Several years ago, I developed an interest in herbs. They have an innate practicality that appeals to me, and they are useful and pretty without requiring lots of space. I was living in an apartment at the time, and I quickly filled it with all sorts of plants; lavender (I especially love French lavender), jasmine, basil, oregano, sage, hyssop. Everything that sounded even remotely useful (and a few that weren’t) came home with me, and I did my best to keep them alive. I didn’t know much of anything about plants, so I asked a lot of questions of the nursery workers, and did the best I could to remember to water them as needed.
I had some success. I had a lot of failure. But I was hooked.
For several years after the last of those plants died, I did not have any plants. The few that I had didn’t last long; I really was not in a place mentally or physically where I could care for them. However, I was still interested, and took a Victory Gardening class at my church in 2011, just before I moved to Chicago. This engaged my curiosity even more, and I slowly moved back into container gardening in Illinois, with a new French lavender, orchids, and habanero and cayenne pepper plants growing in my window.
When I came back to Idaho, I brought my plants with me, and continued to expand what I grew, but I stuck mostly with herbs. I had developed an interest in herbal medicine, so I bought several medicinal plants. I made a few discoveries:
-Calendula is a weed.
-Chamomile is a weed.
-Mint is a weed.
-Lemongrass will cut your fingers.
-French lavender will die of shock.
As I experimented, I realized there was more I didn’t know than what I did. I started to “get the hang of” different plants. I managed to get an orchid to re-bloom. Jade and aloe vera took up spots in my bedroom window. I kept learning.
I enjoyed the coneflowers, and rubbed my fingers through the lavender as often as I could. I made sure to smell the jasmine when it bloomed in June, and picked a handful of raspberries off of the vine I had growing in a large pot.
Medicinal plants came home and joined the others. My interest in herbalism grew, as did my intention to study natural medicine. I’ve put off applying to formal training for financial reasons, so I am doing my best to learn complimentary disciplines in the meantime. Over the last several months, I’ve taken classes in herbal medicine, learning to prepare tinctures and teas, and homeopathic medicine. I’ve been studying the importance of food as medicine and the need to successfully grow my own food.
What has become most apparent as I have experimented, is my utter lack of knowledge. Last year’s cucumber plants attest my ability to unsuccessfully grow food. I have calendula and chamomile reseeding each season, but I don’t know how to harvest it, and my attempts at harvesting and drying it were a disaster. How DO you grow coneflowers? Mine always die. Is that plant on the greenbelt really plantain? I don’t know.
Since I learn best in a classroom, it made sense to try something like the Master Gardener program, so here I am. An apprentice.
It’s scary and a bit daunting, but I am looking forward to the challenge, and learning what I don’t know.