As far back as the Eighteenth Century, Swedish botanist and plant classifier, Carl Linnaeus ascribed the notion of Panacea to Ginseng (Panax ginseng). Panacea - named after the daughter of Asclepius, the Roman god of healing, was the goal of medieval alchemists.
A Nature Cure.
Artist FRANCES DISLEY
is resident in the Spode Rose garden, exploring
Public Green Space - What’s it for? Who’s it for? What is its history and development? How do we/should we use public space? How do we / should we access public space? Who can access public space and what are the barriers to that?
The role of the garden in mental and physical well-being.
The role of plants in a healthy garden
The sensory and the experiential
The garden as apothecary
Here are her Monthly Updates - in reverse order.
UPDATE #3 - AUGUST, SEPTEMBER 2021
MAP OF THE GARDEN
I thought it would be nice just to spend a little time looking at and mapping the plants in the medicinal bed as a bit of an excrcise in noticing. I always think I’ll remember or be able to visualise plants once I’m away from them but again and again find this isn’t the case. I’m interested in finding ways to stay more connected to plants and to carry the experience of being with them around with me and I was just testing this out with this exercise. These experiments are always something that’s intended to be shared as a possile useful process for others.
The names of the plants in someways are just to distinguish between them and to acknowledge each plants as I go. I think anything that allows you to spend a bit of time noticing and having a formula for that can be useful in allowing yourself to take some time. My impulse when I get to the garden each time is to be produsctive, radical, creative and this felt like a way to just be present for a while. A very simplistic task but really useful.
For the Living Garden Weekender Event I decided to develop a kind of plant reading whereby I could connect people with plants via a one to one consultation a kind of tarot ,fortune telling, speedating with plants. I thought for this I’d look at the plants/weeds that are super useful to us but often overlooked to see if it could develop new realtaionships and sense of regard for these plants. It’s partly born out of my interest in ways to begin to connect with plants given how vast and overwhelming that can seem and how to connect people plant life that’s not all about control and trends in a way.
The idea that beginning with just one plant kind of appeals to me and a plant that just grows everywhere and isn’t about gardening ability. So I selected Yarrow, Dandelion, Cleavers, Plantain, Feverfew and lavender. I looked into medicinal properties, habitat, plant magic and a few more things and came up with a few questions so help me match up people with a plant. I really enjoyed connecting with people in this way and tried to be careful to see myself as a communicator or translater/advocate for the plants. There were 4 plants that people matched with the most and two in particular. This is definitely something I’d like to develop moving forwards as it enabled me to do a few things at once.
I have developed a blend of tea from the garden which is currently part of the exhibition at Airspace “Use and Ornament”. People can have a try of it in one of the Yunomi cups made for the exhibition. I decided to use mostly plants from the garden apart from rose which I had to source from a herbal supplier as the rose usually used in tea is a dog rose or wild rose which I think may be too much of a bully to grow in the garden.
- This aromatic blend is intended to be calming and uplifting at the same time. The strong prevalent aromas should transport you to the rose garden in mid summer.
Actions - Astringent, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, sedative, anxiolytic
Uses - Anxiety, grief, PMS, menopausal anxiety, colds, flu, sore throats, diarrhoea, skin and joint health and arthritis
I’ve selected rose as it’s often used for calming and uplifting anxious minds. It’s also representative of the main feature of the garden. Although the rose in the tea is not from the garden itself as it’s a dog rose it still gives off the rose aroma hopefully transporting people to a rose garden.
Actions - Nervine, analgesic, antispasmodic, digestive, carminative, sedative, antidepressant, diaphoretic, expectorant, antimicrobial
Uses - Insomnia, stress, anxiety, headaches, digestive upsets, skin calming
I’ve selected lavender for its calming effect which can be effective simply from the aroma it gives off. The flavour is also quite strong and adds a counterpoint to the lemon flavours.
Actions - Nervine, antispasmodic, antipyretic, sedative, carminative, aromatic, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, protective
Uses - Digestive tonic, calming, mild expectorant, sleep aid, reduces fever, anti-inflammatory
I have selected lemon verbena for it’s calming properties and for its strong sherbert lemon flavour
Actions - Nervine, carminative, mood lifting, diaphoretic, hypotensive, antiviral.
Uses - Cold sores, anxiety, panic attacks, low mood, high blood pressure, colds, flu, shingles.
Lemon balm has an amazing aroma and I’ve selected it for its calming mood lifting properties.
Actions - Astringent, tonic, antispasmodic, uterine tonic
Uses - Heavy periods, painful periods, childbirth, post labour, sore throats, mouth ulcers, gum disease, diarrhoea
I’ve selected this mainly for it’s refreshing flavour and its properties as an all round tonic and delicate astringent use for sore throats.
UPDATE #2 - JUNE, JULY 2021
So this month I got to begin harvesting some of the plants from the medicinal bed and from the rest of the garden. It was amazing to see how much has grown and I collected loads and still only just touched the surface. Some plants welcome the collaboration with this like Calendula which basically the more you take the flowers the more it will keep coming and I know will run into September and maybe beyond.
I’ve been taking the flowers to infuse with oil which is great for your skin but as I left these in the shed without shaking them their water content made them ferment so I’m going to take a load to dehydrate instead. I’ve also prepped a Feverfew tincture my first time messing with tinctures which is where you infuse your herbs/plant matter with alcohol and ingest the filtered liquid. I’m insure about this process as I could do with more training but am interested to see how it works.
Feverfew is supposed to be useful for headaches and migraines but I’m still wary of internal medicines at this point so have been sticking to external stuff. There are lots more oils and tinctures a brewing and I’ll update on them soon.
So we had an open day at the garden full of workshops and I was there talking about the medicinal plants in the garden and hearing about people’s relationship to these herbs which was great. It was really nice to see how people reacted to each of the plants holding them feeling and smelling them. I think plants can be an amazing kind of mediator or facilitator for connection and conversation kind of breaking the tension and supporting new links.
On the day we made a healing balm which I use a lot myself and it’s made from oil infused with ribwort plantain and calendula, St John’s wort tincture, Yarrow essential oil and beeswax. I use it on itches, scratches, cuts, bumps all kinds really. Most of my friends with kids carry this around with them as it’s great to stick on their grazes etc.
The medicinal bed is in abundance you can see how much it’s grown since its beginning back in May. It’s got some welcome visitors as well like young nettle, cleavers, plantain and dandelion. None of which were planted and just turned up as super medicinal saviours.
I have a theory that this set of plants which are very much seen as weeds and unwelcome invaders follow us around because they want to support us and are resilient in the face of our own arrogance and self-importance.
ST JOHN’S WORT
I’m definitely not a royalist and definitely anti all that but if a plant could be my queen it would definitely be this St John’s Wort its Latin name is Hypericum Perforatum (Latin names are important as they allow us to identify plants universally thus sharing different cultural uses and readings of them).
This is the plant that has seduced me this year. It’s such a potent special little being used to help treat mild depression and also used topically for nerve pain. Known in France as Chasse-diable the devil chaser and traditionally burnt here in the uk over the mid-summer celebrations to also chase devils away. This is also the time to harvest which is when it’s at its most potent. So I couldn’t believe it when I found there was loads growing in the waste ground round the back of spode.
I got loads and still managed to harvest in an honourable manner (see Robin Wall Kimmerer). It’s such a fun one to identify as when you pick a leaf and hold it up to the sun it’s seems to be full of tiny dot’s which look like perforations (Hypericum Perforatum).
Also if you squish the flower between your fingers it releases this amazing purple red oil which is hypericin. It’s apparently a strong medicine not to be taken lightly as it can actually stop other medicines from working.
I am not a medicinal herbalist and just interested and learning as I go but a herbalist would say it’s not good to look at individual plants for treating particular ailments but better to look more holistically about the body and life in general so that everything can be looked at at once to figure out why we have particular symptoms.
PLANT OF THE MONTH - LAVENDER
My plant of the month this month is Lavender which grows in magnificent abundance in the garden. In particular English Lavender or the Angustifolias. The bees are absolutely loving it and it’s so nice to just stop and concentrate and to tune into their buzzing. Something I would recommend everyone doing. Next time you notice a load of lavender just slow down and see and listen for a moment.
Anyways I use lavender essential oil in all sorts it has antibacterial properties and studies have shown it to have a broad action against a range of microbes. People use it in treatments for burns, bites and wound and of course it’s really calming and helps to reduce your stress levels with its scent. It’s an amazing all-rounder and I love the way it can have a healing effect without you having to do anything more than smelling it, it’s a winner for me.
UPDATE #1 - MAY 2021