Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Wales Smithsonian Cymru - Plant Medicine (days 1 & 2)

Finally I've made it onto the internet since arriving in Washington two days ago. This is just a quick post on progress so far. I'll add photos later once I've had a chance to upload them [photos now added!].
It's past 10pm here now which makes it the small hours in the UK. Although I don't feel as exhausted as I did yesterday, I still don't have the energy (or time) to go too in-depth.

So far we've worked two long and intensive days on the National Mall just a short distance from Capitol Hill. The site has been relatively quiet the last two days since we arrived in advance of the main party. White tents dot the Wales part of the festival site, each one covering a different aspect of Welsh culture, both old and new. On either side of this area are the tents for the Giving Voice (The Power of Words in African American Culture) and Las Americas (A Musical World) programmes.

Gareth, who has been leading the whole plant medicine project, Cameron (my partner who is supposed to be here as a guest) and I got stuck right in trying to develop a Welsh Cottage Garden and wild hedgerow verge in the four custom-built wooden planters that had been provided outside our little tent.

It's been a very satisfying task. The Smithsonian horticulturists have provided an abundance of healthy looking plants and, although several things weren't quite what we expected, we've had great fun patching together meadow grasses, chickweed, clover and numerous other weeds into what might resemble a verge below a barberry hedge. On the other side of the hedge we've been planting a mixture of herbs and veg in small rows.

It's been a little tricky. We've had a huge number of plants we wanted to include, but a very limited amount of space so getting the feel we want can be tough. We're also worried about how the plants will take. So far we've been very lucky with the weather apparently - the steamy atmosphere and hot sun today were described as comparitively "cold" by one person. Our plants must be able to tolerate everything from baking hot sun to torrential downpours and gale force winds. It'll be a matter of time before we see for ourselves what they (and we) are in for.
So far our tasks have been varied and numerous. We began with the quandry of how to fill our planters without using up too much of our compost straight away. Cameron saved the day with the suggestion that we fill the bottom of each planter with plastic bottles from the recycling bins around the site. This has the added bonus of providing Gareth with inspiration for the recylcing talk he suddenly found he was scheduled to give during the festival.

We then set about filling and planting not only these planters as our main garden, but also several other smaller ones with examples of medicinal plants for us as well as pretty flowers for the food demonstrators in the tent next door.
So far we haven't had much time to consider the contents of our own tent in any great detail. We have a mock-up of a Welsh Dresser made from recylced plastic and a few banners and tables. Tomorrow we'll be opening up all our freighting boxes and putting together our displays.

This evening the rest of the Smithsonian party arrived and so tomorrow the real chaos will begin all over the site. Alison (biochemist) and Tim (National Botanic Garden of Wales Estate Manager) will get the opportunity to see what we've achieved so far and will, presumably, give their verdict on what we've been preparing for them. Hopefully most of it will be up to scratch though Tim didn't get his wildflower meadow in the end. We also need to find a way for him to demonstrate hedge laying without sinking any pegs into the National Mall itself.

As for my projects, almost as soon as I arrived at the hotel, I unpacked my woad balls and tried to activate one of them with a view to doing a dyeing demonstration with it. I confess, I've never tried it before and so I'm curious to see wht the damp heap of smelly green stuff in my hotel room will eventually produce. I'm also a little worried it might be a total disaster since I should be fermenting the stuff for two weeks apparently. Still, it certainly smells like it's doing interesting things and I'm sure it'll be an enjoyable learning experience regardless.

Time to sign off now and get some sleep. We have another early start tomorrow with lots to do on our final day of preparation as well as all the inductions to get through.

1 comment:

JOE TODD said...

Don't work so hard you don't enjoy your visit. Now that I know about the festival maybe I can make it next time Thanks