Monday, September 26, 2016

The Alnwick Poison Gardens

Alnwick Gardens
Photo by xlibber

The Alnwick Gardens are a group of public gardens attached to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. The castle itself is the second largest in Great Britain. One of the gardens that helps make up the Alnwick Gardens is the Alnwick Poison Garden. This garden boasts some of the world's most dangerous plants, hence the name.

The history of the Alnwick Gardens goes back to 1750. The modern gardens were designed after a long period of neglect. The current Duchess of Northumberland decided to revamp the gardens when she became mistress of Alnwick Castle. The project began around 2000, but she did not begin the Poison Garden until five years later. The Duchess wanted a garden that was filled with narcotic, poisonous and deadly plants. The initial design included some medicinal plants, but she had them removed to maintain the concept of the Poison Garden.

The Duchess of Northumberland had father and son garden designers Jacques and Peter Wirtz design the modern Alnwick Gardens. Besides the Poison Garden, there is the Rose Garden, the Tree House, the Serpent Garden, the Ornamental Garden, the Bamboo Labyrinth and more. The Poison Garden has arguably the most socially significant purpose of all the Alnwick Gardens. Guests who visit the Alnwick Poison Garden are led by guides who teach them about the plants and about drug abuse prevention. The drug abuse prevention message stems from the plants that reside in the Poison Garden.

The plants that grow in the Alnwick Poison Garden could be used to make an array of illegal narcotics. There are poppies, which are used to make opium. There is Atropa belladonna, also known as deadly nightshade, which is famous for its use as a poison. Belladonna is also a hallucinogenic. Cocoa also grows in the Poison Garden. Cocoa sounds like a lovely plant, but it is actually used to make cocaine. Strychnos nux-vomica is another deadly plant, which is used to make strychnine. Also included are hemlock, cannabis and more.

The Poison Garden at Alnwick Gardens is on around the clock surveillance for the safety of the public and would-be thieves. Some of the plants are even kept in specially fenced areas to avoid accidental poisoning or theft of the plants for use in making narcotics. The message at the Poison Garden is anti-drug, so it is of the utmost importance that the plants there be used to educate the public, not harm people.


Alnwick Garden, retrieved 12/2/10

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