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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Self-seeding herbs

Live and let live in the garden

Many flowering herbs do have a tendency to set seed, often in the most unlikely places. In my garden, I believe in letting seedlings stay where they are until I can identify them!

Wall herbs

wall herb robert

Herb robert, Geranium Robertianum, readily self-seeds into cracks in the wall, and was traditionally used for toothache, nosebleeds and healing wounds.

Herbs in the veg patch

There is a lot of bare soil in my veg patch in early spring, and a few herbs have been known to colonise it!

Milk thistle

milk thistle herb foliage

Milk thistle, Silybum marianum leaves are very distinctive, and this herb self-seeded its way from someone else’s garden into my veg patch – presumably via a bird! I live on the South Coast of the UK, and it is thought to be a native of this area although it has naturalised in various places around the World. Milk thistle is cultivated as an alternative medicine associated with protection of the liver, although clinical trials are ongoing.

medicinal milk thistle

Chamomile flowers

chamomile herb flowers with kale

Chamomile comes up every year in my garden in among the kale and I’m pleased to see it, drying the flowers for tea year-round. This variety of Chamomile flower is Matricaria recutita (syn. M. chamomilla), known as German or blue chamomile.

Herb flowers

borage calendula flowers

Borage and marigold both seed themselves around happily. I leave the borage or starflower, Borago officinalis to flower wherever it germinates and use it fresh from the plant as a decoration on summer punch. Current scientific investigations include its use as an anti-inflammatory. Seeds of the pure white strain of this flower are now commercially available, but I personally prefer the more common vivid blue seen here.

My pot marigolds, Calendula officinalis predictably self-seeded themselves in a pot, so I rescued them, using them as an edging plant for my vegetables. I dry the calendula flowers and petals and add them to potpourri. The petals are a bright additive to salads, but in the American Civil War and World War I, calendula flowers were used when dressing wounds to promote healing.

Fennel in the borders

bronze fennel flowers pollinators

Pollinators such as hoverflies love fennel flowers, Foeniculum vulgare, because they form a flat landing pad. I very much enjoyed a talk by Herb Society President Toby Buckland recently, in which he pointed out that fennel secretes a chemical which deters the growth of nearby plants. This plant was self-seeded in the border, so I soon had my husband onto the job of weeding it out (see below)!

Fennel has an aniseed flavour and can be eaten as a vegetable or herb, and the seeds make a pleasant tea which refreshes the digestive system.

aromatic fennel leaves

Spot herb seedlings

There are many more self seeding herbs including lavender (especially if grown in gravel), marjoram (it grows in cracks in my patio), and lemon balm to name just a few. So don’t be too quick with the hoe, you might be missing an opportunity!

Read more about herbs in my Sussex garden

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Herb Society events 2016

It’s May and the sun is shining on herb gardens around the country

A great time of year to get out and about for herbal inspiration

RHS Flower Shows

Chelsea Flower Show this year is 24-28 May. The Herb Society doesn’t take a stand at this event, but we can guarantee a profusion of herbs! For example former Herb Society President Jekka McVicar has designed the St John’s Hospice garden entitled A Modern Apothecary. Herb exhibitors include Hooksgreen Herbs, run by our own Chairman Malcolm Dickson and his family. Another Chelsea regular is Downderry Nursery, the well known lavender grower.

The Herb Society has had a strong showing at RHS Tatton Park Flower Show in Cheshire in the last few years, with our stand scoring a Silver Gilt medal in 2014 and a Silver in 2015. Although we are not exhibiting this year, again it’s bound to be a great show for herbs – visit from 20 to 24th July 2016.

herbs for tea tatton flower show

Detail from the Herb Society exhibit at Tatton 2015. Image credit Peter Depledge

Herb Society Summer Gathering and AGM at Cressing Temple FREE to members

On 30 July 2016, starts at 10am, Free to Herb Society Members

Cressing Temple, between Witham and Braintree in Essex, has the most fantastic and unique buildings and gardens.  Given to the Knights Templar in 1137, its Grade I-listed Barley and Wheat Barns, built in the 13th century, are among the oldest timber barns in the world and few surviving Templar buildings in England.
cressing temple herb garden Jan 2015

Cressing Temple and its herb gardens from the air

Among Cressing Temple’s gardens, the Walled Garden is faithfully reconstructed as a Tudor pleasure garden, featuring an extensive collection of herbs commonly grown in 1600 – one of few in the country.
The Herb Society’s summer gathering and AGM is kindly being hosted by Friends of Cressing Temple Gardens.  To coincide with this event, on the weekend of 30 and 31 July, Cressing is holding a Healthy Living and Wellbeing Fair.
The event kicks off at 10am in the conference room with refreshments on arrival followed by the AGM.  For lunch, you can have a bite to eat at The Barns tearoom (www.trooms.com), picnic in the grounds or purchase food at the Healthy Living Fair.  You will have the afternoon to wander the fair which continues until 5pm.
herbs cressing temple Knot garden

Herbs in the knot garden at Cressing Temple

As an Herb Society member attending the AGM you will have free entry to the Fair which will include plant stalls, talks and demonstrations, including a firing of a 19th century bread oven and demonstration of traditional bread baking.  The Herb Society will take a stand reflecting the history of the Tudor Herb Garden.  There will be a modest entry charge for those not attending the AGM.
To book your place please email info@herbsociety.org.uk marked for the attention of Nicky our organiser.
We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Herb Society Members’ Day at Dilston Physic Garden

On 8 October 2016

 Do keep this day free for a visit to this relaxing and educational spot near Corbridge, Northumberland. Dilston Physic Garden is a charity with a unique and modern physic garden set up for the public and educational purposes. Individuals, groups, schools, colleges and universities visit to learn about the health benefits and medicines from plants.
The garden is separated into herb beds each with their own specific areas of interest, from woodland to culinary, from a medicinal meadow to the Time Space Zone taking you through medicinal plants of the past and from around the world. At Dilston you will discover plants used in traditional herbalism along with the latest clinical, chemistry and biology information that sits behind the folklore.
For our special members’ day, not only will there be a tour of this fabulous site, but also talks by Ross Menzies and Nicolette Perry about medicinal herbalism and plants for the brain. Places are limited and cost £20 per Herb Society member.
To book your place please email info@herbsociety.org.uk marked for the attention of Nicky our organiser.

 

Local events

There are many more garden festivals and events up and down the country this summer. The Herb Society supports a network of local groups, so do check your local branch to see if they are planning an event. A list of local herb groups is listed in our journal Herbs, which is posted out to all members, or contact us to find out more.

If you are planning an event, or know of one that other herb enthusiasts might be interested in, do please comment below or email ruth@herbsociety.org.uk for a mention on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Herb Society AGM 2015

Ryton Organic Garden in the sunshine

The Herb Society was very lucky with the weather for this years AGM which was held at Garden Organic near Coventry.

Herb Society day out in pictures

Thank you very much to Nicky Westwood, Penny Asquith-Evans and and Gwenneth Heyking for sharing their lovely pictures of the day! Click on images to enlarge.

Successful garden tour, talk and AGM

Events co-ordinator Nicky Westwood reports:

Despite the recent poor weather, the sun shone on the Herb Society AGM on Saturday 26th September. There were 29 attendees in all, and they were greeted by a range of teas, coffees and herbal teas – even local honey as a sweetener! With full attendance the AGM started at 11.30. We were sad to see Barbara and Peter Depledge leave us after all their hard work and success. Malcolm Dickson was formally elected as Chairman, and took us through the agenda. Some questions were raised about the location of the Society, the library and the managing of local groups. When the business of the day was over, members settled into a very nourishing lunch of various wraps, fries, and raw slaw with orange dressing. We finished with a mouth watering selection of cakes. Toby Buckland, our President, had driven all the way up from Devon. He gave an interesting and varied talk on the plants he has grown, rounding off with anecdotes and histories, including Pliny’s view of rocket! Everyone chipped in and asked questions. Afterwards we were taken by one of the gardeners around the Organic Gardens – which are beautiful and tranquil, with interesting and unexpected features, such as the Cuban garden and tropical greenhouse. Toby dug the first sod of the new herb garden, to our applause and laughter. There was still a buzz in the air when we all picked up our goodie bags (jute Herb Society shopping bags stuffed with good things) and left. End of an excellent day.

Thanks Nicky for organising a great event, and thank you to James and all at Ryton for hosting it! And thanks to herbfarmacy.co.uk and daisyshop.co.uk for contributing products to fill the gift bags.

Find out more about Garden Organic by reading a previous post about a Herb Society committee visit to Ryton which took place earlier this year.

Preparing our Herb Society exhibit for RHS flower show Tatton Park 2015

Following last year’s medal success

We were really pleased when last year’s Herb Society team, led by Barbara & Peter Depledge, won a Silver Gilt medal at RHS Tatton with a design for a 16th century herb garden inspired by Gerard’s Herbal, with our 1636 copy of the book available to view on the stand.

This year the theme is Thyme for Tea

chamomomile teaThis year the Cheshire flower show will be held on 22-26 July. To coincide with our theme celebrating the many garden plants which can be used for tea, we will be selling packs of herbal tea on the stand. Herb Society members will be able to take a pack free of charge, so do come along and say hello!

Medical Herbalist Barbara Wilkinson is organising the exhibit this year, and there are many behind-the-scenes activities that need to be carried out well before show week. This Spring Barbara liaised with the designer Margaret Kewley and herb grower Hooksgreen Herbs about our exhibit, and prepared an information leaflet about the use of herbal teas. More recently, she has been sourcing dried herbs, and growing some cornflowers and other herbs in her own allotment for tea-making. Last week she packed them with the help of local volunteers.

Growing and sourcing herbal teas

Barbara wilkinson cornflower cropped

Cornflower coming into flower at the end of May on Barbara’s allotment

herbal tea harvest

Herbs cut in Barbara’s allotment and ready for drying: nigella, lemon balm and vibrant cornflowers among others

barbara wilkinson wholesale teas cropped

Some of the dried herbs for tea supplied by Panacea and Herbs in a Bottle

medical herbalist barbara wilkinsonBarbara says,

“I hope people will enjoy reading about the garden theme ‘Thyme for Tea’ when they get home and remember their visit to the stand and of course HS members can have the added advantage of tasting their free herbal tea in the peace of their own home.”

She adds,

“…we would appreciate members coming to the stand as we would like their feedback on the display…I hope to have a book they can write in with memories of the show.”

 Herb grower assists with exhibit

herbs growing hooksgreen nursery

Herb plants being grown for the exhibit at Hooksgreen Herbs; arbour delivery arriving for the stand

Packing herbal teas

tatton herbal tea volunteers

Happy volunteers packing herbal tea: (L) Margaret and Caroline; (R) June, Pat and Annie

Join the Herb Society

herb society membership pack

Members joining at Tatton will receive a free jute bag and pair of herb snips as well as the usual benefits such as subscription to Herbs magazine. Currently members joining by direct debit receive fifteen months for the price of twelve

 ***Find out how we got on at the show in the next blog post***

To find out more about Herb Society membership, please open the pdf of our leaflet with prices and benefits (link top right of this page).

Bowood House Garden Festival

Emphasis on Herbs at Bowood

Last weekend was Bowood House garden festival in Wiltshire. It is one of two garden festivals organised by Herb Society President Toby Buckland, the other one being Powderham in Devon. Bowood is a grade I listed Georgian country house with interiors by Robert Adam and gardens designed by Capability Brown. The large event boasted over a hundred stalls, and speakers including James Wong, Anne Swithinbank and Roy Lancaster.

bowood house

Plant stalls in front of Bowood House, Wiltshire

The Herb Society stand

peter depledge bowood toby barbara

L-R Volunteer Carrie Pakenham,  Chairman Barbara Depledge and President Toby Buckland. Photo courtesy Peter Depledge.

herb society stand bowood

The Herb Society stand

The Herb Society stall was very well attended, thanks to Toby’s cheerful and persistent promotion throughout the weekend! As well as membership information and herbal expertise, toiletries by Littlecote and our friends at Cooks Lane Herbs were available to buy, as well as Elizabethan potpourri and lavender bags from Daisy Gifts Ltd.

The stall was run by Barbara and Peter Depledge, who would like to thank volunteers Kathryn Flegg and her daughter Ellen, Janet Turner, Liz Tomlin and Carrie Pakenham for all their hard work over the weekend.

The Herb Society would like to welcome all the new members who joined at the show and received our new welcome pack. We look forward to meeting you again soon!

Herbs in the Speakers Marquee

Inside the speakers marquee, Toby gave a very interesting talk on herbs, kindly plugging Herb Society membership in the process. He followed Jim Buttress (BBC Big Allotment Challenge judge) onto the stage.

preparing for talk

L-R: Toby preparing for his talk; Jim Buttress signing autographs

toby promoting herb society

Toby kindly promoting the Herb Society before his talk

I learned many things in Toby’s talk – nuggets such as: fennel gives off a hormone deterring other plants; Stephenson’s Rocket was named after the herb; add sweet cicely when cooking rhubarb to reduce the amount of sugar needed; use hairy mint in your mojito; herbs flavour intensify when you reduce watering; grow sunflowers to break up clay soil, and finally – how not to confuse parsley with hemlock!

More Herb Stalls

herb stalls bowood

Clockwise from top left: Jeanette, Malcolm, Kirsty

I was pleased to meet Jeanette from Blackdown Hills Lavender who had a fabulous stand full of lavender bags and treats, and won a trophy for Best Hat in Show! It’s always a pleasure to catch up with Malcolm at Hooksgreen Herbs, who had a large stand full of very healthy looking herbs. It was lovely to meet Kirsty from Devonshire Lavenders and Herbs, who had an impressive range too, and had very much enjoyed exhibiting at Powderham a few weeks before.

herb growers

Elsewhere around the show

around bowood garden festival

Clockwise from top left: fab willow sculpture by Clare and Alec Turner at In Clover; plant a pot with the kids; me enjoying a glass of Buckland’s fizz; sweet Williams for sale; flower stand by Sara and Saffron of myflowerpatch.co.uk and bath-flowers.com; strawberries and clotted cream

herbs garden festival

Herbs dominate the stage at Bowood House garden festival

Thanks Toby for a great show!

Verdant Hong Kong

Plant spotting in Hong Kong

It was my first visit to Hong Kong this Spring and for some reason I was expecting nothing but tower blocks – I was pleasantly surprised how green it was!

Sightseeing many green spaces and parks

herb spotting in hong kong

Hong Kong city from the Peak

big buddha foliage

The Big Buddha is on a verdant mountain with a fabulous view from the top

temple gardens

The gardens at Wong Tai Sin Temple in Kowloon

The Banyan Tree

banyan tree for herb society

Banyan tree in a Hong Kong park one minute from a busy shopping street

The Banyan tree Ficus Urostigma, is a culturally important tree in many countries. It is a fig tree having aerial prop roots that grow into thick woody trunks which can become indistinguishable from the main trunk. Many Hong Kong villages traditionally had a Banyan as a meeting place, the large tree being afforded respect as if it was a kindly elder.
I found this Hong Kong Banyan tree website very interesting if you’d like to find out more.

Fruit, herbs and flowers in the New Territories

northern territories herbs

I’m not quite sure what this marvelous tree is (left), but the flowers were waxy like magnolia (spotted in the New Territories near Fanling) – Carp pond near Fanling – Wild cosmos and bindweed nearby – Fallen starfruit by a public road, ripe for scrumping!

A short train ride out of the city centre are the suburbs, with many families able to grow their own flowers and herbs on a garden or patio. I spotted avocado, passionfruit, and citrus fruit, and herbs like dill, rue and lemongrass.

Bauhinia the national flower

My favourite flower? The national flower of Hong Kong of course! The flag and coins of Hong Kong both feature the stylised, five-petal flower of the Hong Kong orchid tree Bauhinia blakeana. I had never seen one before, and to me it resembled an extremely blousy azalea!

flower coin

Bauhinia

ruth and mei

Me with my friend and travelling companion Mei who lived in Hong Kong as a child

Read about our visit to Hobbiton and a lavender farm in New Zealand on the same trip.