The great Agatha Christie favored poison as her preferred means of dispatching unfortunate characters in many of her murder mysteries. One of the deadliest herbs, Monkshood, also called Aconite and Wolfsbane, certainly played a part. Torre Abbey in Torquay has a garden devoted to the plants that rear their heads in her work. Torre Abbey, built in 1196, is the largest surviving medieval monastery in Devon and Cornwall.
“Agatha Christie’s Potent Plants is the creation of Torre Abbey Head Gardener Ali Marshall, who in true crime writing style researched around 80 of Agatha Christie’s novels and short stories in just six months to come up with the Abbey’s own unique commemoration. The new feature links the author’s interest in poisonous plants, her wartime work as a pharmacy dispenser and the medicinal plants that Torre Abbey’s medieval canons might have used.
With Poirot-esque determination and attention to detail Ali Marshall, with the help of experts at Torquay’s Agatha Christie Shop, has designed a garden with a central display of potent plants surrounded by plants that serve as Agatha Christie clues, solved only with a knowledge of the plots of some of the author’s short stories. What better way could there be for Agatha Christie fans to exercise their ‘little grey cells’?”
“Do not touch is the warning for all visitors to the new garden and a skull-rating denotes the level of toxicity of each of the plants. Ali Marshall explains: “While this might sound extremely dangerous for staff and public alike we have been very careful in our choice of plants, substituting less potent garden cultivars where possible.
This is a garden designed to entertain – not provide murderous opportunities!
The fruit stones of the Prunus family, for example, once processed, produce cyanide, used to lethal effect in “The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side” and “A Pocketful of Rye” amongst others. Monkshood and Foxgloves also play a big part, as do Poppies and Yellow Jasmine. Other plants however have a more positive purpose. A Kilmarnock Willow (aspirin) takes centre stage while Valerian and Fennel owe their inclusion to their reputed therapeutic benefits.”
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