Are you are interested in:
Growing edible & medicinal herbs in public spaces,
Encouraging pollinating insects into the city,
Increasing Urban Food Security,
Creating a community food forest,
Learning and sharing gardening skills,
Creating an edible wildlife corridor through Amsterdam, by planting tiny unused pockets of land?
Then please come along to the River of Herbs Amsterdam launch meeting at Pakhuis de Zwijger on Monday 3rd February, 7-10pm.
Free entry – All welcome.
Full details available on the River of Herbs website. If you think you will be coming along, please let me know so that we have a better idea of numbers. It’s on the events page, Facebook and my meetup site. I set up the River of Herbs project in 2012, to encourage people to grow herbs and help wildlife. That’s why I mention it here.
If you are interested but can’t come along to the launch, don’t be shy, get in touch and let me know what you are planning to do or are doing already. Whether you plant a tiny plantpot with daisies, or a geveltuin with herb seeds, or a row of tree pits with rainbow shades of herbs or whatever else – everything you do makes a difference!
BifurcatedCarrots.eu is all about seed saving: Why we should do it. Who is doing it already. And how we can do it. It’s run from Amsterdam by Patrick Wiebe and Steph Mandel who seem to be as passionate as me about increasing food security. They keep us up to date on the attempts of government and certain corporations to regulate the plants which we can grow and they publish a list of where interesting seeds to swap/sell are available around the world. It’s a very useful blog to follow.
You can watch Patrick, giving part of a workshop on seed saving at the Educational Gardens at Sloterdijkermeer Volkstuin complex, on this video. The River of Herbs demo plot is in the same garden and gets a nice mention.
Here is a taster of the edible and amazing plants which can be found at the sandy Magneet Festival site, in Amsterdam Oost. This is Evening Primrose (Oenothera sp.) NL: Teunisbloem, a useful and tasty plant.
I was asked to lead a foraging walk each weekend, throughout the duration of the month long festival, by the Mobiation Project. This is their home, the Mobi-01. They slowly move around vacant spaces of Amsterdam, living sustainably, in this self made residence. The Mobiators were asked to run the Green Zone of the Magneet Festival this year and have organised a great selection of workshops and events. You can learn how to make solar dryers, solar heaters and many other things from the Green Zone this year. It is really inspiring and well worth a visit. Here’s their Facebook link.
So each Sunday that the festival is on, I’m giving free guided walks at 4pm, from Mobi-01 in the Green Zone. I’m showing interested people what can be found growing in the sand. At first glance there is not much of green interest but if you look closely you will find treats such as…
We found many other edible plant species growing in the sand. Burdock (Arctium lappa) NL: Grote Klit. was the biggest surprise for me, I haven’t found it in such a pure sand location previously.
Next week I’ll be taking along some local edible plant seeds and wild flower seedbombs, to plant during the walk. It would be great to see a few other plant species find their feet in this unusual site.
On the evenings of Friday 2nd and Friday 30th August, I’ll be inviting visitors of the Van Gogh Museum to learn about and taste some edible and mind altering plants, which Vincent van Gogh used. Myself and a few able assistants will be installed with a selection of his most inspiring plants, some snacks and drinks, in the Atelier (Workshop studio), just inside the main museum entrance. Join us to sample some urban foraged delights, to learn how to make your own Absinthe, herbal honeys and other interesting things. I’ll give a couple of 15 minute presentations about the Edible Flowers of Van Gogh (7:15 pm) and the Mind Altering Plants of Van Gogh (8:15 pm). The rest of the time will be devoted to teaching individual visitors how to find and use local plants. Entrance is free to Museumjaarkaart holders and for everyone else it’s the usual museum entrance price. I’m giving away a couple of tickets: Read on to find out how to enter the ticket competition…
Mind Altering Plants of Van Gogh
The use and abuse of Absinthe, by Van Gogh and his freinds, is well known. Wormwood, an endangered but easy to grow plant, is the key ingredient in the drink. We’ll let you sample an easy to make alternative with great taste and far more uses than Absinthe. There are other common plants which had a huge impact on the creativity (and possibly the early grave) of Van Gogh. I’ll talk about them in the second presentation and we will have some of the featured plants for you to see close up.
Edible Flowers of Van Gogh
Most of Van Gogh’s paintings feature plants and flowers of one kind or another. Although many were painted in a warmer climate, most grow here in the Netherlands and many can be foraged from our local parks and streets. The presentation about Van Gogh’s edible flowers will highlight some beautiful, tasty and useful plants which feature in his work. The plants chosen are easy to find in Amsterdam and are easy to use. You will also learn the foraging rules for harvesting safely, ethically and legally and how to get involved with other foragers.
Eat, Drink and be Merry!
My home is currently full of foraged-flower honeys, strange urban brews and drying bunches of edible plants, just waiting for you to taste them at these August events. You can find out how to make your own foraged treats, ask us questions about urban harvesting, watch the presentations or just hang around with the beautiful plants. As well as this part of the evenings, there will be music, video and other events going on throughout the museum. So please put the dates in your calander and come visit us at the Van Gogh museum, on the 2nd and 30th of August. And if you come along, remember to say hello!
Free Ticket Competition
To enter the competition for free tickets, please email me (email@example.com) with the answer to one or both of these questions:
For Friday 2nd August: Which plant is the main mind altering ingredient in Absinthe?
For Friday 30th August: How old was Vincent van Gogh when he died?
Winners from those replying correctly, will be chosen at random on Wednesday 31st July and Wednesday 28th August. So if you enter, keep an eye on your email. I’ll post the winners names here also. They will need to turn up to the event with valid ID at a specific entrance, to claim the ticket.
Sunday 2nd June
Westerpark (Proef Restaurant to the Educational Garden) €25 per person
There are so many incredible plants which we dismiss, dig-up or discard. We could do so much with these humble weeds, if only more people knew how!
This workshop with foraging walk will open your eyes to the wonders of the weed world! Together with Ann from City Plot Amsterdam, I will lead you from Proef restaurant in Westerpark through to the City Plot educational garden, right at the back of the park. We will wander through prime public foraging grounds on our way. When we get there, we will plant some of our weedy wonders in the River of Herbs section of the Educational Garden.
Bring (if you like):
Paper bags for foraged finds,
Flask of hot water, to make a herb tea
Hand trowel, if you have one,
I will tell you about medicinal, nourishing and historical uses of the plants and Ann will show how to make the most of them in the garden and kitchen.
You will receive a comprehensive colour handout, to help you at home and the chance to spend quality time with us and the weeds, in a small group. To book, please email me or click here.
The Educational Garden is an inspirational place: It has been divided into different mini gardens, from a Mushroom farm, Permaculture patch, Medicinals section to the River of Herbs meadow.
Proeftuin is maintained as an organic restaurant garden by City Plot. Westerpark is big, bold and full of foraging spots!
Our walks and talks go ahead, unless there’s a hurricane overhead. So please come prepared to get stuck into our wonderful urban nature, whatever the weather.
So whether you have a garden, a plant pot or like to forage, join us to discover how to find, identify and Embrace Your Weeds!
Here’s my latest rooftop planting creation: A simple tower of three plastic plant pots, packed with plenty of molehill soil and organic compost.
The plants used are babies from those we grow already on the roof, except the tiny Wormwood, which I found growing in between street pavers. I planted a mixture of Strawberries, Wormwood, Lady’s Mantle, Strawberry scented Mint, Sedum reflexum and Yarrow. All of these plants are edible and most have medicinal properties as you will see from the links.
This is a simple way to plant vertically, creating herb habitats offering areas of relative shade and wind shelter, little space for weed seeds to settle and it is easy to tend – all very handy on a small plot.
I’ll see how these plants fair and will no doubt add or substitute others as time goes on. It’s my equivalent of a premaculture herb spiral, something I covet but just don’t have space for at home.
Here’s the beautiful (and enormous) Strawberry tower at Jeugdland in Amsterdam Oost. I wrote about it last year. Now that would make a fabulous herb tower!
Here’s my first attempt at a rooftop bug refuge. It’s simply a long slim plastic plant pot, stuffed full of dry hollow stems which I found in my kitchen and around the rooftop planters. The stems are from long dead Fig trees, Honeysuckle, Chamomile, Hollyhocks, Clematis, Elder, Reed fencing and a few old and snapped Bamboo canes. I packed it all into place with some dead Apple tree twigs (not hollow but sturdy and available) and also some beautiful Pine and Alder cones, which I collected around town.
Once assembled I wedged it between the roof fence and a Goosberry bush pot. It faces roughly south and is less exposed than most other parts of the roof terrace.
I’m more used to making big wildlife piles in quiet corners of land so I’m sure that I’ll need to improve on this a lot. But for now it offers a place for native bees, ladybirds and other useful wildlife to lay eggs and find refuge.
Making Bug Hotels was one topic at this weekend’s River of Herbs meeting. If you’d like the booklet then let me know. For more information about what we did, some useful links and details of how to make well designed bug and bee hotels, see this post on the RiverofHerbs.org website. Encouraging bees and bugs into your herb garden is something not to be overlooked. They help to pollinate your plants, keep aphids in check and generally keep your plot (however small) healthy.
Last month, I asked my apprentices to think about planting a herbal moon garden, in whatever space they can find. I finally got around to making my own last night.
The idea of a moon garden, for me at least, is to welcome the moonlight into a peaceful outdoor space. Moon gardens catch the moonlight with plants and reflective objects. They are spaces to meditate or just sit at night whilst able to see and smell beautiful herbs. I like to know where the Moon is in its monthly cycle and creating a space to contemplate the moon is a good way to keep that connection. Here’s a link to previous UH information about gardening by the moon.
Most gardens are planted with daylight in mind, this is of course understandable. I still needed to consider the amount of sunlight in my chosen location but when selecting plants, I looked for colours that linger as the sun goes down. Silver and white flowers and foliage are generally the last ones you will see as the sun sets completely. Blues and violets are the next colours to fade and are associated with spirituality and intuition.
Choose somewhere safe and accessible to you at night and where plants will grow! Preferably select someplace where you can see the moon as it charts its path across the sky. This is not always possible of course. Try your best for a moon view but above all aim for somewhere that is relaxing in the evening and nighttime. I chose the sheltered upstairs balcony of my home. I can always get to it, plants grow there, it often provides a glimpse of the moon and is a little further away from barbecuing neighbours and signs of active daily life. My balcony gets some sun but faces North-East. It becomes quite windy up there, especially in the winter so I’ll try to provide extra protection for the plants as the year moves on. All of my plants are in pots, due to my home being an above ground apartment, so I must also be able to water and feed the plants.
Moon Garden Herbs
I tried to find herbs with silvery leaves as well as white, purple or violet coloured flowers. But my main aim was for a succession of flowers and of course I wanted only edible and medicinal plants. The herbs I chose should provide a succession of colour from March to September. Later in the year, I’ll see how the plants have managed, will move some away and add others to fill gaps in the flowering year.
Crystals, Light, Shapes
I have added a few crystals to the balcony, to catch the moon light. Also a couple of pretty candle holders to produce extra light when I want it. The shapes I have added remind me of the moon. So far I have a woven willow ball, a little star decoration, some amethyst and quartz crystals. I’ll add more as time goes on but for now I am pleased to have created an edible and medicinal herbal moon garden which I enjoy glimpsing during the day and sitting in at the night.
Now I know that not all of you will be limited to creating a moon garden in a pot, balcony or other small space. I also know that you may be far more creative than me! So he are a few links which may inspire you to get out your gardening tools and get planting a moon garden…
I met the gardener who looks after Park Frankendael today. He’s happy with our little Elder babies and suggested another location for additional planting. He also taught me about the the Primrose species which live in the park. I’ll order some seed of those species soon and will be bringing on Primrose and Violet plants to add to the park at suitable locations.
One of the Elder babies is in the middle of this photo.
The Comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum x) plants are looking great today.
Love Your Elders – Plant Your Elders! Sunday 7th April 11.00-12.30
Time to join me to either plant your Elder cuttings from last year, or to learn how to take cuttings and propagate this medicine chest of the European hedgerow. Native Elder (Sambucus nigra, NL:Vlier) grows easily and offers familiar flowers and berries each year. But all parts of the shrub have medicinal, magical and culinary uses. Learn which parts of this beloved urban herb are safe, which parts are toxic and how to make simple remedies, tasty concoctions and fibre dyes from each.
As a regular city forager, I think it’s vital to give something back to the land which I harvest from. Of course there are other ways to show gratitude the the Earth but I find that one of the most powerful ways is to add more of the native plants which I use.
€10 per adult
Free for apprentices
€5 if you bring along a rooted Elder baby from last year
Or no cash exchange for a few nice herb seed packets
Please contact me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to come along.