UNION — What do you get if you add the letters i, a, and n onto the word physic?
You get physician and when you do that you begin to understand where the Piedmont Physic Garden gets its name from.
Horticulturalist Billy McBee said that the physic in Piedmont Physic Garden comes from the word physician because long before medicines were produced in chemical plants, they were made from actual plants cultivated and/or gathered by physicians and others.
“Take the willow tree for example,” McAbee said recently. “Pioneers used to take willow bark, crush it and soak it in water. The bark contains salycetic acid which is better known as aspirin. They could dry the bark or soak it and get early aspirin.”
The medicinal properties of plants will be the subject of “Let’s Get Physic-al,” a workshop conducted by McAbee at the Piedmont Physic Garden this Saturday from 10 a.m.-noon. During the workshop, McAbee will teach those in attendance about traditional herbs and how to incorporate them into their daily lives.
McBee said that he will have a large collection of plants, mostly herbs that have familiar culinary uses as well as medicinal ones, on hand to show those attending the workshop. He said he will explain how these plants can still be used for medicinal purposes today. McBee said the historical background and use of these plants will also be presented during the workshop, pointing out that some of these plants were being used for medicinal purposes by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago. He said the workshop will be a hands-on experience for those in attendance as he will be passing around the samples of the plants for them to examine and ask questions about.
A Union native with a horticultural degree from the University of Georgia, McBee has over 43 years of professional experience, including employment with Brookgreen Gardens and Carter and Holmes.
In addition to discussing Saturday’s workshop, McBee also discussed the difference between horticulture and botany.
“Horticulture is the study of cultivated plants as opposed to botany which is the pure science,” McBee said. “Cultivated plants can be natural plants, say a Camellia Japonica. Those are found in Japan and China and were brought here two or three hundred years ago. A lot of these landscaping plants we have now date from the 1700s and before. As long as people have been coming here they’ve brought plants.
“What horticulturalists and nurserymen do is take a Camellia with desirable characteristics which could be, for example, a change in the flower,” he said. “You have a pink one and you plant the seeds and get a red one or a white or stripped flower. Also, you get genetic aberrations. You’d have a pink flower and you have a branch come off with red or stripped flowers. You cut that off and root it. They usually call these ‘sports.’”
McBee added that Saturday’s workshop will also provide those in attendance with a general overview of the Physic Garden itself so as to “get people to know what we’re doing here.”
The workshop will be held at 301 E. South Street in Union. To register for the “Let’s Get Physic-al” workshop, please email email@example.com or call 864-427-2556. Space is limited. The cost is $10.
The Piedmont Physic Garden
Located on four contiguous lots stretching from 301 E. South Street to 217 S. Mountain St. in Union, the Piedmont Physic Garden is inspired by the Chelsea Physic Garden, a small botanical garden located in London, England. Plans are for the garden to eventually include an apothecary garden that will feature plants with historical medicinal uses, many of them native to the Piedmont as well as the southern Appalachian corridor. In the long-term, the properties will be converted into a campus that will house several ornamental garden areas, and the existing homes used for housing interns and visiting faculty.
The lots for the Piedmont Physic Garden were donated by the families of Dr. and Mrs. Paul Switzer and the Honorable and Mrs. Jack Flynn. PPG Founder Toccoa W. Switzer said that is it hoped that the garden will become a resource for the community as well as a tourism destination that is pleasing to the spirit.
PPG is a 501 (c) (3) organization whose mission is horticultural and environmental education for children, teens and adults in Union County and the surrounding Piedmont region of South Carolina.
The Piedmont Physic Garden will be the site of “Let’s Get Physic-al,” a workshop conducted by Horticulturalist Billy McBee this Saturday from 10 a.m.-noon. The workshop will look at the medicinal uses of plants.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.