The head of the internationally renowned Alnwick Poison Garden in Northumberland, Trevor Jones, made the shocking revelation to Express.co.uk. He explained: “If you go into most garden centres, you’ll find that they’re not labelled as being poisonous because obviously, that’s bad for sales. So unless you know or unless you look on the website, many people don’t actually know what they’re growing in their garden.
“You’d have to eat a lot of the plant or digest a lot of the seed to actually die – although there are well-known poisoners like Harold Shipman, for example, that got rid of an awful lot of people using poisons from plants.”
But these toxic plants, including belladonna or ‘Deadly Nightshade’, were all still deadly.
Mr Jones added: “So yes, you’d have to eat a lot or rub yourself with some of the foliage.
“But they are all dangerous and they all have the ability to kill you.”
Garden centres commonly sell plants including foxgloves and hydrangeas – both of which are toxic.
Even laurel hedging, which is popular across the UK, is full of cyanide.
The Horticultural Trade Association’s ‘Retailers’ code of practice for potentially harmful plants’ places such plants into three categories of toxicity.
Category A cannot be sold by a retailer to the public and only contains poison ivy.
Categories B and C can be sold and contain extraordinarily poisonous plants including deadly nightshade, four berries of which will kill a child according to Mr Jones.
The pamphlet merely “recommends labelling plants for which a significant hazard was identified”, but does not prescribe it.
The Express contacted Rick de Kerckhove – a representative of Longacres, one of the largest garden centre chains in the UK – and asked whether they labelled their plants according to the danger they presented to members of the public.
He explained that “a lot of the main suppliers” will put on details and instructions for their plants, including optimum temperature, sunlight and, potentially, toxicity.
He added that Longacres has a number of advisory experts on hand to address customers’ concerns.
But he warned that smaller suppliers may not have the same quality of labelling and expertise.