The Poison Garden at Alnwick Castle, in Northumberland (a northeast region of England) taught me about the chemical properties of many common plants. Here is a sample list from the notes I took.
The beautiful poppy flower is the source for opioid medications as well as the dangerous illegal drug heroine.
Willow tree bark contains salicylic acid, an ingredient of aspirin. This compound is a natural pain reliever, not a poison.
The Rhubarb leaf and about 3″ of the stem near the leaf contains oxalic acid, which in enough quantity can cause liver failure.
Laburnum has a pea-like berry. Four of them could kill a child. However, the entire plant is toxic.
Periwinkle lowers your blood pressure, and is now used to treat childhood leukemia.
The seed of berries of the Yew are toxic, yet are used in chemotherapy for breast cancer.
Giant hogweed, Heracleum, causes a horrible rash that can last up to four years when skin that has contacted the plant is exposed to sunlight.
The bitter honey of the common Rhododendron is poisonous.
Foxglove can give you heart palpitations if you handle it. All parts of the plant are poisonous, even deadly, if swallowed.
Break a laurel leaf and smell the almond scent at your own risk. You are inhaling cyanide, which prevents oxygen from bonding with your blood. People who trim laurel or handle the trimming must be careful.
Rosemary oil and Juniper berries? Avoid them while pregnant. They can cause miscarriage.
How appropriate that I should find sheep grazing on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, since sheep are often used in Bible stories as symbols of the common man in need of a good shepherd. I was able to walk fairly close to this small herd and this one sheep who had wandered off. I must have looked more like a wolf than a shepherd, because the sheep were calling out, “Baaaaah.”
Sheep need to avoid eating this beautiful blue flower, Viper’s Bugloss, that grows wild in England, because its burrs can become lodged in the throat, often creating the need for extraction or even surgery. Burrs aside, the flowers affect the sheep’s liver.
I learned about these beautiful yet troublesome flowers in the Poison Garden of Alnwick Castle, which is also located in Northumberland, on the northeast coast of England.
A meadow full of lupines stretch far into the dark edge of the woods. Here are a few compositional tips. When you frame a photograph, it is a good idea to consider the foreground, middle ground and background, letting the foreground elements lead your eye through the frame.
Shallow depth of field makes the three well lit lupines in the foreground stand out. The countless lupines in the middle ground tells the story that the meadow stretches out a long way, and the dark background at the upper left allows the eye to exit.
Did you notice the star shaped leaves in the lower center? This helps to balance the composition. Did you notice the lack of distracting elements — Nothing that distracts or detracts from the main subject?
As you consider these factors of light, fore/middle/background, S curves, shapes, lack of distractions and depth of field, you are well on your way to learning how to create a dynamic (rather than a static) image.
A pink peony in full bloom displays countless delicate petals, and here the raindrops accentuate the delicacy. This pink bouquet is still growing on the bush, standing up to heavy rain and warm daytime temperatures.
How can peony season be nearly over? I came home to Pittsburgh after a week out of town, and the weather had nearly ruined all my pink and white peonies. Dozens of blossoms were falling apart and lying on the wet ground. I’m afraid it was a bad week for a gardener to leave town.
Just a few late bloomers have withstood the heavy rainstorms and stood tall for today’s photography.