tons of acorn knowledge…..every time I see them they remind me of one of my favorite quotes:

“Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow.”

Living in a home surrounded by huge oak trees….and seeing their strength and stamina….and then looking at these tiny acorns and realizing that this is how they started is encouraging. God has put in this little acorn everything it needs to become a mighty oak….even though it doesn’t look like it…..it has all it needs to turn into a towering tree. One of the strongest.

Big things start with small ideas. Small steps. Bits of intention. A little thought. A small gesture. One little step forward…….

Today that is what these little green acorns are reminding me…….

God has put everything I need within me, all I need to do is act on the small ideas and take a small step forward……

You, too.

What small little ideas are you feeling a nudge to act upon?


Bird Feeding……

I hope you all had a super weekend. We are having some lovely autumn weather roll in here…..how about you? Has autumn arrived where you live or is it still feeling like summer?

Feeding birds is something that we have always done….year round. We enjoy hearing their lovely songs throughout the day and watching them at the feeders.

In our garden we usually use safflower seed because squirrels do not like it and will not have anything to do with it.  We do offer another seed blend in one squirrel-proof feeder.

We also have several suet feeders all around the yard and garden. Some are hanging and some of nailed to trees.  All the birds love this! We purchase the suet that is called Hot Pepper Suet….because, once again, the squirrels will not come near it. {Score!}

In the spring during nesting season we hang balls of thread, dryer lint, etc. out and enjoy watching the birds use it to make their nests.

Songbirds LOVE fruit….especially apples and oranges. We try to keep these out year round….and in the summer and fall the butterflies will enjoy these, too.

I thought these were some fun bird feeding ideas…..

Three containers of fruit and dryer lint/thread/nesting material….

bird feeding


Love this chandelier turned bird feeder……

bird feeding


These are very easy to make with peanut butter and birdseed……

bird feeding


This is, too! Just string peanuts on a wire and hang……

bird feeding


If you don’t have a squirrel problem…..it’s great to offer shelled nuts……

bird feeding


I shared last year about our Squirrels here…….it’s a constant battle!

Do you enjoy feeding birds in your yard/garden?

Happy Monday~