My work revolves around the Herbal Apiary medicine garden at Old School Farm on the Dartington Estate. I have been guardian to this small patch of land (approx. 1/4 of an acre) since 2017 and tend to it using permaculture and forest garden principles; I work with and alongside what is naturally there.

I have a deep respect for this piece of land ~ for its diversity, beauty and how it can support us. My aim is to cultivate a healing, reciprocal relationship with the land and the web of life there ~ understanding that we are not separate from anything that happens, lives and grows there.

My approach to gardening is intuitive; starting always with slow and careful observation of what (and why) is presenting itself on the land. I spent a year intimately observing and mapping this piece of land before slowly starting to plant the first tree and then establish the first no-dig herb beds using mulch and herbal ground cover plants.

I follow the principle that plants never naturally leave a piece of soil uncovered so use a variety of ground cover plants and mulch to protect the soil. Look after the soil and the soil looks after everything else! The herbal ground cover species include ground ivy, sweet woodruff, self heal, white clover, strawberry, creeping thyme, creeping savoury, corsican mint and dwarf comfrey. I use woodchip, scythed grass cuttings (I only scythe, no mowers, no oil), cardboard, sheepswool and mypex in tougher situations.

Since I’ve been guardian to this land, it has diversified to over 70 species of medicinal plants. The garden is home to mice, slow worms, common lizards, rabbits, stoats and has had visits from buzzards, grass snakes, barn owls, toads, deer, many small birds and probably many more I haven’t yet met. 

The herbs and remedies I offer are grown regeneratively and hand harvested. I sometimes work with herbs that are ‘wild’ gathered responsibly and honourably. I try to lessen my impact in this way by introducing the species we gather ‘wild’ to the herbal apiary (plants like Elder, Rosehip and Mugwort).

People often comment on the incredible colour and smell of the herbs I offer which is an indication of their potency. They tend to be more vibrant than shop bought herbs because each herb is gathered at an exact seasonal moment and lunar phase that is most suited to its particular medicine.

As my home apothecary is small, the herbs I offer are dried in darkness within an hour of harvest and are never stored for longer than a year or in daylight. This careful processing captures and maintains the medicinal compounds within the herbs very well. Each season, each year, a new vibrant harvest is gathered in from the land so freshness is guaranteed. 

A note about bees ~ I used to keep honeybees on this land which is why it is named ‘the herbal apiary’. After a long journey with honeybees in my life and on this land, it no longer felt right ecologically to house them here. In 2020, I gifted our hives to a friend’s nearby apiary and the following year the garden became home to many wild bumblebee nests for the first time. This was ecological evidence that I made the right choice.

Everything I do here is, at its essence, in service to honeybees and wild bees. My aim with the herbal apiary garden is to provide as much medicinal forage the year round for pollinators. In the wild, honeybees would choose to live 1km apart and with that vision in mind, I see every piece of land within 1km of a honeybee hive as an ‘apiary’. Therefore, the garden is still very much an apiary in my eyes.