Dilston Physic Garden News
Last updated 24th March 2013
Writer in Residence
This year we are delighted and honoured to welcome Valerie Laws as the first Physic Garden Writer in Residence. She is offering two writing courses this year and is working on a new site specific poetry installation for the garden.
See our Writer In Residence page.
Our main new addition to Physic Garden functions is the provision of an exciting series of courses in plants medicine. This Foundation series offers the chance to learn about the many ways to use herbs for health, taught by local Medical Herbalists. The Physic Garden thus continues in its traditional mode as a centre of learning and training.
Artist In Residence
We are delighted to welcome a new artist in residence to Dilston Physic Garden, Pauline Aitken. Pauline (www.paulineaitken.com) has a special interest in medicinal plants and having studied at the Slade School of Fine Art her work is represented extensively in public and private collections nationally and internationally. She lives and works in Eye, Suffolk.
See our Artist In Residence page.
Herbs for Animals
We now provide information on how herbs help not just human but also animal health. Animals, at least in the wild, forage for plants to maintain their health and it is thought that man originally discovered what plants to use by watching them. The topic is highly relevant today for organic farming, horse racing and people with pets who want to avoid drugs. New handout pdf to follow in 2012.
New Artistic Additions
We have a new ‘Aroma Seat’ - dry stone wall with seat - surrounded in aromatic herbs like honeysuckle, rose, lavender, and with an inset glass mosaic of scented herbs, made by Victoria Harrison who will run a course this summer on mosaic making. Sit and enjoy the fragrances on a sunny day.
Another new favourite is the Garden Fairy made by our artist in residence, Adela MacDonald. While our much loved Dragon, Yin Yang, was blown over in the gales before Christmas, John Rutherford who made its metal wings and is fixing it, is also constructing a new metal sculpture .A multi coloured, man-sized Phoenix will sit in the middle of the new seven oak copse, to symbolise the rebirth that takes place not only each year with the regrowth of all the plants in the garden, but also the rebirth of ancient knowledge that has given us our modern understanding of herbal medicines.
Davina’s Herbology Class
We have long realized the need to attract children to the garden where there is so much to learn and enjoy about plants that keep us healthy. Davina Hopkinson is a medical herbalist who has just moved into the area and is interested in setting up new activities for kids. Her Herbology Classes this summer will provide fun for the young and enable them to make their own herbal potions to take home. Davina is also interested to hear from any school groups that would like to visit.
Magical Herbs, Plants & Resins (taken from 'Witchery' by Lily Oak, with full permission of the author). Plants form an integral part of magic. They can be used to decorate places and alters, turned into incense or burnt as smudge sticks. In an ideal world we would all grow and harvest our own herbs, or forage for wild ones our selves. If you collect from the wild please be respectful of where you collect them from and give something back, collect seed pods from that area and scatter them to help the area grow. It is unlikely that you will be able to grow or collect everything you wish to use yourself, in these cases please use a reputable online retailer that stocks from organic sustainable sources. Here are [some of] my favourites and what I use them for. The magical correspondences are a good reflection of the generally accepted ones, however as with everything in magic, there will be variations for everyone and the more you practice the more you get a feel for what works best for you. Birch for ‘Starting anew, clearing away unwanted past influences and offering protection to new ventures’. Hazel can grant wishes, knowledge and wisdom. Hawthorn for Fertility, sex and new beginnings, personal growth and finding your soul mate. Ivy for Marriage and Fidelity. Nettles for Protection, purification and exorcism; recovery after emotional ordeal. And Oak - Healing, Protection and Strength; Knowledge, intuition and channelling energies; Increases male sexuality and fertility; Helps to increase your social circle.
Serious Science Items
Herbal tea testing continues as a project in development – we have the plans in place now but are looking for someone who would like to take this forward as a project. Curator Elaine Perry has been involved in a new website for any in interested in herbs for cognition http://www.naturalhealthera.com/. She is also working up two new books, on Botanical Brain Boosters with Valerie Laws.
Writer in Residence
This year we are delighted and honoured to welcome Valerie Laws as the first Physic Garden Writer in Residence. She is offering two writing courses this year and is working on a new work of words about the garden. Valerie (www.valerielaws.co.uk) is a poet, performer, playwright, crime novelist, mathematician and sci-art specialist. Her ten published books include 3 poetry collections including All That Lives (Red Squirrel Press 2011) , a play, and an edited Star Trek anthology (Iron Press), novel The Rotting Spot, (Red Squirrel Crime; winner of Northern Writers Award, shortlisted for the McKitterick Prize), Changing Age, Changing Minds (Newcastle University), and two best-selling language books. She has written 12 commissioned plays for stage and BBC radio. Many prizes, including Wellcome Trust Arts Award to work with neuroscientists, twice prize winner in National Poetry competition. Invents new forms of kinetic poetry; science-themed AV poetry installations have featured in public exhibitions in London and Newcastle, and been commissioned for St Thomas Hospital in London. Other commissions include the infamous Arts Council funded Quantum Sheep, spray-painting poetry on live sheep, and on inflatable beachballs for BBC2 TV's Why Poetry Matters, later performed at Royal Festival Hall. Many residencies, including Ilkley Literature Festival, Darwin 200, and El Gouna, Egypt. Currently also Writer in Residence at a London Pathology Museum, and at Newcastle University's Institute for Ageing and Health. Performs live and in media worldwide.
FRESH HERBAL TEAS
A new experience for visitors is to be served a cup of herbal tea prepared from fresh herbs growing in the garden. There is a choice from over 30 safe herbs (listed with their healing properties) that make a delicious and refreshing infusions. Visitors can choose any combination they like and elderberry and mugwort went down well this year in addition to our favourite combination of lemon balm and peppermint.. Many have commented on how much better the tea is from fresh compared to dried (as available in commercial tea bags) herbs. We will have our new teahouse up in time for the 2011 season so visitors can enjoy their cuppa under cover if necessary although the new teak root seats beside the totem pole have been very popular with tea drinkers!
As a real treat on some days there is a also delicious cake to go with the tea made by Maggie (our garden team leader) from fresh organic herbs, fruit and vegetables which she grows in her new ‘ allotment ‘ area in the meadow.
In the longer term we plan to test the effects of herbal teas in a novel exciting research project joint with Cathy Gauthier in Lyon who is part of a cross cultural venture known as Herbalisme Sans Frontiere. So please continue to let us know if you would be willing to volunteer to take part in such a project.
TIME SPACE ZONES DEVELOPING APACE
We now have a small established medicinal Jacobean garden area thanks to Marie Addyman’s knowledgeable input on plants used for health in that era and this zone will link to Dilston Castle with its colourful Jacobean history. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ancient Roman Medicine areas are also well developed thanks to Bernadette Dunne, a practitioner of Japanese Kampo medicine and Lindsay Allison Jones, a Newcastle University scholar of Roman history. A Japanese Kampo area is being developed with input from Duncan and Yuriko Ross of Poynzfield Nursery in Inverness and a Medieval area in the shape of a Mappe mundi with artist Jill Tattersall . A Bronze Age zone is also in the planning stage and already boasts a rock with a cup and ring pictograph created by Ian Hobson. We are still looking for help with Tibetan, Indian /Ayurvedic and South American zones and although we realize that the numbers of plants from these more tropical parts that will thrive in Northumberland are limited we would appreciate any input or information here.
PHYSIC GARDEN IS BLESSED by Tashi Lhumpo monks
It was an auspicious day. The autumn equinox coincided with the full harvest moon on Thursday September 23rd when the Tashi Lhumpo monks came to bless the Dilston Physic Garden. The occasion, arranged by Cathy White Webster and led by Jane Rasch, was abundant in goodwill and bright colors and even the elements joined in the ceremony. Jane had warned that is usually rains after a blessing by the monks. Shortly after they had walked round the garden chanting and throwing rice around the lightening struck and the thunder rolled but the deluge held off until they had had their tea and walked back to their car. So their resplendant robes and hats were saved a soak. The chief Tibetan monk explained that the colours of their hats and robes - orange, yellow and red, represent compassion, wisdom and power and Elaine Perry, the garden Curator is now constructing a sun mosaic mandala in these colors to mark the occasion of the monks visit in the new meadow area. The monks ceremoniously blessed the garden, the people who work in and visit it together with new projects like the meadow area and also a small Tibetan medicinal garden..
The new meadow area has now been mown and the hay removed to reduce the nutritional content of the soil and encourage wild plants to thrive. It will take a while – maybe up to three years - for the meadow to develop although already some herbs from the main physic garden have seeded – yarrow and blackthorn to mention two. The meadow will be laid out with paths in the pattern of rays of sunshine emanating from the gate at the top of the bamboo avenue where a sun mandala has been laid in stone and colored red, orange and yellow to mark the monks visit in September. There are plans to erect standing stones lined up in the direction of the summer solstice sunset and winter solstice sunrise and also to build a huge sundial which will be in the form of a circular bench to allow people to sit on the time! The creator of our magnificent dragon, Jona Maurice, is rumoured to be at work on a guardian garden Angel also for the high point in the field.
NEW TEAM MEMBER
Nicolette Perry is now working a day a week in the garden. She has played a major role in the garden development and is spending out of season time intent on creating a herbs for kids zone in the play area and also setting up a new project on herbs that keep animals healthy - an important subject today with increasing popularity of organic food.
She is also involved in the perennial sign updating process which involves checking peer reviewed scientific and medical journals for new clinical and scientific evidence and adding this important information to the plant sign boards.
Saturday Opening – opening Saturday as well as Wednesday has been a great success, attracting people working during the week, and we have had more visitors this year then ever with the car park being full some days -overflow parking is possible at ‘Treesplease’ just along the road.
Courses - there were a wide range of courses in the garden this year from Shamanism, Psychedelic plants and Plantart to Herbalism itself.
Many aspects of herbal medicine were included- offering novices and those with more knowledge a real opportunity to expand their knowledge, meet others and discover the many and varied uses of herbs. According to Ross Menzies who runs most of these couses and is a practising Medical Herbalist: ‘The Physic garden is offering something that is unique to the North of England. The hedgerow and Tree medicine courses were very popular and two very busy days were spent gathering herbs, wild foods and getting to know native trees. Both days were largely practical and we made all sorts of medicines - from acorn antiseptic to elderberry and rosehip winter tonic, poultices, decoctions, ointments and tinctures. Having an 8 year old on the tree course was great and she seemed to really enjoy it. This has inspired me to run a session aimed specifically at children - after all if we help children to develop a love and respect for nature this can only be positive!'
Volunteers – we are so appreciative of this year’s wonderful team of volunteers -Margo, Alison, Sue, Laura, Carl, Elaine, and Judith.
We are particularly looking for a new volunteer to help on the Saturdays and can offer expenses as well as a fun and rewarding experience
New Art forms – this year saw the addition of a giant spider web and totem pole telling tales about the garden in pictures. There are plans for fairies at the bottom of the garden and an angel at the top. We are happy to hear from any artist who thinks they might like to create something new and exciting and the garden has modest funds to support this.
Links to University Research
Elaine Perry continues with part time research positions at the Universities of Newcastle and King’s College London. Part of this research is plant focused. She has a book ‘ New Horizons in the Neuroscience of Consciousness’ just published which she edited together with Newcastle colleagues and in which a chapter on Plants of the gods and shamanic consciousness is written by her and Newcastle University Creative Writer Valerie Laws. Together with Valerie she is also planning a new book ‘Botanic Brain Boosters; which will be about how to enhance your memory and improve your mood using herbs.
Elaine continues as founding director of the Medicinal Plant Research Centre – an amalgam of North East Universities now run by Ed Okello and is involved in various aspects of research there including on essential oils and anti dementia herbs
Updates from 2009:
NEW SCULPTURE - THE MEDIEVAL PLAGUE DOCTOR
The Garden is home to many interesting pieces of artwork and sculpture. Local artist Adela Macdonald using a modern perspective has constructed the latest addition to the collection, the medieval plague doctor.
These characters wore what was probably a precursor to a modern day bio-hazard suit utilising herbs to help them breath and persevere with the stench.
Can you help us with any information ? New areas are being set up to display medicinal plants used in this country and in other parts of the world.The new areas will include:
Roman... Medieval... Jacobean... Ayurvedic... Tibetan...South American...Traditional Chinese ...
ADDITIONAL OPENING TIMES
The garden is now open until 15th October 2009 with additional Saturday openings on 5th September 2009 and 3rd October 2009, 11:00 am - 4:00 pm.
Testing Medicinal Herbs at Dilston Physic Garden
Would you like to volunteer for Medicinal Herb Trials at Dilston Physic Garden? Please fill in our online form here.
FEEDBACK FROM Courses
We have had a wonderful response to courses that we have already run in 2009 such as the Creative Cooking With Herbs, Of Mint and Manuscript and Using Herbs/Herbals Remedies on our Animal Companions. Contact us if you have any ideas for 2010.
We were pleased to hear that our application to register as a charity has been accepted (charity no. 11020141). We are currently looking at ways to develop the educational aims of the garden. Ideas include a range of information booklets for visitors with detailed histories of some of the herbs and their uses, as well as a more general souvenir booklet with tried and tested recipes for herb teas and cakes. We are also looking at possible ways to link into the school curriculum in order to make the garden available to school groups - if anyone can help us with this, please do get in touch.
President for Dilston Physic Garden
We are truly delighted to welcome as our president, Professor Anya Hurlbert, Professor of Visual Neuroscience at Newcastle University. She joins our existing team of Trustees, Elaine Perry, Nicolette Perry, Charles Beaumont, Liz Devonport, Helen Stephenson and Ross Menzies.
New sculptress in residence- Adela MacDonald
There is now a new SCULPTRESS IN RESIDENCE, Adela MacDonald. She created the ‘Flying Goddesses’ sculpture in the Magic Area last year. She has now made an equally exciting new figure for the Physic Garden - ‘THE GREEN MAN’ under the cypress arch beside the croquet lawn.
Artist in Residence - Jean Dawes
Local artist, Jean Dawes, has joined us at the Physic Garden as Artist in Residence. Jean lives in Ulgham, near Morpeth and, since retiring from a position with the Medical Research Council, has developed her lifelong love of painting in oils and acrylics. A keen flower arranger, Jean is fascinated by the beauty of plants and flowers and their use in healing and medicine.
Fun for kids!
For kids we have a new ‘PHYSIC GARDEN DRAWING LOFT’. We would like children to find a flower, leaf or fruit they really like - climb up the loft stairs - use the crayons and paper there to make a picture of it - take it to the Physic Hut with name and address- there will be a prize for the best picture at the end of the season.
Plans for expansion
The Physic Garden is expanding! We have a new one acre extension which is under development. To start with, we are planting a Willow Coppice (the most important medicinal tree which gave rise to aspirin) with lots of different willow trees species. There are further plans for a Totem pole symbolising important plants and animals, a new Picnic area and Physic House. We welcome suggestions for other exciting projects.
We were fortunate, at the end of 2006, to receive lottery funding to replace all the old home-produced plant signs with professional ones. Local sign-maker, Robin Watson, came up with an attractive and eminently practical design and these are now all in place. Thanks to some detailed research by Elaine, we have been able to update and expand the information contained on the original signs. This means that visitors to the garden now have access to an unusual and eclectic database of the 600+ plants in the garden. Details include folk/magical associations, traditional medical herbalist uses and up-to-date scientific, clinical evidence.
Garden curator, Elaine Perry, continues to work as Professor of Neurochemical Pathology at Newcastle University and at King's College, London. When she is not busy researching possible uses of herbs to treat disorders and diseases of the brain, she welcomes spending time at home developing the physic garden. She is particularly interested in creating dialogue between the worlds of medical science and complementary therapies and in possible future research opportunities involving the physic garden.
Consultant Herbalist, Ross Menzies, runs a clinic in Hexham. He has been in Practice for 9 years and treats patients with a wide variety of imbalances. As well as seeing patients, Ross runs regular courses on herbal medicine, has lectured on a Complementary Therapies degree course and tutored Herbal Medicine students. Ross has a particular interest in getting to know plants and trees on a deeper level, rather than just seeing them as a collection of chemicals that can be of medicinal benefit to us.
Maggie, Head Gardener, is a crucial part of the team. We greatly appreciate her intelligence, loyalty and commitment to all that happens here and indeed to all things alternative.
Volunteers - we have a conscientious team of keen volunteers who have assisted us in a number of ways over the past years. They bring with them a range of skills and a real sense of community. Previous volunteer Sue had this to say:-
"In 2006 I was looking for a volunteer gardening experience ‘with a difference’. When I visited Dilston in the late summer, I really felt enthused by the purpose of the garden and the feel of the environment. So, I was overjoyed to be accepted as a potential compost-carrying, soil-digging, wheelbarrow-toting garden helper and so I remain!
Plants for Sale
Last year, students at neighbouring Dilston College - a specialist MENCAP college for students with learning difficulties/disabilities, made a fantastic job of doing some propagating for us and we look forward to continuing this collaborative venture in 2009.
Herbs for sale may include:-
Caraway, Chamomile, Chives, Comfrey, Fennel, Lemon Balm, Mugwort, Parsley, Peppermint, Sage, Soapwort, Tansy, Thyme and Wild Garlic.
Do you remember any herbal remedies used by your parents or grandparents? A new initiative called Ethnomedical, which is based at Kew Gardens, is trying to collect such memories to establish a database to "honour the knowledge and wisdom of our older people and help benefit future generations". For further information, click here.