Community Building with Mostly Medicinals
April 5, 2012, by Michele Gila
Nothing says Portland more than our deep love of gardens. Our climate seems to draw forth green thumbs from nearly anyone willing to put a few hours of sweat and common sense to work. And when it comes to having a GREEN thumb, my friend Laura takes the cake. Not only does she work full time as a Manager at the well-known Portland Nursery, but she has her own unique plant business, Mostly Medicinals.
Several years ago Laura decided it was time to buy a home, so we went to work and found her a sweet place nestled in the midst of the SE Portland neighborhood of Woodstock. Mark had been out looking at properties and called Laura to tell her she probably ought to come see this one. I think she’ll agree, it was love at first sight. Already established mature landscape existed, including several Asian Pear trees. With some love and smart pruning, she knew the bountiful harvest was ahead. A few years later she decided to open her own company, focusing on the medicinal plants that are native to our region and also those plants that, if not native, thrive here and have important qualities for those who seek natural, plant-based healing.
Along with gardening, Portlanders also seem to thrive in community building opportunities. Two Saturdays ago we had such an opportunity with Mostly Medicinals. Laura put the call out to a group of friends that she would be hosting a garden work party and to come prepared with some tools if we had them. In exchange, she’s make us chili. Not a bad deal. It’s amazing how much work you can get done with a team of willing friends. What could ordinarily seem daunting and may never actually get done, was completed in a few short hours leaving her time to focus on preparations for her upcoming return to the Portland Farmer’s Market. Her green house is already full of young plant starts and beautiful baskets for Mother’s Day shoppers.
The pile of compost in the back corner was filled with invasive species and weed seeds, so a group hauled many wheelbarrow loads to the trailer, to be disposed of properly. It was discovered that the roots of an old plum tree were rotted beyond healing and so with some sadness, it was also removed. But wow! That really opened up the SE corner of her over sized lot to some quality sunshine. Mark and I focused on one of the new perennial beds, since I’m fairly familiar (ok, VERY familiar) with weeds and what to remove and what to leave. One of the first lessons gardening will teach you is that you must pick and choose which plants to remove if you want others to prosper. I’ve let a season of weeds go through their cycle and the next year it took a ton of work to fix that mistake. Mark took up the not-at-all fun project of digging out the blackberry roots and new growth. So, we play to our strengths.
After a few hours we had made a lot of progress and new friends arrived to take up the hoes and trowels and shovels. We shook off the mud and headed back to our own yard and using the inspiration from an afternoon in Laura’s garden, we worked on an unused spot in our yard that had been an over sized pathway and turned it into a new bed for strawberries and one of my favorite natives, the Saskatoon Serviceberry.
The next work party is at my friend Amy’s house, a home we helped her buy a few years ago. She wants to transform her bedroom and reclaim the yard from some weeds. We’ll report back on that soon! Work parties are a great way to get through projects, to feel like you’ve accomplished something in maintaining your home, and still have a good time with friends. So much talent can be found within a circle of friends, and it’s a great way to share tools and skills so that we all benefit.