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The ?400,000 Poison Garden at The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland was opened by Crispian Strachan, Chief Constable of Northumbria Police and The Duchess of Northumberland, trustee of The Alnwick Garden Trust.
Demonstrating how plants have poisoned and killed through the ages, the Poison Garden provides an alternative avenue for teachers and parents to instigate discussion and increase awareness about the misuse of drugs.
The Duchess of Northumberland, trustee of The Alnwick Garden Trust, which manages The Alnwick Garden, says: ?the charity has been working in partnership with the Drug Action Team and Drug Education and Policy Team of Northumberland Local Education Authority.
"We want to ensure that effective drug awareness messages are delivered in the Poison Garden within the government guidelines for Drug Education.
?The garden?s appeal of danger presents teachers and parents with a new avenue to tackle drug awareness with young people; after all young people are more fascinated by what plants can kill you than what plants are good for you.
"We agree with the central message of FRANK, the government?s drug education campaign, which is ?drugs are illegal but talking about them is not?.?
Alison Hamer, Learning Development Manager at The Alnwick Garden adds: ?we can now deliver information on drugs and poisons to a section of the general public that is normally hard to reach.
"The charity has worked with the Drug Action Team and Drug Education and Policy Team in Northumberland to ensure this garden gives them an unique resource to help transform some people?s lives.?
The Crime Prevention Unit at Northumbria Police has offered their support for this initiative.
The Poison Garden is the first public garden of its kind in the UK and has over 50 toxic, dangerous and scarce plants.
At the end of 2004 The Alnwick Garden Trust was granted Home Office approval to grow cannabis and coca (cocaine).
In addition to the cannabis and coca plants, the Poison Garden includes deadly nightshade, mandrake, magic mushrooms, opium poppy and tobacco plants.
The Poison Garden is designed by Wirtz International and is one element of the original Garden master plan created in 1997.
When fully grown, the garden will be one of the most exciting features of The Alnwick Garden.
To highlight its dangerous nature the box-fringed beds are laid in the shape of flickering flames.
Many of the plants when fully grown will be very beautiful even though they are deadly.
The most toxic plants are incarcerated in caged beds.
To ensure safety, guides will be in attendance during opening times.
To help visitors interpret the Poison Garden guides will be at hand to tell the history, legend and mythology of poisons over the years and how they have shaped history.
Thanks to the generosity of donors, the charity has invested about ?400,000 in the Poison Garden. Funding was provided by donations and grants to the charity, The Alnwick Garden Trust, from The European Regional Development Fund, Northumberland Strategic Partnership and private and corporate donations.