Vale Isabel Shipard

News has filtered through to me of the death of Isabel Shipard. Her book on herbs is a great resource and well worth having in the library of anyone interested in herbs.

In the plethora of herbal books for the lay person her work stands out for its first rate information. The closest I came to Isabel was doing the Pindari Herbs course with her understudy Jayne.


Herbal Botany Day

Last November it was a great pleasure to have the Herbal medicine students from Om Shanti College rambling through the garden. Having been used to my own workshops in the garden it was good to hear people interacting with the herbs while I was working on other things. The garden loves company and people interacting with it.

Steve Allen their trainer, showed them the wonder of herbs and botany. The students braved a monsoonal downpour which pulped all written material exposed to it in seconds.

The student’s sense of humour was sorely tested as their assessment sheets became smudged ink and illegible.  Later on in the evening a party returned to the farm as a ford in the road was too deep for them to cross. We sat around in the lounge and talked while sipping on some home-made chai – great memories.

Have a look at the faces of these people. They are the next generation of herbalists.

Looking forward to having the class out again this year 2015.

Botany day 2014 Steve Allen

Botany day 2014 Steve Allen

Successful Schisandra


Here you can see a schisandra plant I have grown from seed. I am still finding my way in what these plants need for strong growth. The Chi berry farm in America is situated on river flats so maybe fertile deep soils are what it desires. These plants are two years old and are still in pots.

This coming season I will fertilise with some worm wee – liquid run off from worm baths. Its the wonder tonic for just about anything in the plant kingdom.

It will be a good day when they fruit and produce berries for harvest. My American species of Schisandra described in another post has not germinated at all – sigh.

Schisandra root system

Schisandra root system

Polygonum multiflorum – He Shou Wu



After quite a search I finally was able to purchase some He Shou Wu plants from All Rare Herbs. This is a legendary Chinese tonic herb. The title translates as Uncle Wu’s black hair this being one of its properties to restore hair colour in many cases. Mine is still a work in progress though there is some reversal. The consumption of tonic herbs is best started early in life to nourish and conserve what life energies you have then. This is a message I have taken to heart with daily consumption of He Shou Wu and Schizandra.

This plant has large underground orange tubers which form over time. Recently re potted the roots were still establishing and no tubers was noticeable. To create the medicinal He Shou Wu the tubers are harvested ,sliced and then dried. After this they are simmered in a black bean liquor for several hour sr even days to modify the medicinal properties. This is one of the amazing aspects of Chinese herbalism that considerable effort goes into creating by various after treatments specific medicinal properties in the herb material. An aspect Western herbalism has not developed. In Chinese medicine it is extensive and very sophisticated.

There are very few sources of information about these herbal after treatments in the literature.  The picture is pieced together from various sources some of which contradict. Ahhhh the wonders of research and considered judgement.

To see this plant and learn more about it sign on for one of my herbal experience workshops.


Dong Gui


Dong Gui - Angelica sinensis

Dong Gui – Angelica sinensis

The seed was sourced from Joe Hollis in North Carolina USA. With a period of cold in the fridge it actually germinated while still being refrigerated and on sowing promptly grew.

Such happy vital little plants. A testament to Joe’s seed collecting skills as Angelica seed promptly looses viability after maturity.

Vale Ken Atherton

1-Ken Atherton

Vale Ken Atherton

I was informed recently that Ken passed away in August 2013. I was very fortunate in being able to go and study with Ken a couple of years ago and learned a great amount. I came home with head bulging from the experience and my carry on bag bulging with the plant material Ken so generously shared with all.

It was one of those life changing formative experiences and I remember Ken often, as working with the herb collection I come across the plant stock that came from his garden.

Successful Schisandra germination


Successful Schisandra germination

Well all the effort has brought success.  Here you can see photographs of the seed germinating and the radical (root) emerging after the involved manipulation of temperatures to stimulate germination.

The technique outlined in an earlier post has cut germination time from a sporadic year to about six months. Looking at the germination progressing over the last few days has been fascinating.

I have just found out  from All Rare Herbs that these plants  are male and female on separate plants so the next challenge is to determine the gender of the plants I am raising.

1-Schisandra seedling 2 DSC_0822

Trillium seed propogation


Earlier in 2013 I purchased some Trillium erectum ( birth root – beth root) seeds from Lynne’s Rare Plants in the Blue mountains. Lynn had collected the seed rubbed off the fleshy material and stored them cool and moist. Normally trillium takes two years to show any seed leaf with the first year being focussed on root development.

Well here in spring was eight little plants with their initial leaves . No pricking out at this stage probably next year. Trillium erectum is one of the main medicinal species but careful reading shows that all trilliums have medicinal properties and were used when needed. This is plant is on the UpS plant list of endangered medicinal plants in North America.

A plant with very special usages and deserving of cultivation. Through building up expertise in growing these plants we move towards having cultivated sources of these plants for medicine

False Solomons seal germination



False Solomons seal has now germinated this spring (2013) after a two year wait. Smilacina racemosa is the scientific name and it is a little known herbal plant from North America. Medicinal usage is very similar to that of true Solomons seal. Growth is much slower though and just when I was thinking of buying more plants, earlier seed I had sown germinated.  The plant flowers readily in a terminal raceme and has red berries which hang on the plant for along time.

The wait was two years so it will be a regular task each year now to harvest and sow the seed. Collect the berries when ripe and rubbing off the flesh place in a pot under your seed bench where it gets regular watering and you can forget about it for a year. A good reference for usage is Matthew Woods book on North American medicinal plants.

Lomatium dissectum


Having read about this herb in Richo Cinch’s book – Growing at risk medicinal herbs it went onto the must grow seed list. Seed was procured from Horizon herbs sown and in spring it promptly germinates. The seedlings were pricked out into larger pots (the root intact) to allow free root growth.

Everything is going along fine and the first true leaves appeared when the plants seemed to be dying off. I thought it was a fungal disease at first but I found in scratching around that the root was still there and the plants had gone into early dormancy.

This could have been triggered by a temporary lack of water or over hot temperatures (remember this is a high mountain plant). Anyway I stopped throwing out the pots and kept them to one side in the poly tunnel. That was over a year ago.

Well a couple of weeks ago in July little leaves poked up from the porting mix so they were alive and growing. But funny time of the year to be sprouting leaves the middle of an Australian winter!

Time to go back and read Richo Cech again about raising these plants

Well I just did and reporting back to you have found the reference explaining this behaviour. Richo says seedlings become vegetatively dormant by midsummer…..The plant then re-emerge in mid winter in mild areas and in the very early spring in very cold areas

So the plant behaviour is right on the mark.