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The Voice - October 2023

Comment by Geoff

Geoff Juden

In this issue of The Voice we return to some of the projects with which we have been involved. It is a never ending battle to make some institutions understand the need for a better environment, and we believe that gardening is essential to this because we can all take part.

Some institutions are determined to push their own agenda against common sense. It is unbelievable that a local authority who is determined to have its own way refuses to provide relevant information before a planning committee, since with that information, the decision may have gone against the wishes of the developer.

If you value having someone campaign on your behalf to protect the environment and having access to useful articles about gardening and local environmental matters, please make a donation to help us with the cost of maintaining The East London Garden Society.

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel, genus Hamamelis, shrubs and small trees are native to eastern North America and eastern Asia. Some are grown for their yellow flowers, with four narrow, twisted ribbonlike petals, borne on warm winter days or in early spring. Witch hazels produce small clusters of four-petalled flowers borne close to the branches and have deciduous, prominently veined, oval, toothed leaves.

American, or common, witch hazel up to 4½ metres tall, bears its flowers in late fall, with the explosive fruits ripening in the following year. Its yellow, cuplike calyx persists through the winter. The common name refers to the forked twigs that were sometimes used for water-witching or dowsing to locate underground water.

The fragrant witch hazel liniment is made from the dried leaves and sometimes from the twigs and bark. Vernal witch hazel, about two metres tall, blooms in late winter or early spring.

Witch hazel was first mass-marketed as an American-made toiletry, which was originally called Golden Treasure and then renamed Pond's Extract and was one of the only medicinal plants approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a non-prescription drug ingredient. Witch hazel has also been pressed, boiled, and steamed into the service of human health for centuries.

Given its versatility, some believed that tea made from witch hazel leaves and bark would heighten occult powers as well. Many modern witches consider witch hazel a magical herb, using it to keep away evil and to heal broken hearts. But it isn't only distillations made from parts of the witch hazel shrub that have mysterious histories.

The Mohegans are also believed to be the first to show English settlers how to use Y-shaped witch hazel sticks for dowsing, an ancient method for finding underground water. In fact the name witch hazel is believed to have come from the Middle English wicke for lively, since the dowsing stick bends toward the ground when water is detected below, and wych, an old Anglo-Saxon word for bend.

Native Americans of what is now New England, boiled witch-hazel stems and applied the resulting liquid to sore muscles, cuts, insect bites, piles, inflammations and even tumours. Early Puritan settlers in New England learned about witch-hazel from the Native peoples, but its use did not become widely established in the United States until the 19th century.

The Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree

The battle of the Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree shows that when a group is determined to protect our historic landmarks from the developers, we are able to do so.

A High Court Judge held Tower Hamlets Council to account when they tried to bulldoze through a planning decision that was against the public interest. Their judgement was "If all the information had been placed before the planning committee they may have voted in a different way".

Bethnal Green Mulberry tree

We have finally arrived at the stage when the Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree will be able to live its life as nature intended with the assistance of the current developers who have gone to great lengths to treat the tree with the delicate treatment it deserves.

A bespoke cradle has been built so that the tree does not fall over as well as placing new earth and mulch around the tree plus ensuring that regular watering took place during the Summer dry spells. This result is all because you, the public, spoke out.

Bethnal Green Mulberry tree

The London Highline

Great Eastern Parks Route

We have decided to sectionalise the beginning of The Great Eastern Parks Route. The beginning is The London Highline which will include The Shoreditch Forest Garden.

The entire Great Eastern Parks Route is made of parks, gardens, rivers and canals. It is therefore only right to name the additions to be created at the beginning of the route. The redundant rail viaducts are a highline, so will be named The London Highline.

We would of course seek public acceptance of this nature route, which spans three London boroughs, and make it easier to understand.

Join us to explore the proposed London Highline route on 29 October 2023 and find out more. Reserve your place now

Biodynamic Gardening

Biodynamic Gardening

The biodynamic approach to gardening sees all aspects of nature as being closely interconnected. Soil health, plant growth, and raising animals for human consumption are all viewed as being linked in a continuous cycle of life.

Biodynamic gardens form a ‘living organism’. Each part interacts with each other part, and in some way depends on it. The soil nurtures the plants within it, and the plants in turn nurture the soil. The animals that feed on the plants have a relationship with both. The gardener’s job is to seek greater harmony and to help it come about. The spiritual dimension of this lies in paying close attention to the land they are gardening on to be able to understand what may wish to emerge from it.

The biodynamic approach to gardening embraces ecological diversity rather than monoculture, and this creates resilient and therefore more stable gardens. If you raise animals on your land, the biodynamic gardening philosophy also encourages diversity in part because each animal’s manure has unique nutrients to offer.

The biodynamic approach to gardening also seeks to bring all elements of nature together, and as such encourages gardeners or farmers to raise animals as well as crops. There is no need to choose between the two, which would be an artificial separation. Growing plants while simultaneously raising animals is said to balance the whole, as animals and plants have complementary roles to play in nature and in the garden.

Cultivating awareness by having conversations with nature is another aspect of biodynamic gardening. Biodynamic gardening works in harmony with the natural ways of the cosmos, which means that moon cycles and astrology are often used to decide when to plant and harvest. This concept is of questionable scientific value.

Natural pest control is the way of life for biodynamic gardeners, as pesticides are avoided. This particular biodynamic gardening principle is found in every approach to organic gardening.

Witch Hazel Salve


You can also add one or a mixture of the following essential oils:

Each of these optional oils offers further properties that are useful when treating the listed skin problems. Vitamin E, however, is a useful preservative that may extend the shelf-life of your DIY salve.

Witch Hazel salve

It doesn’t matter what extras you choose, but don’t add too much additional oil or your finished salve may be too greasy.


Finally ...

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