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Death in the Garden (Hardback)

Poisonous Plants and their Use Throughout History


By Michael Brown
Imprint: White Owl
Pages: 200
ISBN: 9781526708380
Published: 31st March 2018


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Mankind has always had a morbid fascination with poisonous plants; how their poisonous properties were discovered and developed will most likely be left unknown. Over the centuries poisonous plants have been used to remove garden pests, unwanted rivals and deceitful partners. They have also been used for their medicinal qualities, as rather dangerous cosmetics, even to help seduce a lover when perceived as an aphrodisiac. Some of these and other uses originate in a medieval book that has not yet been translated into English.

Shamans and priests used these plants for their magical attributes, as a means to foretell the future or to commune with the gods.

Discover how a pot of Basil helped to conceal a savage murder.

Learn the truth about the mysterious mandrake, a real plant although many do not realise it.

Jane Austen wrote a conundrum to entertain her family; the answer is one of the plants in the book. Will you be able to solve the mystery?

Death In The Garden is based on Michael Brown’s most popular talk, popular as this subject holds a strange interest, for many will enjoy learning about these treacherous and peculiar plants, their defensive and deadly traits, as well as the folklore that has grown around them. This title will appeal to gardeners, horticulturalists, nature enthusiasts and anyone who holds an interest in this strange and enchanting corner of the garden. But be warned, many of these deathly plants may already be taking root in your very own garden…

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a fun and informative read. I'm not sure I'd want this on my shelf if I was a murder suspect, but as a history buff and plant enthusiastic, this was fun to follow the history of the many uses of plants. It follows medical uses, and accidental deaths attributed to poisonous plants, as well as famous murders, political coups and poison prevention throughout history. I learned about emperors who depended on plants to murder, French kings who were paranoid about poisoning, and some people that history remembers as terrible poisoners who may have been framed. Reading this really transformed my perception of plants around me and the vast history that follows them. It's the difference from knowing that apple pips are poisonous and that this attribute may account for some alcoholic beverages causing problems for having the pips crushed with the apples. This is a fun read for any fan of history, or gardening.

NetGalley, reviewed by Alexis Adams

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a really interesting book, as a child we were always told not to touch this plant or that, it is good to know that there was some basis to the instruction.

NetGalley, reviewed by Leyla Johnson

About Michael Brown

Michael J. Brown has an MA in Garden History and has been interested in both history and gardening for as long as he can remember. As a child Michael was allowed to have a patch of ground to grow whatever I liked, including his first poisonous plants. His mother called the plants, ‘Weeds’. He called them wild flowers. Michael has been a Head Gardener, a college lecturer and designed the medieval gardens at the Prebendal Manor, Nassington, including poisonous plants. He now gives talks and demonstrations on historical gardening.

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