Recipe Collected by Razan Lillie

Have any leftover bananas no one will eat? Freeze them! You can make a delicious ice-cream out of them. This recipe can easily be modified but the core aspect is extremely basic.


2 Frozen Ripe Bananas
2-4 oz. of almond or coconut milk
1 scoop chocolate/vanilla protein powder


Cut bananas in fourths and freeze them (at least overnight/12hrs). Place them in a blender, add protein powder (if you would like), add a little bit of milk. Pulsate until smooth. You may need to add a little bit more of your milk.    Sometimes, I add a cup of spinach. This is usually tasteless and adds a healthy kick. You can turn this into mint chocolate chip ice cream easy by adding bits of dark chocolate and a drop or two of mint extract. I’ve added strawberries, pistachios, peanut butter, cinnamon, etc.


Vegan Basil Cashew Pesto



Recipe Collected by Razan Lillie

The cashews give this pesto a rich filling creaminess. The recipe can be (and perhaps SHOULD be!) modified easily according to your self/collective resources and tastes. I used green tomato, kale, and pepper for this recipe because we harvested an abundance from the UIC Heritage Garden. I’ve made this with zucchini noodles for a vegan pasta, a stir-in for sauteed vegetables or/and used the rest of it as a light dip for veggies or chips. The pesto can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Otherwise, it could/should be frozen. 

5 medium cloves garlic (according to taste)
Pinch coarse kosher/sea salt
4 cups basil leaves (about 5 ounces total)
1 cup raw unsalted cashews
1 generous tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil, less/more as needed
1 Hot green pepper (optional)
1 Green Tomato (optional)
Other options- parsley, kale, bell pepper, oregano, black pepper etc.

Place your cup of raw cashews in water overnight. They should get soak up some water and gain volume. This will allow the dip to be really light and blend smooth. The next morning, rinse the basil leaves and whatever other greens you would like (I’ve added a bit of Kale before) well and transfer them to a food processor without drying them. Add the cashews, pepper, lemon juice, tomato, pepper and garlic. Puree to achieve the desired consistency.

With the motor running, gradually add the oil to form an emulsified pesto. Taste, and add water (for consistency) or salt as needed. Transfer to a container; if not using right away, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto before sealing and refrigerating for up to 3 days.

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Guillermo's planting story



 “life is much simpler. My family rides horses to get from one place to another and bathes in the river to conserve water. It makes you really appreciate the beauty of nature and everything it has to offer.”  ------Guillermo Quezada

Story Collected by Zainab Shirazi

I recently spoke with Guillermo Quezada, a young man in his early twenties, about his Mexican heritage and the familial practices that have defined who he is as an individual. Guillermo has grown up with many struggles—one of the greatest being his family’s immigration from Mexico to the United States years before he was even born. While his father had spent a majority of his life traveling back and forth from Mexico, his mother had only come to America a year before Guillermo was born. Growing up with a closely-knit family, he was often surrounded by comfort in a foreign world that proved completely different from life back in Mexico. He has grown up feeling a sense of responsibility to provide for his family as well as preserve his cultural background despite a completely urbanized American society tempting him to do otherwise.

            Guillermo has been back to visit the Mexican town of Michoacán four times since he was born; each time he is reminded of the immense differences between his daily life in Chicago and the typical practices back in Mexico. He told me of the miles and miles of vast land that have been passed through his family for generations. The land is used to grow vegetables that they harvest for themselves as well as sell to local stores, allowing them to live a humble life. “Back in Mexico”, Guillermo remembered, “life is much simpler. My family rides horses to get from one place to another and bathes in the river to conserve water. It makes you really appreciate the beauty of nature and everything it has to offer.” There are very few roads, and the communities are small, which forces the people to share materials and food amongst each other. No materials would ever be wasted, because his family would make daily trips to the market, only buying as much as was needed for that day. Cheap resources such as flour are used often because it is one of the most economically stable materials. Everything would be harvested by hand because the machines could not mount the steep hills where the produce grew, eliminating the harmful effects of pollution. As his story unfolded, it became clear to me that Guillermo’s true home was, and always would be, Mexico because of the rich cultural practices that have shaped who he is as an individual, as well as how he contributes to society.

            A few years ago, in his Chicago home, Guillermo’s mother maintained a small, but beautiful, garden in which she would plant basil, tomatoes, chilies, mint, and most abundantly—bush upon bush of red roses. He shared with me the religious meaning behind these roses: his mother was a firm believer in St. Juan Diego, who is characterized as having a cloak full of beautiful red roses. I believe that these roses serve as a symbol for the significance of cultural practice in environmental sustainability even in the urbanized city of Chicago. Guillermo then told me of the reason that this garden no longer existed; people in his neighborhood would destroy the garden by ruining the vegetables and pulling the roses off the bushes. This ultimately opened my eyes to the struggles that we will encounter as we strive to raise awareness about environmental significance in a society that represents the epitome of industry and urbanization.

            As I listened to Guillermo reflect on his past experiences, I realized that there is so much depth and meaning behind the memories that he shared with me. As he reflected on how his cultural practices in Mexico represent such an environmentally sustainable lifestyle, I began to realize that we choose to live the harmful lifestyles that we do merely for the purpose of convenience or even, at times, laziness. But it is only ignorance that can prevent us from gaining appreciation for the environment that surrounds us, and educating ourselves with cultural backgrounds such as Guillermo’s can inspire us to take action in our own daily lives. 

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The garden yard story



Occasionally we were permitted to pick the vegetables in my Grandmother’s presence.  Prior to that, I thought flowers grew beautifully in the ground on its own without any assistance.   I was truly wrong.
Story collected by Victoria McClain

As a child I remember growing up seeing my mother watering her potted plants in the apartment.  I never thought anything of it at the time. I knew I wanted to help but I was too young to carry the water.  Then one day I was at my Grandmother’s house visiting with my brother and my cousin, when my Grandmother requested our help in her garden.  My grandmother’s garden consisted of beautiful rose bushes that aligned the sidewalk of her home; some planters of various exotic flowers, and a small vegetable garden on the side of her home. We were only permitted to go to her flower garden to pick the weeds and water the grass.  The vegetable garden was off limits; my Grandmother was afraid we would damage the vegetables.  Occasionally we were permitted to pick the vegetables in my Grandmother’s presence.  Prior to that, I thought flowers grew beautifully in the ground on its own without any assistance.   I was truly wrong.

Working in a garden or yard is hard work.   After that experience in the yard I never wanted to help again.  My Grandmother did not care that we did not like gardening.  We all had to help, including my Grandmother’s adult children.  You see, my Grandmother was raised on a farm where they grew various crops and slaughtered cows and pigs.   My Grandmother, Alice Askew, was born to sharecroppers in Columbus, Mississippi in 1931.  During the “Great Migration” my Grandmother came to Chicago and settled on the westside of Chicago in the Austin Community. 

Growing up I would spend many summers at my Grandmother’s home; helping her in the garden planting seeds, pulling weeds, and watering her plants.  My mother told me that my Grandmother has always had a garden, since she could remember.   My Mother also said that this why she has to have potted plants; it reminds her of her mother’s garden and her grandmother’s garden.  After my great mother stopped sharecropping, she moved to Memphis and had a garden in her yard.  My mother would go in the yard with her “Big Ma” and pick vegetables from her garden to be cooked for dinner.  I remember the summer of 2009 before my Grandmother past; she told me to go get some vegetables out of her garden.  I picked some of the sweetest green tomatoes I had ever had.

I have always had an affinity for plants and being sustainable.  I think that has a lot to do with being raised around plants and gardens.  I remember watching my Mother and Grandmother love their plants with sunshine and water.  Also they would hold conversations with them.  It is funny how children repeat what they see as adults; I now find myself talking to plants whenever I am gardening.    

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Collected by Razan Lillie

Sharing with the beautiful phenomena the political/spiritual nurturing rupturance, Krupa---

Krupa: i started doing graffiti because of mehndi, but that's a different story

in india, my mom, grandma, and my aunt would grow a ton of desi plants in the small plot we had left after the new neoliberal government stole our land and my grandma had to sell the rest because she was a single mother.

mehndi is a funny plant. it stains your fingers as soon as you grab it from the plant. in gujarati, the word for plant/scrub is "choaud" which also means "release it." me and my family would harvest the leaves, dry them under suraj-dada (grandpa sun). then grind them to a powder, add some tea (cha) and water. there was a time that we put on mehndi the traditional way -- with twigs -- but the new neoliberal government was giving us this new object called plastic, so we later stared rolling up plastic, paper, and tape cylinders to pour the paste onto our bodies.

i have been blessed with having met so many arabs, desis, and even burmese relatives who i have been able to re/member our relationships to the other herb...

my relationship with mehdni has always been inherently social. and that's been the intention of the creator for putting both mehndi and people in the same time-space together. its not really one i want to describe in words because it's a feeling that is only understood through community. i am deeply grateful for it. and it's funny because none of what i learned about mehndi came through books. it didnt even come to me through my family, though they played a huge role. what allowed me to create new meaning with mehndi as being around people in the struggle. becca talks about how she feels alive in the struggle with community. gabe talked about his philipino friends who were intentional about their identity when they were in a white town. i share many sentiments from their reflections...


Razan: Krupa’s wild stories paint regenerative protective ink on my own skin, soul and mind. Her gardens weave themselves and unravel within me---:

In another world, our hands collide as we reach to pluck the same mehndi leaf.
                                   Dragon and fish we dance into fires and oceans, soothing hysteria and burning death.
                                   We dance in the same body. Tracing revolution with a burning grace.

In another world, we give birth to our descendants.
Gathering silk to cover our skins.
Stargazing every night side by side. Our kohled eyes giving belief to the supernatural mystics that come out at night to sing and dance our protection.

In another world, I braid her long, strong mehndi dyed hair. 
I am just another depth of her being. The strong curling roots of her hair.

In another world, we collect healing charms in abundance. 
Our divine manifestation always breathing.
Our souls never knowing the fear of robbery.
In another world, our marriage is celebrated.
Prayer precedes existence.
                                 And we are metal pots. Drop us on the floor inviting us to be shined once again.
In another world, we are mehndi leaves growing side by side.
                                 A young gurl and her sisters invite us into their homes.
                                 We stain their fingers with our agency as they pluck us.
                                 Preparing ourselves to enter their cores.

With Krupa, all comes to be. our dances shake all confusion into charm

if our momentum in this life is a preparation for anything i hope its too lift us into another world---


Maria's healing story with plants



Maria was raised among eleven brothers and sisters, and healthcare and food access was always limited. Maria shares that part of the healing process requires believing in what you do, trusting the wisdom and love of those caring for you and not just as an alternative to western medicinal practices. 
Collected by Lulu Martinez 

Maria de Lourdes Martinez is a 50 year old Mexican immigrant who has lived in Chicago for the last twenty years. As a young girl, she watched her mother use home remedies to nurture her, her siblings and neighborhood friends and family back to health. Home remedies were used in combination with prayer and mutual faith and trust in relationships as well as in divine intervention. Divine intervention was thought of to manifest itself through ordinary conversations, interactions and dreams. Miracles and wisdom bestowed on oneself were seldom questioned.

Maria was raised among eleven brothers and sisters, and healthcare and food access was always limited. Maria shares that part of the healing process requires believing in what you do, trusting the wisdom and love of those caring for you and not just as an alternative to western medicinal practices. She explains how these practices used to come naturally because a person in the family/community was recognized as a healer and holder of a special truth. Over time, Maria’s mother gained the trust of her family and community although she never identified herself as a curandera, a role traditionally given to cultural/spiritual healers in Mexico. Because she lived in multiple-unit apartment buildings, one knew which neighbor to go to for any specific household product--te de manzanilla for stomach aches, hoja de laurel for headaches, eggs for una limpia.

Among the home remedies that Maria and her mother used, los tomates, tomatoes were considered to hold curative abilities. Tomates were used for resfriados (colds), bronquitis (bronchitis), and toz (coughing). A tomato is cut in half and roasted lightly. Each half is placed on the bottom of one’s feet and wrapped to keep them in place and then covered with socks to maintain the feet warm. This must be done only if and once the individual has planned to stay in for the rest of the night so as not to be exposed to water (rain/shower) or cold. In the morning, the tomatoes are removed, and this method is repeated as necessary.

Maria explains that there is no scientific understanding added to shared conversations about how specific plants and herbs work that legitimizes these cultural practices to a stranger.

Well, we know that the genetic and chemical makeup of the plant, its nutrients can be curative. That wasn’t part of the knowledge that was passed down, however, we just know and believe that it works, and it does. It’s the pharmaceutical companies that don’t want you to have access to that kind of knowledge.” [translated from Spanish]

It’s been years since the passing of Maria’s mother, and the geographical distance has taken a toll on the cultural practices that once were more prevalent when Maria first migrated to the U.S.

It’s difficult to maintain these practices. We are not as close to our neighbors and my family has had different types of access to food and health care. We don’t ask each other about our individual wisdom as much anymore, or we use them in addition to bottled-medicine.”[translated from Spanish]

Maria raised her children on cultural and herbal healing practices. She continues to believe in them, however, she now consults elders she is referred to for these knowledges. Maria believes in the healing energies of plants and that it is important to maintain a healthy relationship to our bodies by respecting the earth and all of its children including plants, trees, and animals.

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Neha's plants stories



Neha’s mom has plants all around her house and she treats them like her little babies. She would walk around the house watering them and talking to them.
Collected by Esha Kher

My friend Neha Kumar, who’s also my floor-mate at Commons North dorms, shared a story about her mother and her plants. I went over to her room one day, and I saw a potted Aloe Vera cactus in there. As a dormer, it was the first time that I saw someone have an actual plant in their room. This started the conversation between us when she shared about how this plant makes her room more ‘homely’ and is a constant reminder of her mom.

Neha’s mom has plants all around her house and she treats them like her little babies. She would walk around the house watering them and talking to them. Her mom’s favorite are the money plants. Neha talked about a big money plant that sits at her door (whose leaves she said were twice the size of my face) and it’s become so deep rooted in the walls that it kind of scares her that it would take over the house (hehe). But it’s there because it’s her mom’s favorite. The money plant is considered to bring financial prosperity to a household in many different cultures, including the Indian culture to which Neha’s family belongs.

Her dad is also a fan of gardening and thus for Neha and her family, gardening is a family ritual that helps strengthen their bond. Her parents were both born and raised in India and back home they both had gardens that they maintained. And now, they share all their knowledge and passion for gardening with Neha and her brother. Neha remembers most of her summers helping out her parents in the garden, planting new flowers and veggies for the season. The sunflowers she planted are her favorite and it fascinated her how some seeds she planted grew into such a big plant.

Neha’s family backyard is filled with vegetables and herbs. One of the plants that they plant the most is the mint. In the India culture, mint is used to make a typical Indian sauce that goes with almost all Indian dishes. It’s called the ‘pudina chutney’. There is one thing that you’ll always find at Neha’s house, and that’s Pudina Chutney. I have to admit, I’m very tempted to go over to her place and get some. Being an Indian myself, I love Pudina Chutney. Neha also likes experimenting different drinks by adding mint to them (reminds me of a good virgin mojito).  Her family also has tomatoes and chillies growing in their backyard. They tried planting squash, but the Chicago climate wasn’t appropriate for it, so unfortunately the plant died. They also grow fenugreek, or ‘methi’ as it’s called in India. Fenugreek is a slightly bitter tasting green leafy vegetable that is very popular in Indian dishes. Neha’s favorites (and mine too) are ‘methi parathas’ made with fresh methi from her garden.

Her family also tries to play a part in environmental sustainability, and so instead of using planters, they use old recycling bins to plant all their garden veggies.

It was a pleasure for me to collect this story from my friend, Neha. I realized how well connected she is with her family and culture even though she has been born and raised in the US. Having being born and raised in India myself, I connected with Neha like just any other member of my culture. She has all the family values to her like every other Indian. It pleasures me to see her share a close bond with her family just like I share with my own.

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Collected by Sarah Hernandez 

When I first started gardening, I had created this recipe from my own resources and what was in my garden at the time. It ended up being one of my favorite creations! Every time I make this, I get so many compliments on the wonderful smell.


-       Kale
-       Onion
-       Garlic
-       Parmesan
-       Spaghetti pasta
-       Hot curry powder (I like to use Jamaican curry powder)
-       Garam masala spice
-       Salt
-       Pepper


1.     Set a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta on the side and when it’s done set it aside.
2.     Sautee the onion and garlic until soft and brown.
3.     Add the hot curry powder and a dash of garam masala – cook for about 5-10 more minutes until fragrant and delicious smelling.
4.     Add the kale to the onion and garlic and mix in every 5 minutes until cooked down (usually takes 10 minutes max). Add salt and pepper to taste.
5.     Add the veggies as a topping to the pasta. Add parmesan cheese to taste.

Feel free to tweak this recipe and the spices to your taste.
If you also have mustard greens to add to the kale, it makes this dish even more delicious!



John Wagner's Gardening Story and Tips 



At a young age, Mr. Wagner knew he wanted to either work with agriculture or sell shoes because both of these lines of work provide people with something that they will always need: footwear and food. 
Story Collected by Karl Novak 

Name: John Wagner
Relationship: A friend from UIC Grounds Crew

PARTICIPATING in the Heritage Garden internship program has shown me that fostering relationships with different groups is absolutely essential for the planning and development of a new organization.  A group that the Heritage Garden student task force found to be particularly helpful in aiding us over the summer has been the UIC Grounds department.  UIC Grounds have many interests closely aligned with the Heritage Garden’s goals, so their assistance has been very beneficial towards completing our work. In particular, the Grounds department has helped the Heritage Garden with watering plants, providing tools, and collecting materials for storage. I, along with my fellow interns and student leaders, realize that without the assistance from UIC Grounds, our internship program would not have been as successful or impactful to our UIC community.

In the 3rd week of the summer internship program, Obehi and I were transplanting flowers and vegetables from the garden on Halsted and Taylor to replant at our satellite garden sites.  John Wagner, a member of the UIC Grounds department, approached us to find out more about our work.  After mentioning that we were interns for the new Heritage Garden program, John was very friendly and open to providing us with useful gardening tips and sustainable practices. Both Obehi and I were eager to ask him several questions relating to gardening (mostly about transplanting methods and organic pesticides).  We conversed with John about half an hour sharing information we all had learned by working in the garden.  After that first meeting, our team talked with John Wagner again several times throughout the summer and his information has always been bountiful and valuable.  Towards the end of the summer internship program, I arranged a time to meet with John to collect stories that relate to promoting sustainability and environmentally friendly practices.

John Wagner is a passionate gardener whose interest was ignited by his grandfather, who also tended to a mostly vegetable garden. At a young age, Mr. Wagner knew he wanted to either work with agriculture or sell shoes because both of these lines of work provide people with something that they will always need: footwear and food.  Since then, John has taken it upon himself to learn good gardening techniques.  He reads Jerry Baker’s work, a master gardener and writer, to learn more tips to employ when growing plants.  It is obvious that John knows a lot about gardening and he is kind to share the good information with the UIC Heritage Garden.  Some of his creative and sustainable tips and techniques include:

-       Using an expired vehicle tire for a raised bed: drill 4 holes into the bottom of the tire and fill the raised bed with sand (for root growth and drainage), peat moss, and dirt. To further root growth, add a tablespoon of Epsom salt per plant and mix with soil.

-       Using retired plastic jugs as temporary pots for plants: this is particularly easy to fill with soil by using the bottle neck with a funnel to pour in earth. When filled, cut off the bottle neck top to the bottle and drill holes in the bottom for drainage.

-       Recycling wooden crates as a way to grow potatoes: in this way you can continually fill the crate with manure and potting soil – each new set of leaves will develop roots and eventually grow into a potato.

-       Organic pesticide using hot pepper spray: chop 3 Habanero peppers, 3 heads of garlic, and 1 medium sized onion. Purée the pieces and strain the liquid out overnight. Add a ¼ cup of water to the liquid and let sit a day. You can put this in a sprayer bottle and spray your plants with it 2 times monthly as preventative maintenance for insect pests. Add a small amount of soap to get the pesticide to stick to the leaves if necessary.

-       Organic ant control: if you have a black ant problem in your garden, sprinkle cornmeal. If there are red ants, use cinnamon instead.

-       Using PVC pipe as a watering system: drill holes along the length of the PVC pipe and bury the PVC into the ground next to a plant’s root system. This way, watering will go directly to the roots where the plants need them, rather than on the soil where it encourages insects or will be evaporated by the sun.

-       Mixing shredded newspaper with the soil: the ink from the newspaper runs into the soil and actually brings in worms. Worms are good for soil aeration and creating tunnels for rainwater to travel through near roots.

-       Creating calcium fertilizer supplement for tomatoes: Tomatoes flourish with calcium, and two ways to provide this includes dissolving TUMS in water and watering the tomatoes with the solution as well as crushing up eggshells and mixing with the soil near tomatoes.

Mr. Wagner has become a good friend over the course of our summer internship and we cannot thank him enough for all of the excellent aid and advice he has provided. I believe it is important to foster relationships the UIC community has between departments and organizations on the individual level. In this way, it is easier to exchange ideas and make progress for all of our goals by collectively pooling our resources and talents together.

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Donna Currie's Gardening Story 



In 2001, Donna Currie was awarded the “best butterfly garden in the Chicagoland area” from the Chicago Tribune, and uses flowers such as milkweed, veronica, and catmint to attract different butterflies.
Story collected by Karl Novak

Name: Donna Currie
Relationship: My Neighbor’s Sister

AFTER my family had moved into our new home, we were joined by our new neighbors who took the house across the street about a year later.  The new family immediately became good family friends of ours and we continue to enjoy each other’s company to this day.  I noticed my neighbor’s garden across the street and asked the mother of the family if I may interview her about the garden, but she suggested I interview her sister, Donna Currie, about her garden instead since she was a passionate gardener. After scheduling a time to meet, I visited Mrs. Currie’s house in Prospect Heights to collect stories and view her garden.  The garden encompassed her entire house and looked amazing. It was obvious that the landscape was carefully tended and the placement of different plants was thoughtfully planned.

            We first started outside in the back of her house where aloe, basil, cilantro and other useful plants (for practical medicines and cooking herbs) were grown.  Ornamental flowers such as hibiscus, stella d’oros, coneflowers, black-eyed susans, geraniums, daisies, liatris among others made the garden look colorful, bright and inviting. In addition to the ornamental flowers and herbs grown in the garden, Mrs. Currie also grows vegetables and fruits to provide delicious, home-grown food used in her recipes. She mentioned how her yard has two apple trees that produce sweet apples every other year and when they fruit, their family picks them for apple cranberry bread before the local wildlife can get to them.  Geese, squirrels, deer, and even groundhogs gather around the apple trees to check for remainders after the leftover apples had fallen.

            After I saw the apple trees, I noticed a very tall evergreen and I asked Mrs. Currie about it.  She was excited to tell me that it was a redwood – specifically a Golden Metasequoia.  I was amazed! Previously, I had believed that the redwoods were specific to their native area in Northern California and could not survive elsewhere, but evidence to the contrary was growing right in front of me.  Mrs. Currie explained that she purchased it for fun from a pine and fir vendor called “Rich’s Fox Willow Farm” in Woodstock. Growing the redwood in her backyard inspired a few of her neighbors to do the same, and so now there is a small section of Prospect Heights with very large redwood trees!

            Mrs. Currie’s father first sparked his daughter’s interest in gardening at a very young age. He grew milkweed to show his family the monarch butterfly and their different stages of growth and transformation.  Donna Currie recollected how fun it was to see the butterflies lay eggs under the leaves (to prevent birds from eating them) and watch the eggs hatch into tiny larvae, then eventually grow into caterpillars.  Mrs. Currie continued this tradition in her garden and has consequently planted many flowers to attract butterflies.  In 2001, Donna Currie was awarded the “best butterfly garden in the Chicagoland area” from the Chicago Tribune, and uses flowers such as milkweed, veronica, and catmint to attract different butterflies. Mrs. Currie also likes to attract birds to her garden and creates bird feeders out of large pine cones from her evergreen trees. She covers the cones in sticky honey and then rolls them in bird seed. The finished feeders are then hung from branches on her trees and she watches as the birds arrive for a tasty treat. A cup plant in the garden also collects rain water near the stem that the birds often bathe in.  Mrs. Currie has created a lovely garden for viewing as well as an animal friendly space that invites local wildlife to interact with the garden, promoting the diversity of the space. It was a pleasure to collect this story from her and also to view her beautiful garden.

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