BEAUTY THAT KILLS: Enter the Deadliest Garden in the World

‘Enter into the dead, step into the wild, skip the deadly roar, and rise to the boisterous voice’.

This is the tale behind the deadliest garden in the world, in Northumberland, England. The Alnwick Garden is one of the most beautiful attractions in North England, where a whole lot of colorful plants invite visitors to wander and explore through the rows of fragrant roses, cascading fountains and the manicured lawns. However, behind the Alnwick’s boundaries, there are those deadly iron gates treated as a restricted territory for all those visitors as it houses a Poison Garden, which is home to 100 infamous killers.

All the TV programmers, the passionate travelers and the creative enthusiasts thrive with the feeling of thrill to get one glimpse of the garden, smell a flower or trample over a dead leaf look.

But this isn’t something to be taken lightly. History has it that this is a home to the 100 infamous killers, who would bite you to death if you trample over them; who would wrench the life out of you, if you happen to smell. From the deadly nightshade to hemlock, every plant which takes root into this ground is only when it’s downright lethal to the humans. It was made by the Duchess of Northumberland.

Jane Percy became the Duchess of Northumberland in 1995, after her husband’s brother died unexpectedly. After the death, Northumberland stretched to the border of Scotland, along which came the Alnwick Castle. This is the traditional seat of the duke Of Northumberland (which has been used as Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films). As the family was set up, Percy’s husband asked her to organize the gardens. Percy perceived that her husband has given her this responsibility in the assumption that she’ll just plant two or three ranges of roses, but everyone knew that she did more than that. In 1996, Percy hired Jacques Wirtz, who is a landscape architect (the one who has worked with the Tuileries in Paris and the gardens of the French President’s residence). He worked with the Duchess in re-shaping the whole map of the garden. The garden encompasses around 14 acres and attracts over 600,000 visitors each year, thus making it one of the most popular attractions of North England.

The two trivial trips she took altered her mind into creating a garden which can kill, instead of heal. The duchess used to hate the idea of repetitive work and standardization of everything. She thought of creating something really unique which can stun the masses. Thus, with the help of her creative team, she first traveled to the infamous Medici poison garden, and became enthralled with the idea of creating a garden of plants that could kill. And then she traveled to the archaeological site of the largest hospital in medieval Scotland, where she learned about the soporific sponges which was soaked in hen-bane, hemlock and opium. These were used by amputees during the 25th century surgeries and which just made her consolidate the idea about creating Alnwick Gardens.

The most interesting thought behind creating a lethal garden was that every plant she selected to be panted there should narrate a story about itself. The plantation should stun the people with its story, and dazzle them with its uncommon traits. Even the common species of plants like Laurel hedge can be highly toxic. When the duchess said to transfer the huge dump of the laurel hedge, the drivers fell asleep from the toxic fumes of the branches. As said by the news, around 7 people reportedly fainted because of inhaling the toxic fumes while walking through the garden. Also, as part of the Poison Garden’s educational mission, the Duchess grows a variety of drugs, say from cocaine to cannabis. “This is a quick way of educating the children, without them really knowing of being educated”, the duchess says.

One of the duchess’s favorite plants is Brugmansia (it’s also called Angel’s Trumpet) which is a member of the Solanaceae family (which also includes the deadly nightshade) and it grows in the wild in South America. It’s really an amazing Aphrodisiac before it really kills you. The duchess also says that, ‘Angel Trumpet is an amazing way to die as it’s quite pain-free’. The duchess ends on the note, ‘whether a plant kills with pleasure or pain, the people would relish this anecdote- Most plants that kill are quite interesting’.

So, the Alnwick Garden is one spectacular place that can get those shivers down your spine. It can be the place to educate yourself at, but not to be remembered by it. It is lethal but lascivious. It is pleasurable because of its beauty, but painful if you get bitten by that same beauty.

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