Random Strange Things

This garden wants to kill you – The poison garden – Alnwick

At first glance it seems like a typical English country garden: lush trees billowing over manicured topiaries, pretty blooms dotted along gravel paths, and everything neatly enclosed in an antique-style wrought-iron fence.

But on closer inspection, nothing here is really that innocent.

On the gate leading to this green oasis is a grim message, a genuine warning of what lurks inside: “The plants can kill.”

That is the sign that greets intrepid visitors to the Alnwick Poison Garden in Northumberland, UK, a sinister botanical wonderland that is home to 100 of the world’s most lethal plants.

Tourists have fallen ill and feinted here, having flouted stern advice to not smell or touch anything that grows inside.

The garden is in the grounds surrounding Alnwick Castle, the traditional seat of the Duke of Northumberland, and is arguably northern England’s darkest tourist attraction.

The castle itself is steeped in history and was featured as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first two Harry Potter films, as well as a filming location for Downtown Abbey.

For generations, the grounds surrounding the castle were little more than abandoned forestry.

But then Jane Percy, the garden’s visionary patron became Duchess of Northumberland in 1995.

She wanted to transform the neglected wilderness into a garden, but not the kind usually seen in the English countryside – she wanted something that would inspire awe, fascination, and  perhaps a little dread.

“If you’re building something, especially visitor attraction, it needs to be something really unique,” she told Smithsonian.

“One of the things I hate in this day and age is the standardisation of everything. I thought goodness, “Let’s try and do something really different.”

She considered an apothecary-like garden, filled with healing herbs and other natural goodness, until a trip to Italy provided more macabre inspiration.

She visited the Medici family’s infamous poison garden in Padua, where she became introduced to a dangerous kind of flora: the kind that could kill, rather than heal.

“What’s really interesting is to know how a plant kills you, and how the patient dies, and what you feel like before you die.” the Duchess said.

“Most plants that kill are quire interesting.”