Medicinal herb gardens are not just limited to arboretums and botanical gardens. Local herbalist Irena Stathis believes anyone can grow their own with a few tools and basic know-how of herbs.
While teaching classes at the LA County Arboretum about plant medicine and body healing with herbs, Stathis got a lot of questions from her students about a more in-depth program to learn about medicinal plants.
“During that time, when I was teaching classes, I would get questions a lot from my students, people who were coming to my classes saying where can I learn more about this? Are you going to do a more in-depth program? People were asking for it. And I had been thinking about it for a while, offering an apprenticeship with the plants and with me. So in 2019, I just decided to go for it and start my own little school where I could offer more of these classes and do immersive programs and more long-term study programs. So that’s how it got started,” Stathis told Pasadena Now in an interview.
She started the Flowering Earth School of Herbalism in 2019, which offers workshops and immersive hands-on programs on healing through plants.
Her desire to help other people feel better through the natural way, is what motivated Stathis to start the school and share her knowledge.
“They need to know that there’s another option, another path that could help them take care of themselves and feel better. And that really motivated me to want to start teaching,” Stathis said.
As a young child, Stathis didn’t grow up with a family member who is a botanist or a herbalist but she always had a strong yearning to be “immersed in nature.”
As she got older, she became more interested in the healing properties of plants. “I just sort of had this innate sense that there was a natural way that the body could heal itself. I would kind of refuse medications. I just didn’t want to take even Tylenol.”
Because of her growing interests, she ended up taking a herbalism course.
“That was the beginning for me of wanting to keep that kind of relationship going with plants, a healing relationship with the plants. It took me some time to eventually commit myself to a path of herbalism as my career.”
To date, aside from offering classes that explore the many pathways of healing with plant medicines via one’s own personal connection to the plants and the Earth, Stathis also handcrafts botanical beauty products, hydrosols, herbal teas, extracts, essences, and balms from the plants in her garden and those that she carefully tends in the wild.
Her advice to people who want to start their own garden: find a plant that they can grow.
According to Stathis, fall is the perfect season to plant an herb, but people can also plant during summer time and they can start with planting Basil or Rosemary, which are some of the plants that don’t mind the summer heat.
“Basil is actually one of my really favorite medicinal herbs. There are many different kinds of basil. In food, we use a lot of them as culinary herbs, but it’s also just a really amazing medicinal plant. And it does well in pots. So it’s a good one for containers or for a pot. And it does like the sun. And again, as I said, it can handle the summer heat. But you can grow it indoors in a sunny window,” Stathis said.
Amid the drought conditions across the country, Stathis said it makes sense to grow plants that can easily adapt and plants that are going to require less water such as native plants.
According to Stathis, the care required for plant growth differs from plant to plant.
“There’s definitely some herbs that require very low maintenance and not that much water. And then there are some other herbs that are a little bit more particular about their environment. And you might need to give them some extra care and a little bit more water than some of your other herbs,” Stathis said.
This Saturday, June 25, Stathis will offer a hands-on workshop exploring the joy and beauty of a medicinal herb garden at Bob Lucas Branch Library at 2659 Lincoln Ave. Altadena.
The workshop will look into different ways to approach designing the garden, how to start the plants from seeds and cuttings and which plants to choose to begin a garden.
For more information on the workshop, visit: www.altadenalibrary.org/programs/ For more information on consultations, apothecary products and upcoming class offerings of Flowering Earth School of Herbalism, visit: floweringearthschool.com.