About Us

Herbarium opened its doors to the public in December of 1989. Though originally set up as a garden and nursery housing aromatic, medicinal and culinary plants, its mission is the promotion of a way of life that respectfully seeks harmony and peace through awareness and responsibility towards oneself, others and the natural environment. Our plants and aromatic products want to bring a piece of this experience to our clients.



Awareness means to live the present moment in depth; to constantly pay attention to everything that goes on in and around us; to use our five senses: taste, touch, hearing, smell and sight and hopefully develop a sixth, discovering the enormous potential of our spirituality. Practicing this state of consciousness promotes love, understanding, compassion and joy. This practice helps us come to terms with and transform the suffering from our lives and society.

Herbarium proposes we learn to develop our horticultural abilities and to use them as therapy for a better quality of life. In our courses and workshops we provide the knowledge for an organic and ecological handling of the garden. The garden makes us aware that we are part of an infinite universe, of a marvelous life cycle. Working the garden provides a feeling of self-satisfaction; it gives us peace and a perfect comprehension of what we were, what we are and what we will become. Our products reflect the gifts attained through our work.

Aside from our plants and aromatic products, Herbarium is also a space in which to commune with nature, cultivate our spirit and heal our soul. This space is open to everyone, especially the older adult and the disabled.
Herbarium is a recreational and development centre; a place of harmony, pleasure, growth and peace.


The Land

"One does not belong to the place where one is born,
but to that where one first casts an intelligent look on oneself."


Marguerite Yourcenar, "Memoirs of Hadrian"


November 1984. Back then it was but an uncultivated lot riddled with blackberry bushes. There were a few old peach and apricot trees and many dead weeping willows, products of poor irrigation and lack of care. There were also very many wasp nests among the stinging nettle that invaded it all. But the aroma of the thorn tree golden yellow blooms, the sea of California poppies, the blooming hemlock, the crystalline water from the spring singing its song as it rushed by, the perfection of the endless stone wall that enclosed the land and its tiny adobe house were, nevertheless, more powerful and we could see gnomes and fairies behind each tree trunk and under every stone. Though the house had been neglected, it possessed a special charm and its heady perfume of old wood conjured thoughts of mysteries uncertain.



Entering the forest of thorn tree's was like opening Pandora's box. The sound of our footsteps would be followed by the rustling of leaves and branches as flocks of quail would scurry away. Resident hares and rabbits, unaccustomed to human sounds would pause to inspect us. After a moment of tension they too would run away to their burrows. Occasionally, swift and stealthy snakes would slither by between our feet. They were generally brown but I once saw a beautiful bright green one with a long black stripe. They were quite timid and wouldn't think of harming us. There were also Chilean tarantulas. They had beautiful brown "fur" and black spots. They didn't trouble us either; they were quite evasive and upon seeing us would rush among the weeds to the safety of their nests. Finding nests belonging to different species of birds in the thorn tree's branches would always make me happy and trigger a spark of curiosity. Once I had located them, I'd "visit" every day. They held eggs of all colours; some plain, some spotted. The thrush mixed straw with mud to make their nests.

The lizards were also part of our neighbourhood. They looked so exotic taking in the sun dressed in their iridescent turquoise blue dresses, either atop the stone walls or inside the house. Every night we were treated to an impressive concerto performed by local crickets and grasshoppers.

There was a lot of work to do and the responsibility of owning the land was binding. We paid our dues many times over. We had never before ventured into farm work or land management. Living relatively far away did not allow us the necessary supervision of the work we hired. However, the temptation and challenge of being if not completely at least somewhat self-sufficient, was great. We had spring water, firewood from the thorn trees to keep us warm, fruit from the apricot and plum trees, some almond trees, the land and a powerful will to cultivate it.

The first thing we did was buy books on the topic, tools and seeds. We had to begin by cleaning the entire land. The blackberry and weeping bamboo covered entire trees. We had to fell numerous dry trees. Only one of the many weeping willows was left standing and it became a very well-loved tree.
It wasn't until May of the following year that we had a small lot of the land cleared of weeds, worked and ready to be sowed. We had made some progress in the pest control department and we had a million projects for our land.

 

Aromatic, Medicinal and Culinary Plants

"We're passing by a small field
as if bathed in grace,
holding against our chests
like stolen turtledoves,
the breath of the mint
the blue eye of the sage
the pervasion of the rosemary
and the modesty of the basil.
With my hand I cut through the air,
I cut as if delirious
and, scattering the bunch,
I fool them of their four homelands;
Castile and Euskadi,
Provence and Campania."


(Gabriela Mistral, "Salvia")



A little bit of history...

Practically from the moment man inhabited the Earth and needed to look for food to survive, he made harmonious contact with nature. Mother Earth gave him sustenance: food and drink, and gave him knowledge: some plants were to be eaten, others to heal and others could kill. From generation to generation this knowledge was passed on, maintained and enriched.

Among different groups or tribes there were those who were more sensitive, who had special interest in the healing properties of plants and who devoted their time to study and experiment with them. They were considered to be the enlightened and were respected and revered; thus, they occupied a privileged space within the societies to which they belonged. They were called Shamans or Machis; later Healers or Priests. Today, those who have modernized this knowledge are called Medics and Doctors.

Because of the medicinal properties some plants possessed, they were considered to be magical and sacred, and were either believed to belong to certain gods or were thought to be protected by them. Their multiple virtues also motivated many legends spun throughout the course of the history of humanity and some are mentioned in the Bible and other important literary works.

Through the centuries, these humble looking plants that demanded very little in terms of care and were often underappreciated and pulled like weeds, were responsible for great historical events. They played a fundamental role in the development of medicine and, consequently, the first botanical gardens were created. The commercialization of these plants was to blame for several wars and the price paid for them soared due to the enormous risks run by their merchants, since many of these plants where brought from far away places, exotic and hard to reach. As a consequence of one of these voyages of exploration and with the purpose of finding new varieties, Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492. Soon after, the printing press was invented and, with it, the herbalist's knowledge was expanded and shared throughout Europe, in the shape of the first printed herbariums.

Medicinal gardens were passionately created, the first being located in Padua, Italy, in 1545. Two decades later, Florence, Rome and Bologna had their very own and the rest of Europe wasn't far behind. Towards the end of the XVII century there were medicinal gardens in Heidelberg, Leiden, Oxford and Paris, among others. The first ornamental use of herbs in the garden dates back to XVI century France when they began to be planted in knot and braid formations, symmetrical and pruned. These gardens had, of course, the pharmacological and botanical limitations of the time.

Cultivation

With the help of modern technology, our gardens can include almost every plant there is, with the exception of certain tropical plants. When we want variety we almost always steer towards the exotic, often without even considering the most simple options. Why not combine aromatic, medicinal and culinary plants with azaleas, roses, fuchsia, hydrangeas and other ornamentals? We would have the perfect garden: shape, colour, scent and flavour as well as a fabulous household pharmacy. The idea of introducing edible plants to our gardens is not new; it has its origins in post-war Europe where it served as a fresh and healthy source of food close to the home. This custom took root and is still preserved in the edible ornamental gardens of almost every European home.

It's not hard to imagine creeping thyme or roman chamomile as the perfect ground cover; an edge of chives or winter savory, also appropriate for rock gardens, whose trimmings would delight us in the kitchen. Oregano, mint and lemon balm would make an interesting backdrop contrasting with the gray-green of rue, wormwood and lavender cotton. To cover a wall we could plant peas or cherry tomatoes, among climbing roses. Each has a different flowering period and moment of glory. Honeysuckle will fill the garden with hummingbirds and sweet scents during the summer months. Violets will grow merrily around the roses during winter, when roses have lost their foliage, and shall rest in the roses' shade in the summer. A patch of red leaf lettuce looks beautiful and provides salads for the family for the whole year if staggered. The list of examples is endless and imagination has no bounds.

The most important thing to remember if you want to have a garden that fills the senses is to know the needs of the species you are planting. In this case - aromatic, culinary and medicinal herbs - the demands are minimal. These plants give the headiest scents and taste the best when the soil is depleted and water is scarce. Most need plenty of sun and, although they do adapt to many and quite different circumstances, they are excellent for dry areas, hillsides and, hopefully, heights of over 500 metres above sea level. When treated as garden plants and during their growth period, pruning will be very important; not only to keep their shape and stimulate root formation but also to use in the kitchen or the home in the winter months, when their life cycle is over or they are in hibernation. This pruning can be done from the beginning of spring until well into fall. The most flavourful and scented pruning will be in the middle of summer, having to wait until the morning dew has dried and just before the warmest time of a mild and sunny day for the plant's sap to be at its highest level and so obtain the strongest aroma and flavour.

From the first pruning in spring, which can take some of the woody part of the stem (old growth from the previous season), new plants can be created. Some varieties can also be propagated by separating their roots, both in spring and fall. Finally, before the last pruning of the season, don't forget to keep some seeds to plant next spring. Each plant has special characteristics and is multiplied better one way over another; so it's convenient to be well informed beforehand to avoid the frustration of not doing it right.

Uses

All species in the plant kingdom contain active chemical substances, thus medicinal properties in lesser or greater degree. The following plants are listed in alphabetical order. I decided to list them in this way instead of dividing them into herbs and spices, thinking this would provide a faster search criteria for the reader and user.

We must always bear in mind that many of the chemicals contained in plants are toxic and so necessary care must be taken in handling and consuming them. It is imperative to be well informed about them if we are going to include them as part of our families.

Once we get to know them we will enjoy planting them, caring for them and watching them grow. We will be worried if they look sad; we will suffer terribly should one of them die and we will be thrilled to enjoy their beauty, perfume and flavour.

Home use of Herbs and Spices

"One of Ruiz's stories is particularly symbolic. It tells of a woman who would spend twenty-five pesos a day in flowers and less than two reales in bread for her children. Her mistaken allocation of the family's funds was not entirely despicable: she would place great quantities of flowers, thick with perfume, over their clothes and furniture to mitigate bad smells."

Excerpt from: Flowers for the King; the Expedition of Ruiz and Pavon and the Flora of Peru (1777-1788)



The birth of Herbarium

Shortly after discovering the fun behind propagating plants for our garden I decided to open a nursery dedicated mainly to aromatic, medicinal and culinary plants, in view of the scarcity of these species in the marketplace. I called it HERBARIVM, as a reference to the first botanical manuals. The idea of creating a nursery led me to seek knowledge and I became an avid reader of anything that had to do with my beloved herbs.

When, once Herbarium was established, pruning time arrived, I saw how precious scents, colours, flavours and shapes of petals, dried flowers, leaves and seeds were being lost, even after taking maximum advantage of them for propagation. I realized that all of this could be recycled.

In the olden days, when we didn't have the comforts of our modern era, people, especially housewives, knew that summer was for harvesting and storing what would be needed in winter. Thus, with the bad smells of a home unaired so as not to lose precious heat, they would resort to potpourri which wasn't more than a mixture of petals and leaves from aromatic flowers.

These were placed throughout the house in different containers and even under rugs, so that when you would walk on them the essential oils would be coaxed from the mixtures and they would perfume the rooms.

Another type of mixture was used to burn in the fireplace, together with the firewood (the word "perfume" comes from the Greek "pro-fumo" which means "through smoke"). Potpourri was also used to perfume and soften water in bathtubs, used only on Sundays back in the day, making it a very special ritual part of the weekly routine.

Both good and bad scents are almost always evocative; they transport us without difficulty to a different moment in our lives: bad smells warn us by reminding us of unpleasant experiences to the point of sometimes aiding in our very survival; good scents replay pleasant experiences to our renewed enjoyment. Unfortunately, pollution nowadays distracts our nose's sensitivity.

Remember to SMELL; sit on a tree stub or rock, breathe in deeply and enjoy. Take a nap under a fig tree or rest on a field that has just been mowed. When at dusk you come back from work, sit outside for a while and smell how night falls. If you have aromatic plants in your garden, this is generally the "magical" time. Fruit trees will first fill the atmosphere with the scent of their flowers and later with the delicious fragrance of ripening fruit.

And at night, while you sleep, all your senses will also rest, except for your sense of smell. (Curiously, this sense is only numbed by different illnesses - not necessarily a cold or the flu.) Our sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than our senses of taste, touch, sight or hearing. So let's enjoy it!

After June 24 in the southern hemisphere, days start to grow longer and nature begins to awaken little by little. The animal and plant kingdoms come out of their winter slumbers and this implies different dangers of depredation and extinction of their species. In springtime, all animals (us included) and plants emit a greater quantity of an odoriferous substance called pheromone. Pheromones help animals smell other animals that could bring danger to their species. Plants and animals also use pheromones to sexually attract partners and thus propagate their own existence.

If we are in the countryside in spring, especially on a warm, sunny day, we will be able to enjoy the aromatic experience of nature in all its splendor. After a night of rain, let's open the windows early next morning to smell the new, clean air. If we have a garden or live in the country, we will notice the soil is truly grateful for the gift of rainwater. Let's go to the oldest tree in the garden and smell its damp bark. Let's wring a leaf between our fingers and see how much chemistry it contains.

From a very young age I have felt fascination for all scents in general. With the logical exceptions, I like both sweet and bitter scents and I think this has contributed in great part to my love both for gardening and fine cooking.

I love my house because it is my haven; the one I go to at the end of the day when I'm tired. It receives me with kindness. All our familiar and beloved things decorate it; things we have received from our parents and that have been in our family for a long time; others that have been searched and found with dedication and joy; still others that have been made by us; each has its own history. I believe the home has to smell as well as it looks. Each room has its own scent... We have potpourri and pomander balls all around the house and our drawers and wardrobes are filled with sachets and lavender braids. Every time we change the sheets and towels, the most private part of the house smells deliciously fresh.

I love the smell of coffee when it's just been brewed and of freshly squeezed orange juice in the mornings; of whisky, wood, tobacco and wine when I walk past where each are kept. I always try to fill the house with fresh flowers and scents; the first ones are the sweet mimosas in July and August; freesias and calla lilies in September; daffodils and reeds, azaleas and rhododendrons in October; peonies in November; cinnamon and spices in December; pink Madonna lilies in January; the ocean in February; the scent of wood from sharpened pencils and paper and ink from books and brand new notebooks in March; quince jelly in April; Damascus roses in May; the smell of firewood in June... Everything has a scent! Not to mention the aromas coming from the kitchen... when after a good meal, the type that includes a substantial stew that has taken all morning to cook over low heat, the entire house has the aromatic harmony of a symphony of all the above elements combined!

I'd like to extend an invitation to open your senses to what nature around us (be it the farm, the garden or the potted plant on our windowsill) gifts us with each day. Let's not walk by a tree or a plant without appreciating its foliage in summer or its bareness in winter; the roughness or smoothness of its trunk or stem, the fragrance, shape and colour of its bloom or fruit. The fauna that uses it as a resting place or a home, or for food, also merits our attention and admiration. And let's bring the cycle of nature into our homes as much as possible; its magic will provide us with peace, harmony and happiness.




Avenida José Arrieta 9960, Peñalolén, Santiago, Chile   Phone: (56 2) 2279 7087 - e mail: herbario@herbarium.cl   facebook

Los jardines, el vivero y el taller del Herbarium están abiertos al público de lunes a viernes entre las 8 y 17 horas.
Cerrado sábado, domingo y feriados.
SABÁTICO: ABIERTO EL PRIMER SÁBADO DE CADA MES, DE 10 A 16 HORAS
ENTRADA LIBERADA
El Herbarium es un espacio amable y accesible para silla de ruedas y coches de niño.
Estacionamiento dentro del lugar.
Formas de pago: cheque, efectivo, tarjeta de crédito o de débito


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Translations by Amero Communications, info@amerocommunications.com