Wicked Plants: The Exhibit


Walking through an exhibit made to look like an old house filled with the characters and stories and artifacts from a book I wrote…that is a weird experience.

And I realize that it sounds like shameless self-promotion to talk about it, but–it must be talked about.

It’s happening at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville, NC, and from there it will travel around the country.  I’m not sure where it’s going next, but there are several museums looking at dates now.

Here’s an interesting thing about this exhibit:  it’s built in such a way that it basically packs itself.  No shipping cartons are necessary:  the walls, the furniture, the props–all of it fits precisely into a truck, with one room basically serving as a crate for all of the smaller bits, all of which only need to be wrapped in furniture blankets the way you’d move your own stuff.  Much of it is super-lightweight, too, which makes it less expensive and fuel-intensive to move.  This is the sort of thing that you’d never know about the exhibit walking through it–but it is very cleverly put together.

The walls are hung with portraits of the weird dead ancestors. The unfortunate victims of wicked plants, most of them.  Although some were practioners of the dark art of poison.

There are specially-made books sitting around the house–all of them made by a local book bindery.  In fact, almost 200 local artists and craftspeople and tradespersons were hired to help build the exhibit–it was its own little economic stimulus program.

There are dead bodies slumped over tables.  Imagine my excitement.

and, in the dining room, a liquor cabinet with bottles of mysterious wicked potions.  Each label is a fascinating little read all by itself.

Even the bathroom is creepy and weird.

It’s the kind of exhibit that requires you to figure stuff out on your own–you actually walk around opening drawers, taking things off shelves, examining the evidence.

I’ve been working with the Arboretum for the last couple of years on this exhibit, but honestly, I had no idea what to expect when I went to see it last month.  So I get no credit for this–this is really all their doing.  Amazing.

It’ll be in Asheville through early September, then it starts to tour–to find out more about all of that, go here.  And if you’re in the area, or if you have friends in North Carolina, I hope you’ll encourage them to go check it out in person and let me know what you think.


  1. Very clever. MIght even convince the husband to go see this (without brbing him with a meal out) if it comes anywere near us. He loves creepy stuff, but not garden stuff.

  2. I hope this exhibit makes it out to Oregon! I couldn’t find a schedule on the site ( maybe it’s not completed yet). I will look for it in my area.

  3. nastiness gets competitive:
    I now have a hanging basket of Urtica ferox (Ongaonga) in flower, from seeds I ordered from New Zealand. Just brushing against the long, bristling, neurotoxin-filled hollow trichomes is alarmingly painful. If only its powers could be use for ‘good’. Now to cross it with U. dioica. …and the nasty plants and bugs books were terrific reads.

  4. It was very well done. And that all the garden bloggers meeting in Asheville got to see it at the Arboretum as part of our trip there, made it all the cooler. Glad I had a chance to see its premiere!

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