On growing flowers and knowledge

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Well, I suppose it’s a good thing productivity around here is subjective…

Hello again! It’s been a little while since you all have heard from me! I’ve been busy, we had record numbers of schools in through the 2018 season, another fabulously successful Evening in the Courtyard, and our maintenance lady extraordinaire unfortunately had to resign due to unforeseen circumstances, I suppose the price one pays for loving working with their hands. So in her absence, my title of minion has lived up to itself and I am now splitting my duties between programming, and grounds keeping.

It is quite fascinating to me however, just how one thing will lead into another.

Do you have something you absolutely adore? but…umm…you’re just not actually that great at?

For me, that’s plants.

I ADORE them…standing in a greenhouse, or eating fresh, home grown produce, or just taking in giant fluffy blooms makes me so happy! But uh, I just can’t seem to keep anything alive for too terribly long. It’s like a curse! So the whole happening of taking on grounds keeping was a bit of a half out of necessity, half determination to not let this horrific lack of luck get the best of me. So in my quest to competently garden, I have been reading.

And reading. …..and you guessed it. Reading.

There has been some most fascinating things to read too! The bulk of my research has been on local native flora, because we think it would be really cool to incorporate that as a bit of an exhibit in itself, as well as a great way to support our pollinators and our ecosystem as a whole. (Not to mention if native plants thrive with literally no human interference, I have less chance of killing them. 😐 )

There’s an amazing flip side to this too. The plants we utilize in these new local gardens, will all be either edible or medicinal! So to make sure we are on point as best as possible, my nose hasn’t been out of literature for weeks. I might be going cross-eyed. Or be half way to a degree as an herbalist. I’m not sure what day it is anymore.

So although I have been known to let my hippy flag fly on regular occasion, there is some pretty incredible science behind some of what I have discovered! Think, Bill Nye speaking to grownups level sciencey.

And a heck of a thing it is. Although plant medicine for centuries started out somewhat trial & error, and heavily steeped in superstition (yes, that was a pun), they are a whole scientific entity all their own, blending chemistry, botany, and biology. These healing plants have lead to many of the drugs you will find today on your pharmacists shelves. The chemical compounds found within the various parts of the plants after a variety of preparations (drying, cooking, etc) are react with your body, as we now know, activating or blocking certain receptors, causing an increase or decrease of certain hormones…it just tends to be in weaker concentrations than you typically find in the drugstore. Hawthorn for example, is a very strong cardiac (heart) medication! Among some of the others I have discovered through my reading, I thought to be useless pesky weeds my whole life!

Take Plantain for instance, that leafy little lawn plant.

I had absolutely NO CLUE that it is both edible, and medicinal! It is most commonly used for dermal complaints (like soothing scrapes, burns, stings, etc) when made into a salve, or used as a poultice, but the leaves when young are similar to spinach. The seeds can even be dried and ground and used as a flour!

Of course there are the better known plants, such as Wild Raspberry (young leaves), which has been long used as a women’s medicine, Willow and/or Cottonwood as analgesics (where do you think Asprin came from? 😉 ), Pine for colds and antiseptics, Yarrow…I could go on for ages!

I am particularly hoping to plant Osha, or BearMedicine, as the plant is traditionally a powerful treatment for chest oriented malladies (cold/flu etc) and even has some pretty strong antiviral properties, so much so it is being studied for use in treatment of HIV/AIDS. The individual plant is capable of living for around 100 years…which I feel is somewhat suiting for a museum garden!

There have also been some very deep and some rather odd factoids that I have learned! For example:

Healing was regarded as a women’s power and responsibility for millennia throughout nearly every culture on earth. As there was no scientific basis in healing yet, and the vast majority of illness & disease was not fully understood, formal education regarding the process of healing was non-existent, but rather was passed down from generation to generation in the form of ritual, ceremonies, herbal remedies, amulets and incantations. Women who were skilled in the art of birth and general healing were regarded in highest esteem within their communities, and were generally taken care of by their communities in return for their services. It was around approximately the 4th century in Europe during the middle ages that formalized healing “education” (scientific study of the body and illness and disease would not appear yet for several centuries) became a thing, however it was restricted to male participation only. In order to ensure the exclusion of women, fear had to be created, which is where ‘witches‘ came from, despite the fact that the men whom claimed to be professionals, were practicing in similar very similar ways to the deemed ‘witches’. The women whom had practiced healing and were now denied the right to ‘accepted education’, railed as a united body against this new control tactic, despite it often meaning torture and death, to protect the generations of knowledge & skill, bodily autonomy, and of the role of women in their homes and communities. They still practiced underground, and passed on their knowledge to anyone who was willing to risk the label and punishment if discovered, however over time the knowledge and skills of midwifery and herbalism has vastly been lost, and is still seen as an inferior to modern medicinal practice, although women are now re-balancing the scales after the many women who risked themselves in the 1700’s-1800’s attending medical school disguised as men, then by the late 1800’s women such as Dr. Jennie Kidd Trout, who became the first licensed female physician in Canada, breaking down the barrier for others to follow.

Now for some funny stuff…Did you know that the accumulate of dead leaves/needles etc on a forest floor is called “Duff”? (A Survey of Canadian Plants In Relation To Their Environment-1926) This is an actual thing!!

“Duff”.

(That’s Hilary Duff by the way. Just in case ya missed it)

Also, the Western Region of Canada (mainly the province of BC) has eighty genre of plant family that does not occur anywhere else in Canada! This has made researching certain plants easier, however some are difficult to narrow down because they aren’t exactly specified what part of BC or the Kootenays they grow in…that’s where the bulk of my time has been going into, is narrowing down what truly native plants grow in our specific central kootenay region.

I don’t want to give tooooo much more fun and amazing info away about our upcoming project, but just so you all know, I am working on putting together a brochure (*cough-multiplebrochures-cough*) that will explain all of our new plants, their role in our beautiful little ecosystem, whether the pollinators love them or not, and where you can get some of your own!

Hope to see you come by this summer to explore our new gardens!