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The Herb Garden

Here in the heart of the beautiful Cotswolds is Artemis’ garden, a herb garden laid out in the shape of a spiral. It represents the journey through a woman's life from birth to paradise expressed through herbs… about 150 different species. Anne uses her garden for teaching and conducts evening herb walks during the summer. If you are interested in coming on a walk or you wish to set up a day's teaching please email clinic@annemcintyre.com

In Greek mythology, Artemis was the moon goddess, the twin sister of Apollo. In Roman mythology she is Diana. In myth and legend the moon has always been the symbol of women and femininity while the sun represents masculinity. Women swell in pregnancy like a waxing moon and both have a monthly cycle. In several languages the words for menstruation and for moon have the same root. In English "menstruation" means "moon change", in rural Germany a menstrual period is simply "the moon", while in France it is "le moment de la lune". The moon was believed to influence fertility and to be the source of women's ability to bear children. In many cultures women have been responsible for collecting wild roots and fruits to eat and to prepare medicines from the plants around them. Plants and seeds, it was thought, could not grow without the influence of the moon while animals and women could not give birth without its energising power and so only women could make things grow as they were under the direct guardianship of the moon.

The moon goddess was the protector of women, the goddess of chastity, the protector of young maidens, who punishes those who offend against her and against her morality. She is a healing, purifying divinity, a nature goddess of fertilising moisture, who promotes a full harvest of fruits, protects the grain and is friend to the reaper. She is the goddess of trees and all vegetation.  Artemis is also the goddess of childbirth, watching over the birth of every child. Women in childbirth have evoked her aid and given prayers and offerings to secure a safe delivery and have given thanks to her afterwards.

Herbs named after Artemis including Artemisia abrotanum (southernwood), Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort) and Artemisia absinthium (wormwood) have been used for centuries and are still used today to aid childbirth and for a variety of women's ailments. They regulate and strengthen contractions and help to bring away the afterbirth. The first English gynecological handbook, A Medieval Woman's Guide to Health recommended the following for a difficult birth:

"Make her a bath of mallows, fenugreek, linseed, wormwood, southernwood, pellitory and mugwort, boiled in water and let her bathe in it for a good time....make a plaster of artemisias boiled in water and plaster the woman with it from the navel to the privy member, for it makes a woman give birth quickly to the child and draws out the afterbirth."

Given the above it is not hard to understand why, when I moved to my present home in Gloucestershire with my three daugthers, I named my house Artemis House and filled my garden with Artemisias! I have laid out a herb garden in the shape of a spiral with a path that runs from birth to paradise. It is a journey through a woman's life expressed through herbs. Over the arches that represent the birth canal grow raspberries and plenty of raspberry leaves (Rubus idaeus) to make for a trouble free birth. There is wormwood, southernwood and mugwort in the surrounding beds along with black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), marigolds (Calendula officinalis), vervain (Verbena officinalis), feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and other herbs to regulate contractions, to ease and speed delivery.

Then there are herbs for babies and small children to help settle their digestions, relieve colic, aid sleep, to treat infections and enhance immunity. You can find fennel, dill, chamomile, lemon balm, catmint and caraway. For older children there are herbs for colds and coughs including thyme, hyssop, elecampane and Echinacea. There is burdock, marigolds, lavender for eruptive infections such as measles and chicken pox; chamomile, lemon balm, nettles and yarrow for allergies; sweet flag and gotu kola for learning problems to name a few.

The path leads on to the Mary garden, representing a stage of innocence in a girl’s life before adolescence. A Mary garden was to be found in Medieval monasteries, a place of purity, peace and contemplation away from the hustle and bustle of the world.

An unbroken circle of lawn in the centre of the garden represents virginity and herbs dedicated to Mary surround this including lavender, ladies mantle, chamomile, rose, myrtle and marigold.

A little further along there is the moon garden with herbs for balancing menstrual cycles and remedy problems associated with it.

Most of the plants are silver for the moon including the Artemisias, thymes and lavenders, and red for menstruation like red roses, Trillium, peonies, pink yarrow and pasque flowers.

After this there are plants to represent masculine energy as attraction and sexuality start to evolve in a young girl's life, followed by the heart-shaped love garden with roses, thymes, marigolds, violets and heartsease in an arbour with climbing herbs such as honeysuckle and jasmine, twining themselves around arches as lovers in each others’ arms.

The journey continues through marriage, with love herbs such as rose and jasmine and herbs for good luck and courage like borage and myrtle. Then promoting fertility with herbs such as ashwagandha, wild yam, lady's mantle, then pregnancy and lactation including borage, goat's rue, marshmallow and liquorice.

It meanders through time when a woman is caring for her children and then moves on to the menopause and the mid- life crisis! There is skullcap, black cohosh, marigolds, St John’s wort, motherwort and red sage to balance the hormones and replenish lost energy, followed by rejuvenating herbs like marjoram, rosemary, ashwagandha, thyme, Schizandra and gotu kola. Even randy goat weed for lost libido!

The path then leads to the witchy garden. Freed now of responsibility as children are moving away and life quietens down, there is time to reacquaint you with yourself. There are crone's/wise women's herbs to promote wisdom and spiritual connection such as holy basil, morning glory, yarrow, Datura, hyssop, vervain, sage and thymes. then herbs for the later years such as hyssop and gotu kola as one prepares for Paradise.

The final destination is the centre of the garden, Paradise, which is represented by a pond made of Indian stone full of water lilies with a lotus-shaped fountain to represent eternal life. There you find rosemary, evergreen and aromatic to represent immortality and remembrance even beyond the grave, and lilies and white roses amid a multitude of flowers as there must surely be in heaven!

The garden illustrates the healing power of herbs and nature, always there to support us through every stage of our life from the cradle to Paradise! The garden provides a glimpse into the world of herbs and you are invited to come and walk round the spiral on summer evenings. The garden is also used by Anne for teaching in many of the courses run from Artemis House.

Then there are herbs for babies and small children to settle their digestions, relieve colic, aid sleep, to treat infections and enhance immunity like fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), dill (Anethum graveolens), chamomile (Chamomilla recutita), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), catmint (Nepeta cataria), and caraway (Carum carvi). For older children there are herbs for colds and coughs including thyme (Thymus officinalis), hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), elecampane (Inula helenium) and Echinacea. There is burdock (Arctium lappa), marigolds, lavender (Lavendula off.) for eruptive infections such as measles and chicken pox, chamomile, lemon balm, nettles and yarrow for allergies, sweet flag (Acorus calamus) and gotu cola (Centella asiatica) learning problems to name but a few.

A little further along the path of life there is the moon garden with herbs for menstrual cyles and to remedy problems that may be associated with it.Most of the plants are silver for the moon including all the Artemisias, thymes and lavenders and red for menstruation like red roses, Trillium erecta, paonies (Paonia lactiflora), pink yarrow and pasque flowers (Anemone pulsatilla). Next there are plants to represent masculine energy as young men become more important in a young girl's life. Then there is the heart shaped love garden with roses, thymes, marigolds, Artemisias, chamomile, violets (Viola odorata), hearts ease (Viola tricolor), a fig tree in an arbour with climbing herbs such as honeysuckle (Lonicera spp) and Jasmine (Jasminum off).

The journey continues through marriage, promoting fertility with herbs such as ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), wild yam (Dioscorea villosa), lady's mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), then pregnancy and lactation including borage (Borago off), goat's rue (Galega off), marshmallow (Althea off) and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). It meanders through time caring for her children and then comes to menopause and the mid life crisis! There is skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia), black cohosh, marigolds, motherwort, red sage (Salvia off), followed by rejuvenating herbs like marjoram, rosemary, thyme, Schizandra chinensis, Codonopsis dang shen, and gotu cola. Then there are crone's/wise women's herbs to promote wisdom and connection to spirit such as holy basil (Ocimum sanctum), Daura stramomium, hyssop, vervain, sage and thymes as one prepares for Paradise represented by a pond of Indian stone with a lotus shaped fountain for eternal life. The healing power of herbs and nature is there to support us from the cradle to Paradise!