For most people, gardens are a safe place. A place for relaxation and reflection. But this English country garden is anything but.
The garden’s entrance gates feature an ominous warning accompanied by a skull and crossbones – these plants can kill.
There are more than 100 plants of varying degrees of deadliness throughout Alnwick Poison Garden in Northumberland.
While many of the plants also have healing properties, Jane Percy, the Duchess of Northumberland and the garden’s creator, found those traits much less interesting.
“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.”
The grounds surrounding Alnwick Castle were nothing but wild shrubs until Jane Percy became Duchess of Northumberland in 1995 and decided to transform the wilderness into an English country garden – but not the typical kind.
The Duchess told The Smithsonian, “One of the things I hate in this day and age is the standardisation of everything. I thought, ‘Let’s try something really different’.”
Today, the tourist attraction draws around 800,000 tourists a year and a lot of work goes into protecting those visitors from the deadly plants inhabiting the grounds.
Some plants are kept in cages and the whole garden remains under constant guard. Groundskeepers must wear special gloves when handling many of the garden’s inhabitants.
All visitors are warned not to smell, touch or taste anything in the garden – or suffer the consequences…
[All images: Margaret Whittaker]