Not long ago I was walking in my neighborhood

when I noticed a ground cover plant that has been a favorite of mine for using in container gardens.  I love its variegated leaf and that it fills out nicely, as well as growing long cascading vines, over the summer.  When I lived in Michigan I would over-winter it in my garden to have for my containers from year to year.  One year it grew like crazy over the winter and I discovered that my container vine was also a fabulous ground cover.


Variegated Ground Cover

 Lamiastrum g. ‘Variegatum’ 

This spring I had been looking for it in all the local greenhouses and garden shops.  I guess it’s been replaced by newer versions…probably versions that are not so virulent. You can imagine how elated I was to discover it growing in the gardens of two homes just a few blocks away from my new home.  I planned to ask the homeowners if I could get a few slips of it to use in a container and to plant in a very shady corner of my yard. But, I was concerned as I saw a plant I didn’t know amidst the ground cover and wondered if it was something akin to poison ivy.  My husband assured me it was NOT Poison Ivy.  The plant of my concern had 5 leaves, not three.


Variegated Ground Cover

Lamiastrum g. ‘Variegatum’ 

No, I haven’t gotten around to connecting with the Lamiatrum’s homeowners.  What I did do, was work in my own yard – taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary.  Before we moved in, our yard had been previously mowed, but the gardens – if you could call the weedy corners, gardens – were left untended.   Our yard is surrounded by the dreaded chain link fence.  Behind the fence is an access area filled with grass and weeds and trees.  That area also needed to be tended.  Needless to say, I’ve been doing lots of weeding.  I’ve lost count of the bags and bags of weeds I’ve pulled.  We have a few Forsythia bushes that are growing on the fence line.  One day I reduced the size of the hugely sprawling Forsythia to a quarter of its original size.

Some days later, I assisted Tim in cutting down a Tree of Heaven and two Mulberry Trees.  One Mulberry Tree was actually growing through the chain link fence.  And then we trimmed countless branches of a very full and low-growing Crab Apple tree growing a foot or two outside the fence in the access area.  By the time we finished that day, I had carried to the street a pile of brush that was nearly as high as I am tall.  We were starting to feel like we might have a glimmer of hope for this shabby yard.

These projects were being accomplished in between creating decor for our church’s upcoming Vacation Bible School.  As the marathon of hours began to complete the National Park theme for VBS I noticed that I had a few strange bug bites.  Tim thought that the day I ambitiously painted the laundry closet, while the washer and dryer were out due to the construction work on our drains, I must have gotten some spider bites.


Vacation Bible School Decor

One ‘corner’ of our VBS Decor


Those bites grew large and ugly.  And more appeared.  Was I getting bit at night while I slept?  Those bites continued to grow in size and became itchy.   I ignored them the best I could.  I commented to one of my fellow artists about the bites and she said, “Diane, I hate to tell you this…but I think you have Poison Ivy.”

Seriously, Poison Ivy?!  I didn’t see any of those three-leaved offenders in my yard or in the access area behind my fence.  Remember, it was a concern of mine just a few weeks previous when I spotted my beloved ground cover.  (Keep in mind…you might think “my” ground cover is a menace.  Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.)  Was that concern a portend for what was to come?

Now on the mend from what evidently was a series of contacts made with some invisible Poison Ivy, I must overcome a fear of working in my yard.  I certainly don’t want to go through this again.  So many sleepless nights.  Not to mention how very ugly my arms and legs appeared with these huge sores.  One thing I know for sure.  After VBS is over and I have time to “play” in the yard again, I will download photographs of Poison Ivy.  I will mount those photos in lovely decorative frames and I will study those photos before stepping out to “play” in my yard.

Never again do I want to dance with such an insidious and, to me, invisible plant.


Have you had a recent encounter with the dreaded Poison Ivy?

Isn’t it odd that I had such a concern about Poison Ivy and yet with my heightened concern, NEVER saw it in my own yard? 



Here’s a photo of the dreaded plant.  

Study it closely.

Poison Ivy

Don’t tangle with the dreaded Poison Ivy!

Happy Gardening!



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  1. karen fittry says

    Yes, I have it growing in my side yard, I have never touched it! I’ve heard many horror stories, so I know, ” three leaves, leave be!”

    • Diane says

      Hi Karen!
      My niece posted a link for me on Facebook which suggested why I didn’t see the wicked offender. I did have lots of Virginia Creeper in the area….and if the Poison Ivy is mixed in with it I might not notice it. When, obviously, I didn’t. I will be much wiser after this ordeal. 🙂

  2. Susan says

    Oh no! Poison ivy stinks. We are very allergic to it around here and avoid it like the plague! Glad you are recovering.

    • Diane says

      Thanks Susan. My recovery from Friday to Saturday was amazing. I’m sooo grateful.
      Wishing you a peaceful Sunday.

  3. I have indeed come into contact with it through working in my yard. My husband can spot if from a zillion miles away, but it blends in with “green stuff” to me. I was weeding some ornamental grass, and believe that is how it must have happened. My rash was so ugly, and horrifying to look at. People actually recoiled from me. And kept popping up and kept popping up on different parts of my body, to the point that I finally had to go on steroids. You have my deepest sympathies.

    Hey, thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I wanted you to know that I really appreciated what you had to say, and responded in return, in case you’d like to go back and see what I said.

    Have a great weekend, and get better soon!

    • Diane says

      Thanks for commiserating with me, Susan! I registered kids for a big kids event this week and wore long sleeves, just so parents wouldn’t get upset or worried. Just 2 days ago I turned the corner with this. The healing is dramatic. And I am sooo grateful that I didn’t have to take the steroids…I was close. I really don’t know exactly when this all started…but I think it’s been more than a month and escalated two weeks ago. I’ll certainly have much more compassion now. That’s for sure.

      I’m on my way over now!

  4. Yikes… I don’t think we have it here, but will so be keeping my eyes open. You always see it on the movies, but never really believe it can be that horrid. Glad you’re on the mend!
    In from SITS.

    • Diane says

      Hi Jenn!
      I had no idea it could be so awful either. As I was registering kids for VBS last week, I actually wore long sleeves so parents wouldn’t see my arm with sores and redness covering my whole inner arm area. And I won’t even tell you all the other areas that got it too!!!
      Hey…thanks for popping over from SITS! Love that blog!!

  5. MrsMsry says

    We live on the back of the farm where I grew up, and I never had poison ivy until I was 47 years old. I thought maybe I wasn’t allergic to since I had flower beds that I was weeding and never had a problem for the first 25 years we have lived and I have had various flower gardens. My husband can easily spot poison ivy, but has still had it on his arms before, he seems highly allergic. Even when I had it, it was annoying for sure…but I only had one small sport on my face, and one on the top back thigh—very high–as if I had reached back and swatted a mosquito. But they itched more each day, and the thigh poison ivy was spreading. Even though it was a very mild case, my doctor suggested I go on steroids. He said he always does if the poison ivy is on the face or genitals.

    Take dare when weeding!


  1. […] had a bad case of poison ivy two summers ago, and now I know to stay clear of leaves of three. […]

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