Documents: Special Interest: Horticultural Therapy:

Lawn Claw, Chinese Jasmine & Other Questions

Is the Lawn Claw still available; White, pink, or Chinese jasmine--is it edible; something is digging and eating my old friend’s plants; and a disease on Christmas rose!
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

June 28, 2009

Above, one of the now rare Lawn Claw tools for easily removing broadleaf weeds from lawns, and a shot of yours truly and the now almost unavailable Garden Claw at my Toronto residence in 1997; and Jasminum polyanthum courtesy Kenpei/Wikimedia. Below, an American mink which can cause severe damage to gardens (photo courtesy ) and Heleborus argutifolius--a close relative of Heleborus niger, photo taken at Glendale Gardens & Woodland, a part of the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, Victoria.

Having devoted the entire column last week to the extra special World Federation of Rose Societies event in Vancouver, now I have a slight backlog of questions from readers/listeners.

I’ll start off with the one that has been here the longest, from Brian McCracken of Dorion, Ontario. “Many years ago I listened to your numerous radio programs when I was younger. During this period at one time you were advertising about the Garden Claw and the Lawn Claw both of which I bought. My Lawn claw has just about had the biscuit due to its age which was many years of happiness when it came to having to remove these darn dandelions.

“Since the Provincial Government in power outlawed the use of any weed killer and insect fogging liquid, my lawn claw has been in overtime as to use. Can you advise as to your knowledge if there is anywhere that I can buy another lawn claw (it was the one you placed over the centre of the dandelion, stepped on the lawn claw gave it a couple of twists and viola out came the weed). I haven't been able to find them anywhere, are they still made and by whom? (Sure do miss your talk shows as to gardening especially now that we are an hour east of Thunder Bay.)

Hope that you have the time to reply. Best regards,”

Thank you for the compliments Brian! I decided to research this question with the one person who would have the answer--Michael Wigley who was president of the company that had the two products made here in Canada and marketed them for over a decade. Mike tells me that while there may be the occasional Garden Claw around still, as far as he knows there are absolutely no Lawn Claws available.

There are other similar products around, as there have been for quite a few years, but in checking them out I note they are nowhere near the quality of the Lawn Claw.

If Brian is interested, I could be talked into selling him one of mine that is just taking up space in our small garage here. I’ll ask him to drop me a note.

The next question comes from what is likely the furthest distance of any I have received on!

Mircea from Romania said: “Good morning. Just one question--I have a Chinese jasmin (Jasminum polyanthum). It blooms in spring. I don't know whether its flowers are edible--could I make a green tea perfumed with flowers from my jasmin?”

Short answer Mircea, Yes! Jasminum polyanthum is definitely edible, and is used in making teas; in fact the dried flowers are sometimes used as a tea substitute. It is also used in aromatherapy but surprisingly the uses don’t stop there. Jasminum polyanthum flowers are also used as an aphrodisiac, an antiseptic, an antispasmodic and a tonic!

As a plant, do you find it hardy, and just what type of climate do you have in the part of the country where you live, Mircea?

The next question comes from an old friend in Ontario, Alicia Pokluda, who was the wife of Joe, Sheridan Nurseries’ manager of the ever-expanding Georgetown farms. “Hello Art from a frustrated gardener; something ate the flowers off my columbine plants and appeared to have tried to pull a small bunch in between some stones (bunch got stuck). Whatever it is also dug down and started eating my tulip bulbs after they had flowered. It also ate tops off some of my red beet plants.

“I put some pieces of garlic around the areas ‘the thing’ has been attacking and now ‘it’ seems to have moved to the front of the house where it is attacking my pansies. Very systematically eats off the flower only, one plant at the time. Neat and tidy, however that does not make me any less upset. Have seen a small blackish thing scurry around, too quickly for me to get a good look. Maybe a bit bigger than a mouse. I am ready to either scare the thing away for good if possible or would be ready to kill the thing once and for all if I knew how. Can you please help Art?”

It is always difficult to identify a predator, Alicia, without an accurate description. However, from what I have heard from Kristin Basmadjian, water garden/plant/fish expert at Humber Nurseries, some years ago an anti-animal-caging group released a large number of mink from a farm, and ever since, mink digging and damaging plants has been a major problem. That may just be what you have. My suggestion is that you call Kristin (416-798-TREE) and see if she can shed some light on this for you. Good Luck!

And finally this week, Jane, from an unknown location wrote to Donna with this question: “My Hellibore (Christmas rose or Heleborus niger) came up with beautiful pink flowers and I wondered if the leaves would ever emerge then it looked like blight black over the flowers then I found some little nematode bugs in one of the flowers--I tried moving the plant taking the bugs out and spraying with baking soda-oil-dish soap. It seems to have stopped spreading--is there anything you can suggest. Thank you.”

It is a little difficult to diagnose accurately just what insect/disease is attacking without a photo. I do not believe you have nematodes--these are all microscopic insects which may be good or bad for your garden, depending on the type. Your description, at least partially, fits the description of black spot (Coniothyrium hellebori) that is one of only two major diseases of this plant. If you still have some Captan left, I would use it two or three times yet this year at about two-week intervals. If you don’t have Captan available, there is little else you can do. The baking soda may help, but it will have to be done at least every two weeks.

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