Preparing the Garden for Winter and the Plant Medicine Bed

On Sunday October 30th a small, resilient band of us turned up brandishing our forks and rakes to prepare the library garden beds for their winter rest. The weather was greyer and far less balmy than at our produce swap at the beginning of the month, but Richard, Daphne, Rose and I soon got down to dividing roots, pruning bushes and potting up vibrant perennials for the Give and Grow* table. Charlotte, taking an occasional break from an eternal deadline, would come out to lend a hand and some advice on the plants.

I collected seeds from vervain, anise hyssop and calendula and handed them to people to take home. For Caroline, who was manning the library that morning and had just been in Palestine, I picked some vervain leaves to make a tea (good for exhaustion and nerves). Most of my attention though was focused on the central bed which in 2011 has been the Bee bed and which is going to be the Plant Medicine Bed for 2012.

The plan is to build from the bottom up, working with the plants that are already there and adding as we go. “Don’t move that Greater Celandine,” I called out. “It’s a major detoxifier and medicine for warts.” Also in the bed already are herb Robert, vervain, plantain, marigold, feverfew and foxgloves.

Lesley brought me a Coneflower (Echinacea) to the Transition Norwich party on Tuesday. “It’s not dead, Mark,” she laughed as we looked at this year’s wilted leaves. “It’s alive underneath.”

My intent for the Plant Medicine Bed is to rekindle (or keep kindled!) an interest in and connection to the plants we share the planet with. Quite apart from the physical qualities and use of the plants to maintain our wellbeing, having a relationship with plants in their own right is medicine in itself. With this in mind, I’m organising some vibrant talks, conversations and events to take place throughout the year (in the library and elsewhere) which will be open to everyone. Watch this space! Mark Watson

If anyone has any spare purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea, see right) at least two years old, please contact me (Mark) on or 01502 722419. Thanks.

* Please visit the library garden and help yourselves to the plants, which include amongst others: Oxeye Daisy, Lungwort (Pulmonaria), Alpine Strawberries, Foxglove, Feverfew, Anise Hyssop, Heuchera, Forget Me Not, Primrose, Mountain Knapweed (Centaurea montana), Hellebore and Holly. They are free, but if you’d like to make a donation to Sustainable Bungay it will not be refused!

Pics: Towards a Medicine Plant Bed 2012; Richard and I talk plants after the morning’s dig – let it be known that Richard is the main caretaker of the library community garden, without whom things would not be what they are; Purple coneflowers or Echinacea purpurea in bloom in Bungay July 2011