NL Doet – Herb Spiral

On Friday 28th May, River of Herbs Orchards will be participating in NL Doet 2021. We advertised for 6 volunteers to join us to help with putting new plants in the four orchards, all to help provide for wildlife and people. The session will be from 17:00 – 18:30 and we have attracted all 6 volunteers that we requested, so the event is now full. We were also successful in attracting some Oranje Fonds funding for the event. This will really help to add some diversity to the nettle orchard and to help us attract more volunteers. The main intention of the evening is to create a herb spiral in the nettle orchard.

On Friday evening we will be doing the following:
1. Driving in a durable root barrier around the edge of the spiral. This is to prevent runners from an invasive raspberry to get into the eventual spiral.
2. Fill the base of the circle with gravel.
3. Layer reclaimed stone / tiles and soil inside the circle, to create a raised spiral effect.
4. Fill the available spaces with organic herb plants.

The idea of a herb spiral is to provide a varied ecological niches which will allow us to grow plants, not usually able to thrive in the orchards.
Here is a list of the plants that we are going to try to include in the project:

Agrimony
Alliums
Basil
Betony
Borage
Bronze fennel
Calamint
Calendula
Chamomile
Chervil
Chicory
Cowslip
Greater celandine
Juniper
Lady’s mantle
Licorice grass
Marjoram
Mint varieties
Oregano
Orpine
Pimpernels
Primula
Rosemary
Rue
Scrophularia
Shiso
Valerian
Violets
Wood avens
Yarrow

Some of these prefer to grow in sunnier environments than we can usually provide. Some prefer more shady or sheltered situations. This is the purpose of the spiral. Here are a few images of herb spirals, either completed or in construction and found on the internet, to give you an idea of what the group is trying to achieve, together..

Please let us know if you have a wish list of herbs to add to the spiral, or the Orchards as a whole. We want for all of the regular volunteers and supporters of the project to be able to see at least a couple of herbs in the spiral, which make them feel wonderful!

We are also going to be making a lovely bug hotel soon, from natural materials. If you are interested to get involved in that or any of the other activities at the orchards, please say.

Help is always welcome and no experience is needed. Everyone is welcome to get involved.
Email: riverofherbs@gmail.com


April – May in the orchards

A short summary of what the River of Herbs volunteers are doing at the moment in the Orchards behind Huize Frankendael / Restaurant Merkelbach, on Monday mornings:

The plants are growing incredibly well and spring has certainly sprung!

Daslook – Wild garlic – Allium ursinum, is being removed from the paths and from directly around some of the special herbs in the beds. Here, it was clogging up one of the Acanthus plants, so that one now has more space to grow.

And here is was clogging up the pretty Pulmonaria – Lungwort. So that also has some breathing space again.

Pulmonaria officinalis

If you come to pluck Daslook from the orchards, you can help by taking individual leaves or flower/seed spikes from close to the edge of the paths. This helps to stop the Daslook spreading seed all over the paths.

Daslook spreading into a path

We took a lot of weeded-out Daslook home today ave I made a tasty batch of Daslook & walnut pesto.

Daslook Allium ursinum pesto

Labels – We have been adding small name boards on metal spikes, at strategic points around the orchards. They show the scientific binomials, Dutch and English names of the plants. Not all of the plants are labelled as it would look too busy but you can find your way around more easily and build your local plant knowledge by reading the boards.

Esdoorn – Sycamore seedlings – These spring up all over the place at the moment and would become a Sycamore tree forest, if we didn’t take action. Whilst we are working in the gardens or visiting to forage herbs, we pull up any sycamore seedlings that we see. They are quite easy to spot at the moment. If in doubt, we leave the seedlings in place.

New plants
Allium triquetrum – Three cornered garlic – Driekantig look. This is a spreading Allium which was donated by a volunteer. We are looking forward to the taste of this plant next year. It has been added to the Mint triangle.

We also asked Chris, the head gardener of Park Frankendael for a cutting of Guelderseroos – Cramp bark – Viburnum opulus. He generously helped and we are now nurturing a cutting in the Mushroom orchard, just inside the gate, near the Wormwood plants and the hedgehog stick-pile.

A fine onion- garlic taste
Planting Allium triquetrum

Herb spiral – We are working on a rustic herb spiral, in the nettle orchard. We plan to complete this project before the summer and need to:

  • Level the ground
  • Place slabs on the base
  • Build up the soil and stones in a spiral fashion
  • Plant with interesting herbs

Moving and placing the base slabs will take some strength so if you are willing and able, let us know!

Barefoot path – It’s time for us to tidy the edges and refill this steps! If you have any pinecones hanging around, feel free to drop them off at the barefoot path, in the Geranium orchard, or at one of the orchard gates. We will use other materials to full the steps. Previously they have been filled with chamomile plants, sand and other interesting materials.

Membership – We are hugely grateful to everyone who has joined our new membership scheme. After only two days, we have seven paying members and have raised enough funds to buy a new spade and other essential tools! We are looking forward to the first members only event! For information about how to become a Member and supporter of the River of Herbs, please see this page.

Volunteers welcome – We are a friendly group of Dutch and international gardeners. We meet at the orchards, behind Resataurant Merkelbach (Middenweg 72, Amsterdam), on Monday mornings (11am is a good time to find us) and we work with permaculture principles. If you would like to join us or find out more, please come along one Monday morning or email riverofherbs@gmail.com

RoH membership

River of Herbs is about creating and maintaining green urban spaces for the benefit of people, plants and wildlife. We garden in a way that hugely minimises costs but maximises benefits for the people and other creatures who enjoy and use the spaces. RoH was established and registered in 2012 as a way to bring free food and the ability to learn about herbs to whoever needs to learn. Our main focus since 2014 has been managing the Frankendael Orchards as a nature-centred permaculture foraging garden.

River of Herbs Orchards in Spring

Why membership?
We are a very resourceful group of volunteers from all around the globe. Throughout the year, we gather weekly in Park Frankendael to manage the public space. We use our own tools, make tea and snacks from the plants we weed out. We share, borrow, and sometimes even make our own tools, but there are some costs involved in keeping the River of Herbs spaces looking so beautiful.

Funds are needed for the occasional replacement of tools and the purchase of special plants or other specific materials. An example: we have begun labelling the edible and medicinal herbs in the Orchards. In this way, visitors gain more from their visits. We have chosen a low cost and pretty stylish option but we are paying for the labels from our own pockets. Another example: we are building a beautiful herb spiral and need to transport the necessary stones across town. Such actions cost money, and as much as we do this for love and from a belief that this is the right thing to do, we have decided that it is time to ask for your help.

A place to rest – Bench crafted by a RoH volunteer, from a tree that fell next to the orchards.

Affordable Membership
To help us move onward and have a greater impact, we have decided to open up membership to the River of Herbs. We aim to generate a regular trickle of income for the group’s activities.

Annual River of Herbs Membership costs just €5 and all funds go to running the River of Herbs Orchards in Park Frankendael. And, when funds permit, other similar spaces will be established and run by the River of Herbs group.

Wormwood – New plants to learn from -Planted in 2020

Where are the River of Herbs Orchards?
If you don’t yet know the River of Herbs Orchards, they are a wildlife haven and foraging mecca for ecologically-minded city people, in Amsterdam Oost. Situated behind Huize Frankendael and Restaurant Merkelbach, near the main old entrance of the park. The orchards are open to the public 24/7 and are a part of the park. They are neatly hedged and have wooden gates so that dogs do not enter. Mentioned in articles and interviews as the secret gardens of Amsterdam East, many foragers from Amsterdam and far afield visit to harvest and learn about local plants in a quiet, friendly space.


Member Benefits

  • Exclusive Events
  • Quarterly Newsletter
  • Consultation about New Project Ideas

We will add more incentives as time goes on but from the start:
As an RoH member, you will be invited each year to sign up for exclusive events, such as an Orchard tour, to learn the secrets and tastes of the gardens.

Additionally, you will be kept informed of new developments, via a quarterly newsletter. So you will be kept up to date on what is happening in the Orchards and other River of Herbs projects. As a RoH member, you will also be consulted about potential projects for River of Herbs to get involved with.

What else can we offer you as a thank you for supporting the project financially? Please let us know what you would value, as we are new to this and really want our supporters to feel appreciated as part of the project. Please email riverofherbs@gmail.com with your ideas.

Join Us Now
To become a member of the River of Herbs, please complete this short form and transfer your payment via Bank transfer (NL67 ABNA 0469 1075 53 – LM SHORE). Membership costs €5 per year (1 year membership, starting on the date you make your payment). You are very welcome to gift more to the project if you would like to or to gift membership to a friend. Please mention this on the form, if so.

The information which you complete on the form will be connected with your payment, when it is received. We will not share it with anyone else or any other party. We will send you a “River of Herbs: Thank you and Welcome!” email when we process your payment. Please allow 7 days for this process to happen. If you don’t hear from us by then, please email riverofherbs@gmail.com or call Lynn on 0627596930.

Happy Birthday Park Frankendael!

It was very exciting to be part of the beautiful celebration for Park Frankendael’s Jubilee. The park has been in existence for 30 years and in spite of COVID-19, there was a lovely socially distanced celebration, organised by the Friends of Frankendael. To mark this occasion a special jubilee magazine was created by the Friends and Lynn was interviewed about the River of Herbs Orchards. The River of Herbs project is featured in the lead Edible Park article, of the magazine along with the top restaurants and school gardens which we share the park with. The article is in Dutch, naturally, and features Lynn’s recipe for magic gin, using the flowers of the invasive week Himalayan Balsam. Let us know if you try it!

The magazine is well worth a read and can be purchased locally or directly from the Friends of Frankendael association (Vreinden van Frankendael).


More orchard videos

Have been removing creeping grass from the Geranium Orchard today. Nice to have a couple of visitors and enough green space so we could each forage or work in seperate orchards!
The Geranium Orchard today. Before the grass came out.
Grape hyacinth and Lungwort in flower.
Fairy Orchard – Looking for Sweet Cicely amongst the Wild garlic. Third time lucky in this clip. Sweet Cicely smells and tastes of aniseed. It also has soft delicate leaves.

Spring time

I’ve been spending a lot more time than usual in the River of Herbs Orchards – have been squeezing in some weeding and fresh air time between online teaching for my school. The regular RoH team have been doing beautiful things there as you’ll see. The woodchip paths were refreshed over the past couple of weeks and the nettle orchard has a new path and the beginnings of a herb spiral.

Here are a few photos and  video clips to share the green urban vibe.

New path and the beginnings of a herb spiral in the Nettle Orchard

Zen hedge trimming

Tomorrow morning in the Park Frankendael Orchards from about 9.30am, we’ll be continuing hand-pruning the massive hedges that wrap around the herb gardens. It seems to be off the Donkergroen work list and off the gemente/council list but they desperately need cutting.. and we don’t want them hacked into oblivion so last week we began plodding around them and will do this week by week, pruning the lot by hand.

Fancy helping for half an hour or so? Then join us in the morning, please bring along a pair of secateurs and a zen mentality 🙂 It’s certainly not a difficult job but it’s a big job!
It’s behind Huize Frankendael (restaurant Merkelbach). Call Lynn on 0627596930 if you’re not sure. But she’ll be communing with the hedges through the morning so won’t be checking messages much.

Join the team!

lungwort.jpg

We are urgently looking for volunteers to join the River of Herbs orchards team – would you like to join us?

Because our numbers have dropped recently due to changes in volunteer work days, we now have a tiny team and we need to expand!

Could you spare a couple of hours a week to help with light gardening with this friendly group?

We work organically, along Permaculture principles and in harmony with the local ecology and landuse partners

The orchards house old fruit trees and were set up as ethical foraging gardens in 2014 by Lynn and a fabulous team of enthusiastic nature lovers.

The four orchards are full of beautiful edible herbs, mushrooms, fruit trees and bushes and countless wildlife.

We like to experiment with interesting plants, share food from our foraged harvest and generally have a good time together.

Regular gardening restarts on

Monday 4th March,

10.00am.

If you need more information please email

Spring Planning Meeting

The days are getting longer. Before we know it, the world will be covered in a verdant carpet, spring flowers and buzzing friends will be everywhere!

It’s time to meet up and plan. To consider what we want to accomplish in the orchards and city this coming season.

On Sunday 10th February, we plan to meet at the Gardening Library in Transvaalbuurt. Time of gathering to be confirmed. 12.00 – 13.30

I’d love to see you there, if you want to get involved in any way with the River of Herbs project.

Seedbombs

Today we had mucky fun making seedbombs under the old cherry tree in the Park Frankendael orchards. We used our hands to mix gracefully aging seeds (collected, purchased and gifted over recent years) with terracotta clay powder, soil and just enough water. When the consistency felt right, we squeezed the mixture into small balls, just the right size to fit into egg cartons. When we ran out of egg cartons, we wrapped the rest of the seedbombs in newspaper strips.

These beautiful balls of latent life and colour are now drying out on my roof terrace. Once they have dried sufficiently, we will store them in our homes and then carry a few around, ready to launch into needy spaces at opportune moments. The intention is to launch them all by the end of October, spreading thousands of herb and flower seeds around the city, in pleasing spheres of goodness.

If you would like to make seeds bombs with us, feel free to come along to the orchards next Wednesday morning at about 11am. (Call me on 0627596930, if you want to join as the plan has changed, sorry for the late notice). If possible, bring along an empty egg carton and leave your best clothes at home.

If you know somewhere that could use some seed bomb enrichment, do let us know in the comments below. We will try to walk by and launch some love and seeds onto the location.