THE POISON GARDEN website       Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


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History of the Poison Garden Website

Just Another Poison Garden

The iconic gates of the Poison Garden

The iconic gates
of the Poison Garden

When the Alnwick Garden decided to have a Poison Garden as one of its attractions, it engaged a consultant to provide a list of poison plants and the basic information about them.

In December 2003, I was a volunteer for the Alnwick Garden and was asked to research the folklore associated with the plants as well as their toxicity.

By the time the Poison Garden opened in February 2005, I had spent hundreds of hours researching the stories of the plants. Initially, the tours of the Poison Garden were conducted by volunteers but, in April 2005, it was realised that the garden was going to be hugely successful and that paid staff would be required. The Duchess of Northumberland invited me to become the Poison Garden Warden with responsibility for training the guides, both staff and volunteers, as well as conducting tours myself.

The Fascination of Poisonous Plants

The huge popularity of the Alnwick Garden Poison Garden clearly demonstrated the public's fascination with poisonous plants and many visitors were interested in learning more than could be included in a short tour.

I put together a number of talks on different aspects these plants and their stories and, in May 2008, left the Alnwick Garden in order to have the freedom to give those talks to any group that wanted one and to set up this website to provide much more of the facts, fiction and folklore associated with these plants.

My approach was, and is, to try and understand the fascination for these potentially dangerous plants but not to sensationalise them.

That last is important because, as the tagline for this site states, every garden is a poison garden. The plants in the Alnwick Garden Poison Garden, with a very few exceptions, can be found in most domestic gardens or in parks and the countryside. We've lived with these plants for a very long time so it is important not to create unnecessary fear about their potential effects.

The Substance Abuse Message

There are many poisonous plants whose effects are on the brain as well as the body and our fascination for those effects is a key part of the story of poison plants and, hence, of this website.

When I began researching plants, in 2003, I was firmly in the 'drugs are bad, just say 'No'' camp, mostly because I'd never given the subject much thought.

The more I looked into the truth about these plants, however, the more I came to realise that the legislative framework supposed to control their use is both irrational and ineffectual.