A group of about 50 people followed “wise woman” and herbalist Robin Rose Bennett through the herb garden behind the Durand-Hedden House and through Grasmere Park last Sunday. Bennett, who visited from her herb and wild plant farm in the New Jersey Highlands, began her talk at an impressive Arborvitae, whose name, Bennett said, means “Tree of Life” in Latin and is also known as “Grandmother Cedar” among Native Americans. Bennett explained that she always asks plants for permission before taking from it and also leaves behind a small gift for its roots, such as a drop of herbal oil.
Bennett then led the group to the stream that flows through Durand-Hedden’s backyard and pointed out a wild plant with orange flowers. This was jewelweed, Bennett told her listeners, and could be used to treat poison ivy. Dandelion weed was good for the liver, while sage and lavender could be mixed with honey to heal wounds.
Visitors rushed inside the house towards the end of the event as a result of a sudden rain shower, but Bennett continued her talk inside – educating the group on how to use herbs, how to preserve them over the wintertime, and how to benefit from herbs in bath water.
Maplewood Garden Club members were among the attendees as Bennett spent a good deal of time in the herb garden which they maintain. Susan Newberry, President of the Durand-Hedden House & Garden Association, commented on the large turnout at this event. “It was wonderful to see such a cross- section of visitors on the beautiful grounds of Durand-Hedden,” Newberry said, “from young children to 90-year-olds plus, from experienced herbalists to gardeners to simply the curious, drawn by the prospect of learning about the remarkable properties of plants from a ‘green witch.’ Robin proved to be both practically and spiritually aware of the plants and trees in Grasmere Park and held people in rapt attention with her knowledge, helping them to slow down, listen to their bodies, and observe their surroundings through their senses. It was a special day.”
The Durand-Hedden House is Maplewood’s historic house museum and historical society. It presents exhibits on local history and hosts a diverse offering of events held one Sunday every month from 1 to 4 pm. Membership is open to all. The next event, on October 21, will feature “Maplewood’s Magnificent Trees.” Call 973-763-7712 for more information and for a 2012-2013 calendar, or visit durandhedden.org. The Durand-Hedden House and Grasmere Park are located at 523 Ridgewood Road in Maplewood.