Challenging Concepts on Beauty 

We moved house at the beginning of the year and our new garden is very small with just a couple of raised beds and some decking. We aren’t particularly keen gardeners so the size of the garden is ideal for us both as an area to relax in and just the right size in terms of upkeep. The raised beds had one or two plants in when we moved in but nothing that caught our attention and it was another job to add to the list of things to do over the coming months. 


As spring approached a range of unusual flowers seemed to pop up from nowhere indicating that whoever lived in the house before us was obviously a keen gardener. In particular, despite the garden being very small they had obviously liked plants on a large and slightly exotic scale, with giant lilies and various other oversized blooms and leaves coming and going over the last few months. This has all been a real pleasure to watch, with us marvelling at the skills of nature as a designer, all made even better as we’ve benefited from someone else’s hard work!

One particular plant has, however, held our interest for a number of reasons. It seemed to appear overnight with significant visible growth each day. We even joked at one point that it was like the Jack and the Beanstalk story as it was growing so tall so quickly. As quickly the plant grew an off shoot which we suspected might eventually be a flower this also grew to over 2 foot tall with a rather amusing appearance!

There was much debate about what the flower might eventually look like, all of which was based on the assumption that nature creates pretty things. One morning we got up to something that was the opposite of what we expected - not at all the classic beautiful flower but something that had a strange beauty all of it’s own because of how different it looked (and with frankly slightly scary overtones!). 

The deep burgundy colour of the leaves and flower stem were fascinating to look at, as was the overall size of everything at over 2 foot. We did however quite quickly notice that the plant gave off an extremely unpleasant odour, something that in our small garden was very noticeable. We also commented on the number of flies that were in the garden, something that we didn’t realise until later was linked to the flower. 

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After some searching online we discovered our plant is called Dracunulus Vulgaris also known as voodoo lily or stinky lily. Apparently the odour we had noticed is designed by nature to smell like rotting meat in order to attract flies - something it was doing very successfully! 

We were equally amused, amazed and revolted by the plant. As designers ourselves it was fascinating to see how nature had designed this amazing plant. Apparently the plant is popular with gardeners who want to make a statement in their garden and it certainly does that! The old phrase about ‘beauty being in the eye of the beholder’ also came to mind along with how this amazing plant challenges stereotypes of what beauty in nature is. 

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