By Reid Duncan Carmichael
VANCOUVER — As summer comes to a close, we say goodbye to all the gardens grown in the sweltering heat, cared for by loving hands and illegally used sprinkler systems. If you’re like me and don’t have much of a green thumb (I killed a cactus once), gardening might seem like a lofty ambition, even if the fruits (if that’s what you feel like growing) of your labour might be beautiful or even practical. For both the novice and the expert gardener, VanDusen Gardens has been offering opportunities to learn more about growing living green things in the comfort of your own home. Along with a multitude of courses, on September 28 organizers at the gardens are offering a class, Medicinal Plants for the Home Garden. Taught by holistic nutritionist Claire Smith, the course will go over identifying and taking care of medicinal plants as well as enforcing caution when dealing with medicinals that can be toxic.
“We decided that we would do this medicinal garden component because there was such a huge interest for that in Vancouver,” Smith explains. According to Smith, the interest in medicinal gardening, as well as other forms of gardening, stems (ha!) from a lack of information about the plants that are being used for food, pharmaceuticals, and everything in between. “It’s a number of things,” she continues. “When you go to your grocery store and see food that’s there from five thousand miles away. When you go to buy something and you don’t understand or have any way to trace where the ingredients are from or what’s been done to them. Has it been genetically engineered or hasn’t it? In this country we still don’t really label that like we should. Is it organic or isn’t it organic? What does organic mean? We have so many confusing labels in our system when it comes to what we use for everyday items, that it’s challenging to find something that we understand. When you grow it yourself, whether it be food or medicine, you know what it’s been exposed to and what it does.”
The course is structured to appeal to the rookie (us cactus killers) as well as the home gardening savant. “We always try to structure classes so the novice can get the roots and the soil, so to speak, of what we do,” Smith says. For some classes this means getting a walk around the 55-acre gardens, though this particular course will be held within a classroom. As well as learning how to grow and maintain useful medicinal plants, participants will get to make tea, using herbs picked from the gardens.
Medicinal Plants for the Home Garden is held on September 28. Sign up online at vandusengardens.org or check out the Visitor’s Centre for more information.BC, British Columbia, gardening, holistic, medicinal plants, VanDusen Gardens