Day 159: Apothecary Garden

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When a window of opportunity opened this morning, meaning my area was in between storm fronts, I leapt through it. According to the weather app on my phone, I had 2-3 hours before the next rain shower arrived. My first for today was to plant an apothecary garden.

This section of my garden evolved over the past few months. I had intentions of creating an herb garden. As I read about apothecary gardens, that intention morphed. Essentially, they are herb gardens, with a few additional plants that are useful for healing. As with the other sections in my backyard, this will be a garden in process that will continue to grow and adapt over the next few years.

The quiet and fragrant beauty of an apothecary garden and the peaceful activity of caring for it can be healing in itself. The purpose of such a garden is to deliver a healing harvest useful for teas, decoctions, salves and tinctures. I also use dried herbs and flowers to make my own potpourri and bath products. I am very interested in continuing to learn to use herbs and flowers to create other health and beauty products.

The first healers were herbalists and the first medicines plants. The apothecary garden is steeped in history. These gardens were first grown in the Middle Ages and cared for by monks who studied plants and their therapeutic uses. In later centuries, physicians maintained their own healing gardens and stillrooms for growing and preparing botanical medicines.

Today, I planted an assortment of herbs in my apothecary garden. I included Platinum Blonde Lavender and Silver Anouk Lavender, East Friesland Sage, Russian Sage, and Garden Sage, Peppermint, German Thyme, Greek Oregano, Garlic, Lemon Grass and Lemon Balm, and the Basils: Cinnamon, Purple, Spicy Globe, Sweet and Thai. There are several other plants I’m searching for, including calendula, feverfew, German Chamomile, comfrey, Apothecary rose and sweet violet. I’ll add a container of aloe. It can’t survive the cold, so must winter indoors. There is an empty space between the purple sage and the silver lavender that is saved for a large black cast iron kettle that Greg’s dad is giving me. I’m excited to bring that home and plant more herbs and flowers within it.

I loved creating this space today. The rain arrived before I finished and I spent the last two hours in a gentle shower. That was okay. The rain and I are friends, after all. Greg was a tremendous help, using his truck to bring in two loads of mulch. He removed grass from the section I was planting in and spread the mulch after carting it into the backyard with a wheelbarrow. Until the rain started, the cats cavorted about, checking out each new plant.

I left my contact lenses out this morning, which meant I could see well close up, but not at distances. That had the beautiful effect of bringing my vision to what was immediately before me. The world beyond my fences blurred out and could not claim my attention. What I focused on was digging in the rich moist dirt and setting the plants into the earth, envisioning what they would become, but willing to journey with them over the next months and years as they mature and fill in their allotted space. With water and sunshine, these herbs and flowers will become what they are so wonderfully created to be, offering their beauty, scent, leaves and blooms freely to me. What an amazing shared journey it will be.

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