There’s something about the concept of a poison garden that either titillates or terrifies, depending on your preferences.
The UK’s most famous Poison Garden is at the Alnwick Garden. Its influence is so far-reaching that if you Google “poison garden”, it dominates the first several pages of results. So much so that I assumed the poison garden was an established concept in horticultural history. Not so, it turns out.
Yet it does descend from a historical gardening ideal – the physic garden.
You and I are going on a voyage of discovery in these gardens. Just be careful not to touch anything…
Since the beginnings of human civilization, seeds have been revered for their gift of life. How we treat them in our gardens, the plants they produce, and the importance of the weather, reveal many fascinating practices, myths and superstitions.
Plants play a major part in the many customs surrounding the Christmas festivities. The Yule log for example, was essentially associated with Christmas Eve, for on the evening of that day it was traditional to transport the log to the fireplace, ignite it and allow it to burn for at least 12 hours if ill-luck was to be avoided.
On Michaelmas Day the Devil takes possession of the blackberries and to eat one after that day would risk… well, something on the spectrum between a bad taste and instant death.
Until the 20th century, the inadequacies of orthodox medical services left a large proportion of the population dependent upon traditional folk medicine – essentially a mixture of common sense remedies based on the accumulated experience of nursing and midwifery, combined with inherited lore about the healing properties of plants.