The saddest thing about it being winter is that the Alnwick Garden's Poison Garden is closed until spring. The good news is that we have time to put it on our vacation list.
Top image: Poison Garden by Jo Jakeman/flickr
The Poison Garden is part of the larger complex of gardens in the town of Alnwick, Northumberland, England. The whole of Alnwick Gardens had fallen into disrepair, but were part of a huge renovation project that's lasted nearly two decades. Part of that renovation included the opening of the Poison Garden in 2005. The creator of the Poison Garden described her reasoning as:
I wondered why so many gardens around the world focused on the healing power of plants rather than their ability to kill... I felt that most children I knew would be more interested in hearing how a plant killed, how long it would take you to die if you ate it and how gruesome and painful the death might be.
That seems like the same winning formula used by Horrible Histories, actually.
There are over 100 plants in the garden, some the kind of poisonous that's okay in any garden – foxglove, for example – and some that required a government permit to grow. The garden is home to Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade), Strychnos nux-vomica (strychnine), Conium maculatum (hemlock), and Ricinus communis (ricin). In addition to the obvious and not-so-obviously poisonous, the garden is also home to the infamously narcotic: coca (from which you get cocaine), poppies (heroin), cannabis, and various magic mushrooms.
In order to prevent the stealing of these plants, some of them are kept in cages. When the garden is closed, its gates are locked and there's 24-hour security keeping watch.
The Poison Garden is shown by tour guides, who describe the deadly properties of the plants after issuing this warning:
Do not touch any of the plants, don't even smell them. There are plants here that can kill you.
It also seems appropriate that the garden was in part inspired by old apothecary gardens, since the adjacent Alnwick castle stood in for Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films.
Images: Alnwick Garden - Poison Garden by Graeme/flickr
Plants at Poison Garden, Alnwick, Northumberland by Cross Duck/flickr