The Garden of Evil

Our favorite Victorian hothouse offers a botanical tableau perfectly suited for the dark themes of Halloween. It's devoted not to rebirth and renewal but to heart palpitations, skin lesions, organ failure, intestinal panic, multidirectional vomiting, shearing pain, madness, paralysis, and maybe the shits. In a word, death. Local goths, this one’s for you, because the conservatory not only embraces the Edward Gorey vibe that frequently haunts the fragrant air, it lays the Edward Gorey vibe down, unfastens its swallowtail coat, and manhandles it. The exhibit “Wicked Plants: Botanical Rogues & Assassins” features many things that would please a murderous 19th-century botanist suffering from late-stage syphilitic megalomania and paranoia, including deadly nightshade, poison hemlock, white snakeroot, castor bean, monkshood, and hellebore. It also includes plants that eat small mammals, should any get near them. Succumbing to the lure of spectacle, the show features a bit of period theater: a rundown Victorian house, a poisoned man, a fleeing woman, and an overgrown garden containing the deadly flora. The exhibit was inspired by Amy Stewart’s bestseller Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities, a much-needed compendium of plants that rack up body counts. If you like what you see, consider Stewart’s Wicked Plants Seed Collection (check her blog) and begin tending your own container garden of death.
April 7-Oct. 30, 2011

 
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