Hello everyone! My name is Kenna, I’m an intern at the Denver Botanic Gardens, and work with Horticulturalist Blake Burger, founder of the Denver Medicinal Plant Society. I’m excited to announce that the Medicinal Plants Garden that Blake has been working on for two years is finally open to the public at Denver Botanic Gardens! Tucked into a corner of the Mordecai Children’s Garden, this garden is unfortunately not wheel-chair accessible and has rather a steep gradient path, but the plants inside are totally worth it! Blake is growing the Gardens first ever Schisandra chinensis plant. This plant is native to East Asia, and is considered an “adaptogen,” an herb that supports the body with stressors such as disease or injury. The Schisandra vine is nestled in a shady corner of the garden, perched delicately on a wooden trellis.
Near the Schisandra is our ever-friendly Hops plant, Humulus Lupulus (and by friendly, I mean I’ve had to separate it from the roses!). We have this plant growing all over the large wall in front of our parking garage. It’s a beautiful vine, and some of our staff members have even tried to make beer out of the strobiles it makes (apparently it wasn’t worth the effort). Hops is known as a sedative, antispasmodic, antibacterial, antifungal, and oddly enough, has estrogen-like properties. It’s great in soothing digestive problems such as indigestion and IBS. The strobiles, or cones, the vine makes are a good sleep aid and can be made into small pillows.
English Lavender, Valerian, Mint, and other classic herbs are also found within this garden. The purple flowers of the Lavender mix well with the white of the Valerian. Both are considered sedatives and can be made into teas. Valerian has a stench to it, with descriptions ranging from “cat piss” to “dirty feet.” The umbels (where the flowers join the stem at one point) of bright white and deep red are worth the smell, as they add to the colors of the garden. Apple Mints or Mentha suaveolens line the path near the front gate. Like other mints, Apple Mint is considered antimicrobial as well as antispasmodic, and good for any digestive problem.
Tiny yellow flowers are speckled along the path as chamomiles bloom. We’ve collected trays of these flowers to dry them. They’re great in tea as they can soothe nervous anxiety. A Sequoia stands proudly in the middle of the path, creating a loop that allows any spectator to get a closer look. This Pine is also medicinal, as its resin is highly antimicrobial as well as being an expectorant (expelling mucus from the lungs). Near this pine, Blake has planted common Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca). It’s almost four feet tall and has beautiful mauve colored spikes as miniature flowers stretch open for pollinators. Like other species within the mint family, this plant has a wonderful smell thanks to its volatile oils.
It wouldn’t be a proper medicinal garden without herbs like Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Our comfrey plant overlooks the rest of the lower Mordecai Children’s Garden. Currently it’s fuchsia colored flowers gracefully cover the plant. Comfrey shouldn’t be ingested, as it can damage your liver, but it’s great to help heal skin ailments such as burns, bruises or even broken bones. Blake has made it into a salve.
Our yellow Yarrow resides in the lower half of the new garden, as its yellow umbels mix well with the white and red of the Valerian. Yarrow is a febrifuge, or fever reducer. It also helps in soothing digestive problems and induces sweating. As the colors of summer are contrasted with the backdrop of lush green along our gardens, the scents of mint, lavender, yarrow, and other herbs fill the air. It’s no wonder we’re always spending time in there. As many people have said with the Denver Botanic Gardens, there’s always some treasure waiting to be discovered, and our new Medicinal Plants Garden, is no exception to this rule.