Friday, 12 November 2010

Collecting & sowing our own seeds

The aim of today's class was to collect and sow our own seeds, learning the correct procedures for sowing and planting seeds, as well as gathering.

In the morning, we all went over to the library to have a look at the "Hortus Medicus Edinburghensis" - a list of the botanicals that had originally been in RBGE. We had to carefully flick through the book, listing the names, both English and Latin, of any medicinal botanicals that caught our attention, for future reference, but really just to get a grip of what the gardens used to have and why we didn't offer them anymore... in relation to the medicinal botanicals this just means why did we used to grow them, what were they used for and why don't we grow them nor use them anymore.

The term "offic" next to the plants names, means medicinial. Plants I noted down that were medicinal that caught my interest were:
- white archangel
- the white flowered Lilly of the Valey (coped directly from the book, hence the wrong spellings)
- common polypod - Polypodium vulgare
- herbe true-love or one-berry - Solanum quadrifolium bacciferum
                      in the same family:
                      - common nightshade - Solanum officinarum
                      - deadly nightshade - Solanum manicum multis
- common black henbane - Hyoscyamus niger - active component: hyoscyamine
- the wholesome Helmet flower - Aconitum falcufeum five Anthora
- Hercules his All-beall - Panax paftinacae folio, an syriacum theophrafti

General botanicals that caught my eye were:
- the great mountain melancholy - Thistle
- double scarlet flower of Constantinople
- ladies smock or cuckow-flowers
- the lesser purging-thorn of Hungary
- wolvesbane - winter aconite - Aconitum unifolium luteum bulbofum
- hyoscine - Belladonna - Atropa belladonne - lethale, maniacum, furiosum; English name: Dwale, derived from old provincial word - dwaul (dwaelen - Dutch) to wander, to be delirious - active component: atropine
- tree of life - Thuya theophialti

For background information, "The British Flora Medica" by Barton and Castle is really good.

Before lunch we went out into the gardens to collect seeds for the afternoon class. We began by collecting medlars...

After collecting copious amounts of medlars, we moved to the Herbology beds... however they'd pretty much up-rooted everything or cut everything away from the beds, so we carefully picked seeds from the last remaining plants - surprise surprise, the poisonous plants!

I collected Belladonna...

We also collected Datuna stramonium - a botanical that can help to alleviate asthma or asthmatic attacks...

One we got the botanicals into the classroom, we slowly dissected them to remove the seeds - I dissected Belladonna berries to release the seeds, which needed to be dried considerably as the juice inside the berry, while being a deep purple shade, was viscous and sticky. (A profile about Belladonna, a shorter one for homework and a longer more indepth profiling will soon be completed and uploaded).

After lunch we headed up to the Nursery, and before beginning the lesson, we went to collect seeds from the Dip. Herb. Grad beds...

Once in the potting shed, we slowly removed the seeds from their pods and gathered them together ready for sowing. The sowing was relatively straight forward (as displayed in the following photos)... the larger seeds were placed, and gravel was used to cover them, to give them more resistance to grow through. The smaller seeds were scattered and lightly covered in soil...

We have now planted a small range of medicinal botanicals that will slowly germinate, hopefully, up in the Nursery, in time for planting next year.

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