The Roots of Autumn 1

Autumnal Greetings from Central Otago, NZ.

March 25th, 2018

This week;

  • The first post on Autumnal Roots
  • My travels to North America and the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference
  • A link that did do quite a good coverage of what my ‘worldview’ is these days.
  • And a brief visit to a beautiful ‘Flower Power’ shop in Manhattan, NY.

The quote ‘Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ in his ‘To Autumn’ by John Keats must have taken root in my mind somehow and as the light changes so dramatically, some snow remaining on the higher mountain ranges after last weeks cold snap, mists that envelop, dissipate in the early morning warmth.  It is so beautiful.

This is indeed a time to investigate that which lies beneath, those roots that have taken hold somewhere. Roots that I am excited to be looking at and to be gathered again.

They are all so different;


The Arctium lappa, Burdock, with roots that penetrate deep within the Earth in a somewhat defined way (or should I say ‘purposeful’ way). One recent course participant saw Burdock as being the plant ‘Buddha’, solid, stable, present, commanding, all knowing, bringing insight’. I think now on reflection that it does exactly that when the ‘Healing Relationship’ is respected. It is not about how the plant can be used for this or that condition but more what it is about in its world that we can learn from.

That is a shift!

Burdock has a short life, 2 growing seasons depending when it germinates, if late in one it may extend into a third season, flower, spread abundant seeds and die. The roots however are best at the end of a full growing season, not when it develops its flowering head. And what nourishment they offer.

I make sure the ‘mother plant’ expresses herself fully, spreads abundant seeds and equally abundant new plants.   I also leave plenty to seed the next season.

Burdock is one of the plants I included in ‘The Biophilic Garden. Connecting People, Plants and Inscape’.

I made a delicious Burdock soup from young roots this year that germinated outside my door.

I slice and cook them in a little water with a diced potato.

In a separate pot, sauté onions, garlic, leeks, carrots, all in small pieces in a little olive oil until starting to brown. Cover well with hot water. Add the cooked Burdock, 1 tbsp of Tomato puree, salt and pepper and a chilli. If I have the rind of Parmesan I will add that as well.

 I add a chopped bunch of parsley, some dried Thyme and a few sprigs of Seaweed at this point – Nori types or in NZ ‘Karengo or Parengo’. This is such good ‘Food as Medicine’ not to mention delicious.

More roots next week.


♣ I will be teaching a 3 day ‘Plant Immersion, Incubation and Inspiration’ prior to the Mid-West Woman’s Herbal Conference at Camp Helen Blackman, Wisconsin.

♣ I will also be presenting a keynote at that Conference on ‘The Plant/Person Relationship’, (stories, experiences and insights), a couple of mornings engaging the plant world at sunrise and a slightly different take on Case note taking as a Practitioner.

I hope you can join what is an amazing Conference for women of all ages and stages.

♣ I was delighted to be interviewed by the Women’s Liberation Radio News as a part of the Conference.

That interview can be listened to here;
Flower Power A perfect name for a great shop in New York. I will be there briefly – exact time to be confirmed. Check with Lata

Lastly I would like to take this opportunity to say how much I am looking forward to ‘Tulsi Queen of Herbs’ by Tish Streeten and her team. Tish is the film biographer of the grand mother of many of us, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, called ‘Juliette of the Herbs’. This next film is of a different kind, of the Plant ‘Tulsi’ the sacred basil.


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Stinging Nettle and Potato Soup

It is early Spring and the week ahead looks as though it will be a return to winter. My mind turns to soup.

The Winter/Spring nettle is the annual nettle, the Urtica urens. It is thought that they are not quite as nutritious as the perennial nettle, the Urtica dioica, but they are still pretty good with an abundance of Minerals and Vitamins. The perennial nettle is only beginning its growth here now so if you have nettles then they will be the annual ones that I have cut today. I like them young and tender.


2 onions, 2-3 cloves garlic, 1 large potato or two smaller ones, a bunch of nettles, stock, salt and pepper.

I slice the onions and garlic and saute them in 2-3tbsp of extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes before adding the peeled, sliced and cut potatoes.

Stinging Nettle Urtica urens

Cook all gently until slightly browned. Add 4-6 cups of hot water, stir. I prepare the nettles by cutting off the tender ends and the leaves from the tougher stalk. Add to the above together with a tbsp of miso and/or tomato paste or other stock, 1 tsp salt and pepper. (I use the ‘Urban Hippy’ miso as stock for most soups.

Simmer until the potatoes are soft then process in a blender.

The soup.

This is creamy, delicious and in great danger of being eaten before the weather returns to winter!

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Late Winter Salad Greens

On the top row, left to right;

It is surely a sign of Spring when these Dandelion Greens grow. They are tender and almost sweet. Next is of course the cool Chickweed, still great but starting to go a little leggy. More will still grow of course. The rosette of Evening Primrose’s leaves, second season prior to flowering are soft and sweet, followed by an assortment of beet greens – yellow, red and green.

The second row from left to right;

A new and most welcome addition to the garden and salads throughout the year – the Plantago minutina, a small plantain. These leaves are crisp, grow all winter, are perennial and produce thousands of seeds. What more could one ask for? Next to that, the equally welcome Miners lettuce or Winter Purslane. It is only around for winter and early spring so I make the most of it. Next to that and slightly higher is a single leaf of Sheep’s sorrel, sour, juicy, totally invasive but a great addition. Lastly and quite the opposite is the highly fragrant, Anise Hyssop that as its name suggests has a mild aniseed flavour. Outside here it is an annual but a perennial in my tunnel house.

The third row from left to right;

First the spicy Upland Cress, then Endive (a little bitter), early chives – always great to see these in the late winter, and crunchy Pak choi leaves and flowers.

The fourth row from left to right;

The young leaves of a giant mustard that keeps coming up, very ‘hot’, then the annual Rocket that grows well here outside in winter, new Fennel growth (chop leaves and stem), and Salad Burnet who adds a mild cucumber taste to the salad.

I finely chop these sixteen plants that grow here in late winter, add some small squares of avocado and feta cheese, all dressed with a garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. It is delicious. Fresh, crisp and great tastes to stimulate any digestive malaise of lockdown or late winter/early spring.

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A Women’s Health and Wellbeing Kete Volume II

Book Launch Dec 18th, 2020 at Viriditas, Central Otago, New Zealand

Mary Allan and I launched our second volume of ‘A Women’s Health and Wellbeing Kete’, in the Viriditas garden along with 40-50 plant people, gardeners, herbalists, friends and family. What an amazing gathering – there were some extraordinary growers and gardeners and it was fun.

WE served Elder Flower fizz, Terra Sancta’s Aperitivo Botanica, (thanks to Sarah Elliot), a delicious Anthocyanin loaded purple/red alcohol free cool drink, but it was Anna Mathieson’s finger food (vegan) that excited taste buds. It is rare that I, in all my 40 years of offering courses about plants that a course participant has brought such amazing Vegan food to our shared lunches. Anna I believe, just has an innate instinct for what works. I also believe that any non-vegan would be astonished.

I don’t normally read a book after it is published but I have with this one. Yes, there are disappointingly, a few grammatical errors and ambiguities BUT today after spending time with my ‘go to’ tree and small water pool, I realised that I was looking for/reading for something else.

I wrote most of these ‘Plant Journeys’ during Lockdown in NZ in April, 2020, and the ensuing months of Covid restrictions. I became quite sensitized to this ‘Inscape’ and its complex relationships, writing as I was experiencing each plant, each journey, searching for each plant’s wholeness, its mystery, and doing my best to connect, respect and consider.

I see it now. Each plant is unique. Connecting with each plant is a journey. Each plant has its inner world and outer  in-forming.

Mainstream Science analyses a plant’s chemical complexity but its inner world is more, much more. In holistic Science all of the individual plant’s relationships are taken into consideration and what the plant expresses in terms of itself. Ginkgo written in this Volume II expresses this so well.

Quote from Volume II re Ginkgo Biloba

Lifting the ‘veil’?

You are able to withstand the assaults on the wellbeing of all that lives (nuclear fallout, pollution) your leaves are tough (not surprisingly), but to me you represent the brains of all mammals, divided but one. There is always a dual conversation that goes on in the human brain, the right side – creative, the left side – analytical. I am seeing that you bring these two sides together, as one. The economic world that sees that they can make profit from their products, harnesses one side but if we understand or at least try to then we might just glimpse what Goethe saw that we are one and two. This brings tears to my eyes. I see Gingko biloba as an ancient one bringing understanding from the past into today’s world, being a plant of healing for our time of the dispirit ways, a time to bring together the two sides of us, the right – seeing/thinking/creating and left – analytical. I now think it is a plant for today’s world, to cross the Natural world/Human world interface, the past/present understandings.

Ka kite ano, Isla

(More on 2021 offerings – next post SOON.)

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A Women’s Health and Wellbeing Kete Volume 11


November 2020
A knowledge basket is by its nature an offering for all

One of the pluses about this very unusual year was to write a companion volume to

‘A Women’s Health and Wellbeing Kete’ A DIY Guide. Mary Allan designed and edited as for volume 1 and has transformed it into a beautiful production.

It is now with the printers and will be in our hands by December 15th, 2020

This book develops further immersions into the plant world with a focus on Women’s Wellness including nutritional and herbal help for women of all stages and ages. Case studies are included to provide further insights. Its essence is one of always considering ‘wholeness’ whether it be about a plant or a person with a health issue.

Volume 11 does refer to the first Volume and while there is much that allows it to stand alone, these two books go together beautifully and would make a wonderful gift! 

“It feels you have revolutionised plant fact-sheets by creating a ‘fact-sense-sheet’. It opens up more curiosity rather than providing concrete, fixed answers. Fantastic!”
Roland Playle
Àiteas, A Delicate Empiricism: belonging and the Natural World

You are able to pre-order your copy from

Price: $40.00 (incl P@P) for NZ and Australia. For others please contact me directly.

If ordering both volumes the cost will be $60.00 – a saving of $10.00 (shipping will be included).

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Gathering Your Knowledge Basket (Kete)

Viriditas LogoI am happy to announce my first on-line workshop. I must thank Linda Conroy for the inspiration to do this in these times where finding ‘Not Knowing as a Place of Ease’ is so needed – at least for me.
This on-line workshop is to bring participants into my kitchen and take you through preparing some of the amazing gifts that the Natural World offers. Linda will be present also asking questions, clarifying and you will also be able to ask questions.
The course fee of US$48 for this workshop that includes  a recorded interview that Linda made with me on the topic of Biophilia (the subject of my 2nd book The Biophilic Garden). She came here to participate in a ‘Plant Immersion, Incubation and Inspiration ‘ retreat. Your course fee will include a copy of my third book:  A Women’s Health and Well Being  KETE A DIY Guide  by Isla Burgess and Mary Allan.
The book will be shipped to those in the US and New Zealand at no extra cost. For those in other parts of the world there will be a fee for shipping. 
This is a great opportunity to be a part of this workshop with us both.
We are two plant lovers, two Herbalists, gardeners and medicine makers’.  More than than that we care about the Natural World.
The Workshop will deepen our understanding of herbs and their qualities that can nourish and build health.
Some of the inquiries we will make include:
~Why do we need more Silica as we age? What plants have this in abundance? How do  we extract it with respect to the plant?
~What are Anthocyanins? How can you prepare a super rich Anthocyanin drink?
~Can you make your own Cannabis root oil? Why would you want to?
And much more….
I hope you will join us.
Please register with;



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April 30th, 2020

Today as I write this it is Samhain (Sowan), one of the two Celtic Fire Celebrations that later became all Souls Eve. That seems quite an important memory to hold for this ‘changing’ world when so many souls are departing the Earth.

It is also the celebration of the harvest, the end of Apple gathering and I can attest that the Rosehips – same botanical family – are best gathered before this day.

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Photo – Rosehips

It is also the time of root gathering and preparing.

Today in the Southern Hemisphere we welcome the dark nights and shorter days, but with ‘fire’. The fiery colours of deciduous trees and herbs (Rosehips, Witch Hazels), the fiery nature of many roots and fruits (Horseradish and Cayenne peppers) that are so important for our health and wellbeing.

Holding that thought, my latest book (A Women’s Health and Wellbeing Kete, a DIY Guide) that Mary Allan transformed with her editing, design and photographic skills into a book that has beauty and grace and is I am happy to say, popular, with over 200 copies sold. Thank you to all of those readers.

This book is a beautiful photo-rich A-Z guide expertly written to inspire women to look to their garden and into the wilds for plant medicine that will inspire, empower and uplift them, carrying them into a place of improved wellbeing.

This book is for:

  • The gardeners, plant lovers and plant medicine makers
  • Those who offer plant focused teachings and workshops and those who attend them
  • All those who wish to enhance their own health and that of their families
  • For Women at all ages and stages

COVER FINAL DRAFT webPhoto – Cover

We are planning on Volume Two.

You can order your copy from;

In NZ and Australia

Mary Allan

Isla Burgess

In North America;

From Linda Conroy www.

Elsewhere, please contact us.

The ‘thinning of the veils’ between worlds at this time and again at October 31st, is a time to re-think our contribution to the Natural World’s demise, maybe it is also an opportunity to consider how to take time to connect more intimately with the other life forms that we share the planet with. I hope so.

Arohanui to all,



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“Not Knowing as a place of ease”

With Isla Burgess, Viriditas Herbal Resources and Publishing

I am reminding myself of this daily as my ‘safe havenising’ continues; for me this is week four. There is chaos, complexity and entropy manifesting globally.

I am making the most of the extra time I find I have, to gather, prepare, preserve, pickle and freeze both plants for medicine as well as food. The garden here, (for those who have read my regular blogs in the past and have continued as my life got busier and blog writing irregular), is now incredibly productive. I see the idea of what I wanted to co-create starting to evolve. There are more than 150 medicinal plants growing here now, planted, native and newly naturalised. Fruit and nut trees, and a myriad of food plants are now well established. Just in time I feel for this extraordinary challenge ahead.

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The ‘Traditions, Art and Science of Herbal Medicine’ courses I offer here at ‘Viriditas’and the retreat in March, do have as a focus knowing what plants grow around us, knowing what healing they offer and how best to access that healing. This the plants offer, for the exchange of mutual respect and due consideration to their long-term survival. That is I think, how the land here, in the wilds of Central Otago attracts so many course participants.

During my time here I have written ‘The Biophilic Garden. Connecting People, Plants and Inscape’ and last year ‘A Women’s Health and Wellbeing Kete A DIY Guide’. The latter with Mary Allen, Herbalist, Photographer and great Editor. They are both available from my website. Books


I have been thinking about how to be more pro-active in this time when we are shielding ourselves from an invisible kind of life form that needs living cells to survive.

I have written the following for anyone who might just find it useful. It is available using the following link;

Staying Well in a Changing World

Isla Burgess, Viriditas Centre for Herbal Resources and Viriditas Publishing.

Stay well.

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A Changing World

April 10th 2020

Some thoughts on today’s world.

Viruses such as Covid – 19  don’t just mysteriously materialise from nothing – human’s have a hand in its emergence somewhere along the line.

Whatever we think about cause does in some way depend on our ‘world view’.

Is it that the endangered Pangolin illegally trafficked carried the virus?

Is it that the virus escaped from the research facility near the market in Wuhan?

Is it one country’s plan to destroy others economic power (or other conspiratorial theories)?

Is it that the warming of the climate triggered an epigenetic change in similar viruses?

Is it that ‘Gaia’ has simply had enough of the damage human’s have inflicted on her wellbeing?

Whatever the trigger, this time of having our freedom curtailed in some way, our way of life changed, does give us time to reflect, hopefully on how we contribute the wellbeing of the whole of the Natural World.

Knowing the plants that grow around us, how to sustainably gather those plants, how to best prepare them has never been more important. That weedy patch in your back yards likely contains more nourishment that any vegetable you buy from the supermarket.

The enormous range of nutrients in the following ‘pesto’ is a reminder of just how easy this can be;

Autumn Herb and Wild Weed Pesto



A great way to consume as many plants as possible.

The secret here is to only have 1-2 leaves of stronger tasting plants and more of others.

Yesterday I picked a few leaves of Dandelion, Rocket, Baby Silver beet, Puha, Parsley, French sorrel, Chickweed, Basil, Chives, Garlic chives, Beetroot leaves, Kale leaves, Nasturtium leaves, Mint leaves, young Celery stalk and a few Calendula flowers;

2-3 leaves of Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Yarrow, Wild Mallow, Fennel, Evening Primrose leaves, young Horseradish leaf.

These are chopped and added to a blender with ½ cup of lightly toasted Sunflower seeds or Sesame seeds and 2-3 cloves of Garlic. I add 1/4c vinegar to ¾ olive oil and blend until smooth. My neighbour’s young children loved it as do all course participants that visit here.

It is hard to believe how such a mix could taste so good, as well as being totally nourishing. Eat with cheese, on salads, as a dip with carrots or crackers, with fritters or fish. Used as a spread in place of butter or avocado.

Stay well, the impact on the planet of this reduction in movement around the world, reduction in the use of Earth’s resources, might just allow us to survive as a species.



Thought for today

How can we be well if we cause suffering to other life forms?”

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A new book and upcoming workshops


I am excited to launch this new book with Mary Allan as both Editor and Designer/Photographer. Mary has aded beauty and grace to the writing, it has been a pleasure to work with her 
This book is for
– The gardeners, plant lovers and plant medicine makers
– Those who offer plant focused teachings and workshops and those who attend them
– For those who wish to enhance their own health and that of their families
– For Women at all ages and stages
A knowledge basket is by its nature an offering for all
Publication date:
We should have it before Christmas, it is currently with the Printers.
Available from me at
Cost approx. $25.00 plus P&P
Also announcing a ‘Plant Immersion, Incubation and Inspiration’ Workshop in
Tasmania in February 22nd and 23rd. 2020

Held at Pindari Farm, Longford, Tasmania!

This two-day plant directed workshop is about relationship

the relationships the plants that grow around us have with us and we have with them. It is also about both our relationship with the planet. We set the scene so we can be a participant in those relationships and not just an observer.

Whether you are a gardener, plant lover, grower, herbal medicine practitioner or student. If you are interested in how to live in a wholistic relationship with the world around you. All say they are inspired and experience something they have not previously experienced?

It is Practical, Participatory, Transformational and Experiential!!

Cost #345.00 (includes onsite accommodation)

For further information or enquiries, contact Jayne on 0455379595 or

email: or via Community Apothecary FB page


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