Introduction written by Nicole Rose
When I was 21 years old, I entered one of Britain’s highest security prisons for women and began a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence. This book shows the relationships I built with plants in the prison garden.
I am painfully aware that the prisoners will all have different access to plants. A minority may work in the prison garden; however, the majority will only see the prison courtyard once a day or even once a week if they are lucky. Many others still will not see it outside at all, contesting with years and years of solitary confinement. For those that can access the courtyard, it may have
some grass but more likely it will just be concrete, hopefully with some defiant plants growing through the cracks.
If you’re a prisoner reading this, then I hope that whatever level of access you
have, this book is interesting and useful.
In solidarity, Nicole Rose
Review written by Aine Hutchinson
The garden of spirit and hope in the face of adversity is what Nicole Rose conveys in her book. Rose, such an appropriate name, spent three and a half years in one of Britain’s highest security women’s prisons, HMP
At the age of 21, Rose was an animal activist and was sentenced for “conspiracy to blackmail.” Her book literally grew through her discovery of the support and resource that prison courtyard plants can offer. The Prisoner’s Herbal is for distribution to prisoners worldwide, via
solitary projects whereby prisoners can discover the solidarity of any plants.
I met Nicole Rose at a book launch in my home village where this inspiring
woman spoke with the gentleness of a rose petal and the strength of a deep-rooted tree. The book contains descriptions of medicinal and edible plants, their use, and, most importantly, their use within a prison. Rose acknowledges that she is “painfully aware” of how most prisoners have
no plant access.
However, this is where her words are inspirational, with her creative resourceful ways and celebrating herbalism as a key survival ally.
The book introduces us to her “friends”: dandelions, plantain, yarrow, chickweed, mallow, nettle, chamomile, selfheal, daisy and rose. Then the “Canteen remedies” of spices, condiments, tea, coffee, fruits and vegetables, followed by “Connecting with Plant Allies.” This is where Rose shines in her gift, sharing the physical and emotional healing that plants can offer. Through her experience of prisoner health negligence, Rose offers her learning for others who may find extra support in their well-being.
Since her release, Rose’s study of herbal medicine has continued as she trains to become a clinical herbalist. Through her personal journey Rose names plants amongst her greatest allies, each with their own unique
personality and with whom she relates daily.
The sight of a courtyard dandelion soothed Rose when she felt
humiliated, and she found strength in their lively yellow petals growing
from cracked curbstone. Sometimes sleeping with dandelion root placed
under her pillow, Rose found safety in mind and her heart, and has planted much hope for those who feel that no growth or garden is possible.
“This stuff probably sounds mega hippyish, but it’s the truth,” she says in the book. “Once you become familiar with different plants, that familiarity and comfort never goes away.”
Aine Hutchinson is a psychotherapist and counselor who has years
of experience working with loss, crisis and trauma. Her practice is in Ireland.