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Did You Say Poison Garden?

By: Jamie Seitz
Who knew Blarney Castle had such beautiful — and dangerous! — gardens?

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Adventures in Ireland

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Blarney Stone in Ireland, and maybe you've even laid your own lips on it, but did you also know there are more than 60 acres of gardens, parklands, waterways and arboretums on the property? On a family trip to Ireland last spring I wasn’t prepared for how amazing the tour of the Blarney estate would be.

I’ve always been aware of themed gardens: I once helped my kids and their classmates create a salsa garden at school. But the Poison Garden at Blarney Castle took themed gardens to a whole new exciting level. Dangerous and toxic plants used to make medical remedies are grown in the Poison Garden. The enormous garden was gated off and each toxic plant had its own cage around it so visitors couldn’t get close. Wolfsbane, mandrake, ricin, opium, cannabis and others were labeled with information about their toxicity and traditional and modern uses. Fascinating, right? Yet, for all the danger lurking around every row of plants, the garden was stunning and oddly serene.

Next, we found the Fern Garden in the heart of Blarney gardens, with over 80 varieties of ferns, including the man fern (Dicksonia antarctica), which is the tallest fern in Ireland. I will admit before my trip there, I wouldn’t have gotten too excited to see a fern garden. But friends, I was wrong. Winding paths and hidden stairways took us deep into the lush, green garden and we were instantly worlds away. For a storyteller and book lover like me, I was convinced the Fern Gardens of Blarney Castle was the very location author Katherine Paterson had in mind when she wrote Bridge to Terabithia.

And there's more!

I haven’t even begun to tell you about the waterfalls in the Bog Garden or the rock formations in the Seven Sisters Garden or the ancient stone wall around the Kitchen Garden. Trust me. If you ever find yourself at Blarney Castle in Ireland, wait in line to kiss the stone if you must, but be sure to leave yourself several hours to stroll through every garden on the property. Plus, everyone should experience the thrill of a Poison Garden.

Ireland was Jamie’s first trip to Europe, but she and her family are avid travelers back in the States. Some of their favorite trips and adventures have taken them to Glacier National Park, Moab, Martha’s Vineyard, Maine, Smoky Mountains, Outer Banks and Mount Rainier.

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Published: Sept. 30, 2022

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