Like I promised, I’m back to fill you in on all the recent excitement. Last week, you heard a bit about my visit to the Nashville Antique and Garden Show and especially the vintage poster booth that I look forward to every year. But I also mentioned a lecture I attended given by Lady Jane the Duchess of Northumberland. It was fantastic! Going into the lecture, though, I really didn’t know what to expect. It’s not everyday that I hear English royalty speak about the grounds of their castle!  Would she be distant or unapproachable due to her unique position in society?…I just didn’t know. Quite the contrary, though! She was beautiful…so elegant, composed, and genuine. Immediately, I felt as though she would gladly sit down for a cup of afternoon tea and a chat. She and the garden manager, Ian August, spoke together about the amazing transformation of the dilapidated  Northumberland estate garden into one of today’s most unique contemporary garden adventures.

Photo Credit: Alnwick Castle

Photo Credit: The Duchess of Northumberland, Lady Jane

Beyond her social grace and ease, though, her vision and design philosophy is what truly inspired me.

Photo Credit: Alnwick Garden Main Fountain

There is just no way that I could share this garden’s story with you the way I heard it two weeks ago, so I’ll give you the synopsis and you can make your own additional discoveries here. Basically, the Duchess’s main concern is for her community (both local and distant) and the children and families who visit each year. She has, through the help of a fantastic team, created a place of adventure, learning, community bonding and support. Since it’s opening, the garden has provided millions of dollars of financial support for the town of Alnwick through its work, job creation, and tourist draw. The garden is a charity organization that the Duchess receives not one penny from. It is designed to be accessible to people of all ages, abilities, and income levels. And admission is a mere 1 cent for any visiting child. In the process of designing the site, the Duchess strived for innovation and individuality. For instance, instead of growing a typical apothecary garden, the Duchess chose to build a poison garden. In this specially patrolled place, guided educational tours are given to teach the community about the power and danger of plants such as opium, cocaine, marijuana, etc. This allows for a healthy and safe introduction to the issue of drugs and drug abuse for many who may have never understood their great power until it was too late. *

Photo Credit: Alnwick Poison Garden

The Garden also features one of the world’s largest tree houses, which is completely accessible to the young and old alike.

Photo Credit: Alnwick Garden Treehouse

The Duchess was determined to create an environment where even a child bound to a wheelchair could experience the  same excitement and adventure that their fellow able-bodied friends also enjoyed. So, this entire treehouse as well as a swinging draw bridge are wheelchair accessible. The Duchess referred to this vastly important childhood experience as “safely dangerous”.

Photo Credit: Alnwick Garden

LED lighting and state-of-the-art water technology create striking shows for evening viewers.

Photo Credit: Alnwick Garden Ivy Tunnel

There is so much more I could share, but I just wouldn’t do it justice. All I can say is that the story of this place is very special and I hope some day to have the opportunity to visit. Enjoy the pictures and find out more for yourself! See you tomorrow!

*Just a side note from the lecture. Apparently all poisonous plants from the Poison Garden kill, heal and are an aphrodisiac. And this is the case for most deadly plants.

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