Listening to the radio the other day a new book became the topic of discussion. According to NPR radio, "James Wong is an ethnobotanist. He trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens in London, and he's written a medicinal recipe book called Grow Your Own Drugs, an offshoot of his BBC television series." Wong says, "I want to make people think differently about plants â€“ growing all around us are plants that could make you feel better." Interestingly Amy Stewart has been awarded The American Horticultural Society book award for her book, Wicked Plants.Â "A tree that sheds poison daggers; a glistening red seed that stops the heart; a shrub that causes paralysis; a vine that strangles; and a leaf that triggered a war. Stewart takes on over two hundred of Mother Nature's most appalling creations in an A to Z of plants that kill, maim, intoxicate, and otherwise offend." Sounds interesting.
I believe we are witnessing a new attitude towards the garden by a small group of people. From this small group of people larger trends will develop. From the "grow your own movement" which is exploding in interest as week speak a small niche is developing. An interest in plants that can change our perceptions, cure illness, and kill. One of the most interesting manifestations of this is the Poison Garden that was built by Jane Percy, the Duchess o f Northumberlund. Inspired by the legendary botanical gardens in Padua where the Medicis plotted the untimely, frothing ends of their enemies, The Duchess created a garden, dedicating it entirely to flora which are deadly and/or narcotic. Guides explain their deadly properties while keeping ne'er-do-wells and curious children away from the plants, warning them: "Do not touch any of the plants, don't even smell them. There are plants here that can kill you."
What's going on here? Why the sudden interest in powerful plants that can both cure, kill, and change perceptions?Â Some people are beginning to realize once again, the power and potential of plants. This is nothing new, as the history of man has been intimately intertwined with powerful plants. Over the last generation or two we lost site of that, as we turned to taming the botanical world and created the boring ,"safe" suburban yards of today.
The grow your own movement is largely responsible for this. If growing our own food crops is such a great idea, why not grow our own drugs? As James Wong say, "Making your own natural remedies for minor complaints can be easy, cheap and fun. But you must know exactly what youâ€™re using and how to use it..." Most homes in the "old" days had herb gardens that we're used in treating various maladies. As the pharmaceutical industry grew there was less and less interest by people in using natural remedies.Â Why grow it when you could buy it in a pill form. That attitude is beginning to change, especially when one realizes that so many of our most powerful medicines come from plants.
I believe the use of herbs and other plants that have these powerful properties is going to grow in interest. There is a fascination with this aspect of gardening, especially with the younger generation, who already has experience growing its own mind altering plants. Here in California the big news is the states attempt to regulate and tax our most important mind altering plant. This is very big news here and has already affected the horticultural industry, creating a huge sub-industry.
As more and more people realize the food they grow is healthier and better tasting than what is bought at the supermarket, this interest is bound to extend to plants that affect our psyche and cure illness. I believe the interest in herb gardening well increase, along with the culinary crops. The "grow your own" movement shows no signs of abating.