The Poisonous Garden RHS Tatton Warne McGarr and Co

Building The Poisonous Garden

This week we started on site managing the build of the Poisonous Garden – the pretty large and high profile exhibit for this year’s RHS Tatton Flower Show.

After three years of creating award-winning show gardens at RHS Tatton, which takes place at Tatton Park in Cheshire, we did look at designing something for other RHS shows. However, in January this year, we were asked by the brilliant RHS events team if we would design the Poisonous Garden. It seems they like what we’ve been doing and we were honoured to be asked to partner up with them.

So, after months and months of intense planning, driving up and down the UK searching out rare and unique plants, and speaking to different suppliers to make our plans come to life – finally here we are on site!

Our designs for the Poisonous Garden feature four units, which look just like shipping containers, through which visitors can look out of port-hole windows to view four different gardens.

All four gardens feature different plants, all of which have their own particular dangers to humans. These sections are: Pretty Deadly; Hungry Plants; Apothecary and Plant Defence.

In the middle of the exhibit, there is also a huge caged Sago palm (Cycas revoluta) which is poisonous if any parts of it are ingested, particularly the seeds, and has no known antidote. This native Japanese palm is the “King Kong” to the exhibition, and concealed within a large cage.

Pretty Deadly is really quite self-explanatory – we’ve designed a garden which showcases some highly poisonous plants. Some of these aren’t found in the UK, but it also features the common British foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), which most people know can be extremely deadly if ingested.

The next section Hungry Plants, features a number of plants that eat other plants or insects, along with plenty of information. Plant Defence looks at how plants can defend themselves, by using spikes or smells, for example, and is abslutely fascinating.

However, the most intriguing section (for me as the designer) is the Apothecary section, which features lots of herbal plants which can either kill or cure. Many of these plants were used in bygone times before Western medicine for all kinds of remedies, and even used in shamanism. Small amounts of a plant could potentially be a cure, but large amounts can be toxic and have lots of unpleasant side effects.

This was absolutely fascinating to study in the run-up to the exhibit and I know it will be just as fascinating for visitors.

We can’t wait to finish the build and get to launch day to see the look on visitors’ faces and find out what they enjoyed the most.

RHS Tatton takes place from July 18 – 22 at Tatton Park’s 1000 acre deer park in Knutsford, Cheshire. For tickets visit:

With thanks to Wack’s Wicked Plants and FlexMSE. 

Thanks to Joanne Risley for the amazing sculptures.

Warnes McGarr & Co is a garden design consultancy run by Michael John McGarr and Robert Warnes, which designs the highest quality gardens and landscapes all over the UK. For more information about our design work, please visit:


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