Nestled in a grassy knoll on the side of a mountain in Leysin, Switzerland, lies a man. An almost 2.5 acre man. Dressed in a button-up work shirt, trousers, suspenders and a cap with a pipe hanging casually from his mouth, the man is the product of the hard work and incredible skill of artist Saype.
Saype meticulously groomed and then painted the grass, using shades of gray and black to give the finished product a hyper-realistic pencil drawing look. The overall effect is a relaxing one; the figure is reclining, his head resting on his hands, eyes closed in repose. Of course, the time and care spent creating the image was anything but relaxing; even now, the grounds must be meticulously maintained and cared for to keep it looking sharp and focused. [h/t designboom.com]
“These plants can kill”, says the sign illustrated with a skull and crossbones. The message is clear. The plants at the Poison Garden of Alnwick Castle in England are some of the most deadly in the world. And it would be wise to heed the warning. While no one has died during their visit, guests have fainted just from inhaling fumes coming from some of the plants.
On display are some of the world’s most famous killers. The plants producing famous killers like ricin, strychnine, and cocaine all bask in the sunlight here. Even Artemisia absinthium, the plant behind Van Gogh’s favorite drink of absinthe, is out on view.
More surprisingly, common flowers you didn’t know were poisonous might give you a lesson on the diversity of poisons in the natural world. Few people know that the lovely and summery daffodil has a history of sending people to an early grave. Roman soldiers carried the deadly blooms with them to war in case they were captured and needed to commit suicide.
Building a different kind of garden
The Poison Garden is the pet project of Jane Percy, the Duchess of Northumberland. When she and her husband first moved into Alnwick Castle in 1996, he encouraged her to renovate the gardens that had been abandoned and overgrown for decades. He got quite a shock later upon learning what she planned to do with the place.
“I think he thought, ‘That will keep her quiet, she’ll just plant a few roses and that’ll be it,’” the duchess said about her husband.
Britain being in no shortage of quaint gardens, Jane was looking to create something unique that would both stand out and provide a bit of education to visitors. Then she took a trip to the Medici poison garden in Padua, Italy and was inspired.
“Children don’t care how a plant cures,” she said. “They think that’s boring. They want to know how it kills—and how agonizing the death is! … More seriously, it is a place for visitors to learn about the dangerous side of plants. Drugs are a major concern across the country and an emotive issue. Here we offer a new avenue to get people talking about the misuse of drugs—most of which grow in nature.”
Alnwick on the silver screen
If you’re thinking Alnwick Castle and its grounds look a little familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it before on both movies and TV shows. The castle was used for the set of Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter movies. The castle’s Outer Bailey is where Harry learned to fly a broom and play Quidditch. The castle also made a showing in the Season 5 finale of Downton Abbey.
The poison garden is just one small part of a vast, 42-acre gardens located adjacent to the castle.
Photographer Peter Wegner captures little slices of nothingness hidden in the urban landscape. He turns photos of New York City on their head to give us a whole new architectural perspective on the space we know so well. “I was walking through the financial district and I looked up and I had one of those epiphanies that you hope for as a digital artist which is to see something truly astonishing,” Wegner says. “I saw what appeared to be a perfect building suspended between other buildings… They’re buildings made of sky.” Wegner will group individual works together to weave giant invisible cities made up of multiple invisible buildings. By doing so, he creates another world for the viewer to step into located right inside the Big Apple. [h/t archatlas.net]