In designing a curandera garden for our Desert Oasis Teaching Garden, the hardest part was probably deciding which plants i wanted to use. I wanted most if not all of the plants to have medicinal properties that a lot of students would find helpful, so I focused on the common ailments as I browsed Michael Moore’s book Los Remedios. This book was my main source of information as I compiled a guide to the plants that would be in the garden. (Dropbox link: http://tinyurl.com/ndg9qlm) The purpose of this guide was not only to aid me in designing the garden, but also to give information to visitors and help the gardeners care for each of the plants. To serve all of these different functions, I included information on each plant such as its English, Spanish, and scientific names, its plant family, methods of reproductions, reactions to different seasons, its uses, any specific needs, among anything else I deemed important. In making this document, I brainstormed ideas for the design. As I was researching the wildflowers, I had the idea to combine the MacDougal Vervain and the Arizona Poppy.
In designing, I first considered which plants would need the most water. I eventually removed the top water users from my design, but in my first drafts you can see how I placed the Roselle, the plant needing the most water, right next to the fountain so it could recieve the water spray as well as the water from irrigation. However, since Roselle is actually native to the tropics, I decided that it was not worth the copious amounts of water it required, especially in the presence of a drought. I also removed Yerba Mate from my list after discovering how much water as well as maintenance it would have required. The mints were a different problem, though. Mint is such a staple in almost any garden that it was hard to leave out, so I decided to place them in pots in order to help retain water around them. The pots would also help keep the mints from spreading, which they are notorious for.
After making the decision to pot the mints, I realized that there were other plants that may be invasive. The passionflower and the catnip would be a problem. The catnip would especially cause trouble, as it is in the mint family, Lamiaceae. However, I remembered a tip that Tonita Gonzales had mentioned, to place an herb in a nonbiodegradable container and bury it in the soil. This would contain the roots while keeping them on the same level as the other plants. I decided to implement this for the catnip and passionflower, but decided to keep the mints’ pots above ground.
It didn’t take me long to find out that the passionflower, a beautiful plant which I wanted in the garden for its relaxing properties (everyone in a school goes through a lot of stress), was actually a climbing vine. This excited me, and after a short tangent as I looked at different kinds of trellises, I had the idea of having a small table with a mortar and pestle underneath the trellis. I eventually ditched the idea of having it under the trellis in favor of the trellis being an entrance to the orchard, but the idea of a table stuck.
Meygan and I had the idea of situating our gardens next to each other, so they could complement and work off of each other. This drastically changed my original design, but not in a bad way. We decided to split the trellis and have it act as a bridge between the two gardens, with my passionflower climbing up the south side, and her trumpet vine climbing the north side. The fountain and table, of course, would be in between the two gardens.
(All of the pictures are taken by me and can be clicked to expand!)