The Blackden Trust Herb Collaboration

Herb Talk at the Old Medicine House

The Herb Society has many local groups and a list of speakers available to give talks on a variety of herb-related topics. Sue Hughes, Trustee of the Herb Society delivered a presentation to the Tatton Garden Society at the Blackden Trust on 30 June.  The Blackden Trust manages the Old Medicine House, a Tudor apothecary’s residency which was moved to the Cheshire site from Staffordshire in the 1970s.

old medicine house

Developing the herb garden

Planting herbs blackden

Planting herbs at Blackden a couple of years ago. The garden is now thriving

Sue says,
“The Herb Society have been working with the Trust to develop a herb garden based on the plants listed in John Gerard’s Herbal.  John Gerard was a son of Cheshire, being born in Nantwich in 1545, and the Herb Society owns a copy of a 1636 version of his Herbal.”

Folklore of herbs

Sue’s presentation was on the historical uses and folklore of herbs, including references direct from the Herbal in particular where Gerard describes uses of herbs in the north of England.  For instance,
‘The women of our Northerne parts especially about Wales and Cheshire do turne the herbe ale-hoofe into their ale; but the reason thereof I know not’.
(Ale-hoof was the common name for ground ivy).
For marjoram Gerard says,
‘the leaves boiled in water, and the decoction drunke, easeth such as are given to over much sighing’.
herbal folklore
Sue reports,
The group greatly enjoyed learning about the herbs and along with a tour of the house they also had the opportunity to view the Herbal and tour the Herb Garden.

Visiting the Medicine House

The Medicine House and garden are open to booked groups and for a range of conducted tours.  Look at the website for more details www.theblackdentrust.org.uk.  Perhaps you will encounter the herbs of John Gerard and discover some of their history,
‘The leaves and floures of Borage put into wine make men and women glad and merry, driving away sadnesses, dullnesse and melancholy’.
sue hughes blackden
The Herb Society copy of Gerard’s Herbal is due to be displayed at the Garden Museum in London which reopens in early 2017 after extensive refurbishment.
Image credits Sue Hughes.

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Silver Gilt for the Herb Society at RHS Tatton Park

Herb Society pleased to exhibit at RHS flower show

RHS Tatton Park is held in magnificent parklands in Cheshire. Herb Society council members Barbara and Peter Depledge led a team of North West group volunteers to create a display typical of a 16th century herb garden. They used top quality plants supplied by society trustee Malcolm Dickson and son Thomas at Hooksgreen Herbs.

A Tudor herb garden

Herb society stand at RHS Tatton

The choice of a garden from this period was decided upon to tie in with the work of John Gerard (1545-1612), the renowned  herbalist from Cheshire. In fact, the Herb Society has a 1636 copy of his Herbal, which was on display at the show. The plants were chosen to be as authentic to the period as possible and including teasels, lavender, mullein, calendula and many other useful herbs.

The beautiful Tudor building pictured at the rear of the display is the Old Medicine House in Blackden, Cheshire which was at one time an apothecary’s house. It is run by the Blackden Trust and the Herb Society is planning further collaboration with them in the future.

Herb Society volunteers

Volunteers were very important to the success of the event, and we would like to thank everyone that took part. Peter and Barbara had a total of 27 volunteers from the North West group over the 8 days which is a fantastic response! Pictured below are volunteers Pat Sweetingham filling lavender bags and Sharon Goddard mixing a herb tea. The central photo features the Gerard Herbal, and a selection of herb products for sale.

tatton flower show volunteers

Pictured below are L-R: volunteer Peter Bowen, Rachel de Thame, Barbara Depledge, and volunteer Sue Hughes in Tudor costume.

volunteers herb society rachel de thame

Rachel de Thame visited the stand on press day and was very interested in the display, later commenting on Twitter (@herbsocietyuk) “Fascinating stand”.

A successful event for the Herb Society

A couple of days into the event, Peter was pleased to report, “the stand has been incredibly busy and very popular with lots of positive comments about our overall design/theme, the herb beds, educational materials and our products; we’ve had to restock our products twice and we’ve signed up a good number of new members!”

RHS Tatton 2014 Silver Gilt

So thank you to everyone involved for a really successful show, and congratulations on your achievement!
Thanks to Peter Depledge for letting us use his photos in this post.

Watch out for an article about the show in a forthcoming issue of Herbs magazine.

The Gardens at Westminster Abbey

Herbs and serenity in central London

Last week, the London herb group visited Westminster Abbey with Head Gardener and Herb Society member Jan Pancheri. The gardens comprise several areas: Deans Yard; Great Cloister Garth; Little Cloister; St Catherine’s Garden, and the College Garden which contains a beautiful herb area.

outside westminster abbey

Westminster Abbey in the hustle and bustle of central London. On entering the Great Cloister, peace reigns.

little cloister

Once inside the Abbey grounds, the atmosphere is incredibly tranquil, for example in the Little Cloister

st catherines garden

St Catherine’s Garden with column bases and self seeded erigerons

college garden

Corners of the College Garden – roses planted for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee; a grape vine, and bluebells in grass

As herb enthusiasts, it was the herb garden that attracted much of our attention. It is square in shape and separated into quarters, with a central decorative circular bed planted with Rosa Mundi. The four main beds each contain vegetables; culinary herbs; medicinal herbs and dye plants. The garden was opened by the Queen in 2010, and reflects the way herbs may have been used by the Benedictine monks who lived in the Abbey centuries ago.

herb garden

The herb garden beautifully set out with willow edging – we were shown around by Jan (stripy top)

herb garden plants

Herb garden plants that caught my eye: woad; very early nasturtiums; milk thistle, and white flowered borage

greenhouse

It’s always great to see behind the scenes. Jan has a lovely corner of the College Garden for office work and propagation

It was a really enjoyable morning, and Jan was kind enough to include a visit to the Abbey’s impressive library in her tour.

Find out more about Westminster Abbey Gardens

If you are a Herb Society member and would like to join the London herb group, contact Gwenneth at garden@gbz.demon.co.uk

Herb Day at Hooksgreen

Local Herb Society Meetings

One of the great benefits of becoming a member of the Herb Society is the opportunity to meet like-minded people locally and join in with events.

A few weeks ago, such an event took place for the Northwest Herb Group at Hooksgreen Herbs (Stone, Staffordshire) led by Herb Society Treasurer Malcolm Dickson and his son Thomas.

Malcolm was pleased that the Spring weather was kind on the day. After a welcoming coffee, he made a presentation on “Showing and Growing Herbs” which gave everyone an idea of what Hooksgreen Herbs’ main activities were during a busy show year.

propagating herbs from cuttings

The members were then split into two groups and Thomas demonstrated sowing seed while Malcolm showed the other group how to take cuttings and split mint and oregano. Everyone had a chance to fill a tray with a variety of species which they took home. After a lunch break the groups swapped around.

propagating herbs from seed

Malcolm was pleased to report “The youngest member of the group Ronan was keen to source the herbs he had listed prior to his visit and was able to fill his tray with cuttings and seed.” We think Malcolm should be proud of his ability to inspire new generations, not only within his own family, but from outside it too.

young members welcome Some of Malcolm’s propagation methods were surprising, and he says “Some of the group were amazed to see the use of an old wood saw to split the large pots of mint and oregano, but the resulting four pots illustrated the need to slit and proliferate.”  The day was rounded off with tea and cakes and a quiz by Susie Dickson.

 
See more photos of the day on our facebook page at Facebook.com/herbsocietyuk

Local herb group information is available to members inside the Herbs journal and via our website at herbsociety.org.uk

The Dickson family sell their herbs online and through shows, winning a well-deserved RHS Silver Gilt Medal at the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show. Find out about their 2014 stand