Case Study: The Kitchen by Mike Physic Garden

Words by
Georgina Reid
| March 20, 2015

You might remember we profiled Byron and Grant from Urban Growers earlier this month. Well, we’re chatting to them again! Cause they’re nice AND because they are the caretakers of a brilliant little medicinal garden at Rosebery restaurant, Kitchen By Mike. I asked Byron some questions about the space and how it evolved. This is what he said…

The Physic Garden. Image from Kitchen by Mike
The Physic Garden. Image from Kitchen by Mike

How did this garden come about?
We’ve maintained the garden at Kitchen By Mike for a few years now and it has been an amazing learning curve into the realm of medicinal plants. The garden wasn’t always an educational Physic garden (Medicinal garden) but Mike was super keen on creating one so we injected medicinal species into the plant community. We collaborated with Anthia Koullouros of Ovvio Organics – she shared with us her medicinal plant bucket list. With our horticultural experience, Anthia’s herbal wish list and Mikes dream we got digging. In the garden there are now| over 100 plant species; about 50 are primarily medicinal, the rest are culinary, companion and pest repellent herbs, or used for increasing biodiversity into the garden.

Can you please explain the design of the garden?
The medicinal plants are split up into the following garden beds – Musculoskeletal & Cardiology, Gastroenterology, Neurology, Ears/Nose/ Throat (ENT), and Dermatology. On each bed we have a plaque listing all plants by number.  As well as the medicinal plants we have numbered and identified plants with other powers. e.g. Dwarf Avocado for the kitchen, French lavender for companion planting and blue salvia for biodiversity. Every plant has a purpose.

Can you please tell us what plants are included in the garden?
We swap the plaques over for summer and winter to correspond with the annuals we have in at the time. Some of the medicinal plants are; Tumeric, chilli, Echinacea, lovage, English lavender, burdock, nettle, red clover, yarrow, and pomegranate, to name a few.

Any welcome/unwelcome surprises regarding the construction/maintenance of the garden?
The garden is obviously organic – no pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilisers. The biodiversity that this practice encourages is a welcome surprise in itself – predatory insects, various spiders, lizards, birds, lady beetles, native bees, millions of worms and micro-invertebrates – this means an army of biological control in the garden. We just keep the garden from going too wild and harvest what we need.

Image by Ashley Natasha Jones
Image by Ashley Natasha Jones
Byron and Grant from Urban Growers & Mike McEnearney of Kitchen by Mike. Image by Amelia Fullarton
Byron and Grant from Urban Growers & Mike McEnearney of Kitchen by Mike. Image by Amelia Fullarton

Why did Urban Growers & Kitchen By Mike decide to create a medicinal garden?

To educate people about the power of plants; allowing them to touch, smell, taste and learn. You would be surprised at how many people say ’so that’s what it looks like!’ when they find a medicinal plant they have only had as a tea or tablet. It’s refreshing to see people connect with nature, and its great to have the opportunity to remind them that in history these gardens were not just your local chemist but your source of everyday health and well being.

What was it like working with herbalist Anthia Koullouros on the garden?
Anthia is so passionate about food as medicine, it was a rewarding project to collaborate on and learn the many medicinal uses of even common herbs.

What have you learnt through creating this garden?
We’ve learnt a lot about the habits of the 100 plant species that live in the garden! Mostly they all get along with each other. Its nice to observe people observing plants too – often the sight or scent of a plant sparks memory of a place years past, or children get to taste the native mint (Mentha australis) or see how ginger and turmeric grows from a rhizome underground. People often say how relaxed they feel perusing the plants, its just really nice on the senses for everybody.

What is your favourite medicinal plant?
Echinaceae, because its a beautiful and hardy herbaceous perennial (it dies down to a tiny clump of green leaves during winter, then like fireworks it shoots its purple cone flowers up in spring). It’s always a nice surprise in Spring if you’ve forgotten where you planted it!

Do you have a tried and true herbal remedy?
At home we make our own flu shot concoction by cooking garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, lemon, dandelion root and turmeric in ½ cup of water. Add some vitamin C and zinc before drinking. You might want to hold your nose whilst sculling this one!

Featured image by Amelia Fullarton.

Curious about Urban Growers – check out this interview.

Image by Ashley Natasha Jones
Image by Ashley Natasha Jones
Image by Ashley Natasha Jones
Image by Ashley Natasha Jones
Image by Amelia Fullarton
Image by Amelia Fullarton

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