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Women’s Healing Garden: open and blossoming

Katie Condon

The Women’s Healing Garden, a new plant bed within the Mills Botanical Garden, opened Wednesday, Oct. 3 after a year of hard work.

The 45-minute afternoon opening included speeches by Garden Coordinator Christina McWhorter and Merri Gordon, a 2007 Mills graduate whose research on women’s healing inspired the garden. The speeches included discussions about the selected plants and design of the garden.

The Women’s Healing Garden is part of the many changes in the Botanic Garden. In addition to serving as a living laboratory for biology students, the Garden has established a new California native plants section in time for the dedication of the natural sciences building.

Based on Gordon’s research, the Healing Garden stemmed from an independent study during her senior year. A biology major, she researched plants that have been traditionally used in women’s physical and spiritual healing and designed the garden with McWhorter’s help.

Through the summer, McWhorter and Gordon worked on the garden, even enlisting the help of McWhorter’s dad to build a Jasmine trellis.

“Working on the garden was a relief. I am really proud of it, really happy,” Gordon said.

Gordon said she still lives in the area and is preparing to go to graduate school.

Originally, Gordon just wanted to add to the Healing Plant tour
on campus as her independent study, but decided instead to focus specifically on plants used in women’s healing. Such plants include Chamomile, Comfrey, Echinacea and Lavender.

“I focused specifically on women, how they have been agents in their own health care by using plants,” Gordon said.

According to Gordon and McWhorter, the design of the garden was of as much importance as the plants themselves.

The garden features a circle at the middle with a “healing bowl,” a blue pot where people are encouraged to add healing objects. McWhorter said she hoped it would be a place for communal discussion and healing.

“There is something whole about a circle,” McWhorter said. “It is a space for the community to come and have a quiet moment and foster healing in whatever way.”

She said the design was also influenced by labyrinths that can be used for contemplative walking.

Tucked away in a corner of the Botanic Garden, the Women’s Healing Garden is a quiet oasis. During a healing ceremony that rounded off Wednesday’s opening, only birds could be heard.

McWhorter said, “Any community member can have a meditative presence as they walk the path and connect with the plants.”