THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Wednesday 10th August 2011

An interesting blog post about the Blarney Castle Poison Garden appeared a few days ago but I’ve only just seen it.

I feel a little puff of pride whenever I read something complimentary about that garden since I had a small role in its creation. In spring 2010, I was contacted by the head gardener at Blarney who asked me to have a look at the list of plants he intended to include.

Buxus sempervirens, box

Buxus sempervirens, box

From that, we exchanged a number of emails about the merits or demerits of different plants and I offered some thoughts about making sure the layout could cope with the number of visitors. At the Alnwick Garden, for example, the idea of the design was to have flame-shaped beds with Buxus sempervirens planted around the edges. Unfortunately, for some of the beds, the crowds of visitors tended to step across the ends and the box bushes at the points of the beds suffered as a result.

At Blarney, they decided not to have guided tours but to use information boards adjacent to the each plant giving some of the stories about it. I was happy to say that they could use any of the information from this site and the pictures in that post I linked to show that they did use quite a lot of the material here.

If you’ve looked at the link you may have seen the additional sign on the Cannabis sativa saying it has ‘been seized by the Garda (Irish police)’. The story of that plant gives an example of the difference in character between the Irish and the British.

When I saw the first list of plants proposed for Blarney I saw the cannabis and passed on the Alnwick experience where it took them something like three years to get permission to grow it. Because there was quite a time between planning for the Poison Garden and getting it completed and ready to open, this delay didn’t prevent the Cannabis sativa being grown during the first summer.

I recall warning Adam, the head gardener at Blarney Castle, that there could be a delay so they should apply for permission to grow it as soon as possible. I was quite surprised when the first promotional information I saw, that summer, spoke about the garden boasting a cannabis plant and, also, Papaver somniferum, opium poppy, which, I was surprised to discover, is illegal to grow in Ireland.

I’ll divert, briefly, from my story to consider this prohibition because it does indicate that some laws are so bizarre as to be ridiculous. In Eire, it is not illegal to sell the seeds of Papaver somniferum and most garden centres do. It is, though, an offence to germinate those seeds but a great many people don’t realise this and grow opium poppies in their Irish gardens without a second thought. I can only assume that the legality of selling seeds has to do with the difficulty of defining the difference between poppy seeds used on bakery products and seeds that can be used to grow a plant from which it is, theoretically, possible to extract opium.

I say, theoretically, because I can’t imagine anyone with a serious interest in obtaining heroin going to the bother of growing enough poppy plants and investing in the processing equipment to do so. There are people who claim that the poppies grown in the British Isles don’t contain the morphine alkaloid from which heroin is produced but I have spoken to a farmer who grows poppies commercially in Hampshire who, clearly, disagrees with that claim.

The reason I came to know that growing Papaver somniferum in Eire is illegal is because, in October, the Irish police raided the Blarney Castle gardens and removed both the Cannabis sativa and the Papaver somniferum. The raid seems to have been politically driven. Blarney Castle, obviously, made no secret of having these plants from the early summer and, in fact, there is a Garda station just yards from the castle entrance. In October, however, someone wrote a piece for an Irish newspaper railing against the idea that there were different laws for different people and citing Blarney Castle’s illegal plants as an example of the privilege enjoyed by the rich.

When I enquired about how they came to be growing the plants without permission, Adam’s reply showed the character difference I referred to above. Blarney Castle applied for permission to grow the plants and, as they didn’t receive a refusal, they assumed it would be OK and proceeded to plant them.

I do like the notion that anything that hasn’t been actually refused has been approved. I think that state of mind has a much broader application than the growing of psychoactive plants.


Full Entries


Tuesday 25th October 2016
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sunday 6th March 2016
Wednesday 3rd February 2016


Saturday 28th November 2015
Friday 27th November 2015
Monday 17th August 2015
Wednesday 15th July 2015
Friday 26th June 2015
Thursday 25th June 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Wednesday 11th March 2015
Tuesday 3rd March 2015
Saturday 28th February 2015
Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014
Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014
Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014
Saturday 16th August 2014
Tuesday 5th August 2014
Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Sunday 13th July 2014
Sunday 6th July 2014
Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014
Tuesday 24th June 2014
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Monday 9th June 2014
Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014
Sunday 18th May 2014
Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014
Saturday 5th April 2014
Thursday 3rd April 2014
Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014
Tuesday 25th March 2014
Friday 21st March 2014
Monday 17th March 2014
Sunday 16th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Thursday 6th March 2014
Wednesday 5th March 2014
Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014
Monday 24th February 2014
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Monday 17th February 2014
Thursday 13th February 2014
Monday 4th February 2014
Monday 3rd February 2014
Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014
Thursday 23rd January 2014
Friday 17th January 2014
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Monday 13th January 2014
Thursday 9th January 2014
Tuesday 7th January 2014
Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013
Friday 20th December 2013
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Friday 14th December 2013
Thursday 12th December 2013
Sunday 8th December 2013
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013
Wednesday 27th November 2013
Tuesday 26th November 2013
Friday 22nd November 2013
Monday 18th November 2013
Friday 15th November 2013
Thursday 14th November 2013
Sunday 10th November 2013
Thursday 7th November 2013
Wednesday 6th November 2013
Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013
Sunday 27th October 2013
Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Monday 21st October 2013
Friday 18th October 2013
Friday 11th October 2013
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Tuesday 8th October 2013
Monday 7th October 2013
Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013
Saturday 28th September 2013
Friday 27th September 2013
Monday 23rd September 2013
Sunday 15th September 2013
Monday 9th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Sunday 8th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013
Sunday 25th August 2013
Monday 19th August 2013
Friday 16th August 2013
Tuesday 13th August 2013
Friday 9th August 2013
Friday 2nd August 2013
Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013
Sunday 21st July 2013
Wednesday 17th July 2013
Monday 15th July 2013
Saturday 13th July 2013
Friday 12th July 2013
Thursday 11th July 2013
Wednesday 10th July 2013
Tuesday 9th July 2013
Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013
Tuesday 25th June 2013
Friday 21st June 2013
Thursday 20th June 2013
Wednesday 19th June 2013
Saturday 15th June 2013
Sunday 9th June 2013
Saturday 8th June 2013
Saturday 1st June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012 blog

June 2012 blog

May 2012 blog

April 2012 blog

March 2012 blog

February 2012 blog

January 2012 blog

December 2011 blog

November 2011 blog

October 2011 blog

September 2011 blog

August 2011 blog

July 2011 blog

June 2011 blog


The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.