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!
This garden is not just ornamental, Anne uses her garden as a place for teaching and takes guided walks around it. If you are interested in coming on a walk or you wish to set up a day’s teaching please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 Artemis 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.
Roses in the love garden
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 Anne moved to her present home in Gloucestershire with her three daughters, she named her house Artemis House and filled her garden with Artemisias!
Anne has laid out her garden as a journey through a woman’s life expressed through herbs. At each stage on the path of life she has planted the appropriate herb to nourish, support and heal in that phase of life.
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.
The rose arch in full bloom
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.
The tranquil Mary garden with its unbroken circle of lawn.
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, closely 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!
Looking back from the male garden to the moon garden with silver Artemesia planted around its curved borders.
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!