The Great Experiment:
The Blue Ridge Medical Center - Gardens for Health and Healing
The gardens were begun in 2012. It was to be a three year plan of establishing native and naturalized plants used to make medicines and herbal remedies. These plants have been used for hundreds of years beginning with the Native Americans. The first plantings began in the spring of 2012 of trees and shrubs forming a wind break consisting of Eastern Red Cedars and Winterberry Hollies. This continued into the fall of 2013 with the planting of magnolias and native shrubs such as red chokeberries, witch hazels and spice bushes. Work on the garden continues today.
This began as a special project in order to facilitate Jane Taylor's goal of becoming a master naturalist. The actual project was to design the gardens but Jane decided to implement her design. The idea of being a master naturalist is to educate people so that they themselves grow some of these plants and thus conserve them. We are rapidly losing these critical plants from which many of our very important medicines are derived. For example, chamomile tea helps with relaxation and sleep.
The soil was so poor that Jane and her volunteers used excellent topsoil, compost and mulch to ensure that the plants would get a good start in life. In the third year of planting, they will be working with mostly shrubs, perennials and annuals.
Another aspect of this project included a large bio-filter for the medical center. VDOT required special plants which had to withstand poisons and being inundated with rain for four days. Jane planted small trees which are also medicinal along with two sweet bay magnolias. Corkscrew willows have also been planted, the bark of which can be brewed as a remedy for headaches. She also put in four groups of 25 horsetails with roots carefully contained. Even during inundations, the water cleared in a matter of hours.
There are five gardens sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District. The underlying philosophy is that natural woods and meadows need to be returned to their original states. Natural plants have deeper roots in order to help conserve topsoil and water.
The Nelson County Garden Club has adopted this project. Since the smaller plants were planted in 2014, Jane hoped that in this year, 2015, all members of the Garden Club will participate in some way so that they are included in the history of creating this beautiful, valuable and very special garden.