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Since Grimalhame resides in a hollow surrounded by terraces, little stone steps allow easy access to the upper terraces. The gardens have been around for as long as the clowder itself. Shade-loving plants are grown in the shadow of the trees but we are careful not to grow too many plants in one place for too long. Some areas are left fallow for a year or two to allow the soil to recuperate.
Unwanted foodstuffs and manure from passing wild sheep, yale and cattle are used as compost and fertilizer and there is also a wormery where compost is made. The worms help with the manufacture of compost which is then used to replenish the flower beds. There are several types of garden at Grimalhame.
Flower gardens are found all over Grimalhame and are little oases of calm and tranquility in an otherwise busy clowder. All manner of flowers are grown here from small perennials to rhododendrons. In addition to the flowers, there are crab apple trees, magnolias, laburnum, wisteria and cherry blossom that burst magnificently into life in the spring and summer, creating a stunning patchwork of pink, cream, yellow and lilac amongst the greens and browns of the forest and grassy terraces. Wooden seats, benches and tables are provided for picnics, or just somewhere to rest your aching paws. The flower gardens offer a place of peace and serenity, especially for the elderly citizens and those recovering from illness.
The rhododendrons are kept away from the main gardens because, despite their colour, are invasive and toxic to other plants, hence why the garden is contained by a wall and carefully managed. Ordinarily, the rhododendron would not feature in the gardens at all if it weren’t for the fact that it is a medicinal plant. But such an extensive garden requires a great deal of water.
There are many wells around Grimalhame that are used both for domestic use and irrigation. Gargoyles on the clowder outbuilding siphon rainwater from the gutters into waiting water-butts. Nothing is wasted, not even a drop of rain. Water is stored in the cellars and in underground pits that have been specially constructed to both stay cool and house up to two-thousand barrels of water. All water comes52from either the River Hestia (fed by Lakes Danir and Mimir), or underground seeps and wells (also fed by the lakes).
So as not to get confused with the medicinal herbs, the culinary herb garden is kept well away from the medicinal one. The culinary herb garden is situated near to the clowder entrance while the medicinal herbs are grown by the clowder hospital. Both are well signposted. Many edible herbs are grown here including thyme, mint, sage, parsley, chives, dill, lemon grass, rosemary, basil, fennel, coriander, bay, caraway and fennel. Many of these herbs can also be found in the medicinal herb garden.
The Orchard – the orchard is almost as large as the vegetable garden. Here you can find strawberries, blackberries, redberries, cranberries, gooseberries, juniper berries, blackcurrants, elderberries, loganberries and rhubarb. Even though many of the fruits are grown at ground level, the fruit garden is collectively known as ‘the orchard’. In addition to the berries, there are many trees producing apples, pears, peaches, plums, lemons, limes, quince and cherries.
All clowders have gardens but the oldest and most extensive gardens can be found at Grimalhame. The gardens serve three purposes: 1) to provide medicinal herbs, plants and flowers, 2) to grow fruit and vegetables for the kitchens, and 3) to provide a pleasant and peaceful environment for everyone to enjoy.
The gardens stretch from the herb and rose garden by the clowder hospital to the Henge to the forests in every direction. Dotted about the gardens are beautiful stone statues of various animals – stags, yale, wild boar, unicorns – to name but a few. Anyone can tend to the gardens if they want as they belong to everyone, but only trained healers and botanists can tend to the poisonous plants which are kept in a walled garden behind the clowder hospital.
Many types of vegetable are grown here for the clowder kitchens. There are several vegetable gardens around Grimalhame, each growing potatoes, beans, carrots, turnips, swedes, kale, spinach, peas, sprouts, cabbages, leeks, broccoli, cauliflowers and pumpkins.
This garden can only be accessed by members of the Order, qualified physicians, and healers. Many kinds of medicinal herbs and plants are grown in this walled-off area of the gardens as some of these plants have the potential to kill a Grimalkin many times over. But the most dangerous of these plants also have the capacity for great healing too. But always remember, NEVER go handling these plants. Leave them to the experts.
Over many generations, physicians and healers have compiled vast volumes on medicinal plants, herbs and fungi. In addition to these things, tree bark is used as well as minerals found in the earth. We have an extensive section in the library here at Grimalhame that contains every known plant, as well as some unknown specimens whose properties are not yet known. We have several ways of administering medicine.
Decoctions – extracts of herbs are boiled in water for longer to increase potency.
Infusions – in other words teas. Herbs are boiled in spring water or treated with crystals, sunlight (solarised water) or moonlight (lunarised water). Infusions can be drunk hot or cold and is a good way of treating mild symptoms quickly. Infusions can also be used as an inhalant.
Ointment – extracts are thickened with beeswax and applied to the skin. Ointments also keep for a long time.
Syrups – extracts are mixed with honey and can also be used as an antiseptic.
Tinctures – herb extracts are preserved in alcohol such as fermented apple or mead. An advantage of this method is that they keep for months and so can be stored.
Vinegars – fermented fruits are used and vinegar is used as an antiseptic and to treat skin irritations. When combined with birch bark, leaves, moss and clay it can be used as poultice.