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toad lilies

Toad lilies are the last flowers of the year, at least in the garden. They start blooming mid-October, to keep company to the already brown seed heads of the sedums, and they stay in bloom until November, braving the first frosts.

People tend to associate bulbs with spring, and ignore their potential in the garden during summer and fall. I really miss the Casablanca lilies, I don’t even know if they reached the end of their natural life cycle or succumbed to the unforgiving winter, but they all vanished one year, for no apparent reason. Read more…

almost time for bulbs

I really need to pick and plant spring bulbs, it’s been so warm so late into the fall that I almost forgot about them. They can be planted any time before winter, as long as the ground is not frozen. I have some pretty daffodils that I planted in the middle of December as proof of that.

There are a few good gardening practice rules that ensure the success of bulbs, even though they’re pretty forgiving plants and will do well anyway. Read more…

rainwater harvesting

Harvesting the rain doesn’t stop at installing rain barrels, it involves the entire garden and its principal goal is to keep the water from running off the plot onto paved areas, only to eventually end up in the storm drains.

Careful planning can create places for the rain water to slow down enough to percolate into the soil, as well as ways to move it through the landscape and places for it to settle in. Depressed spots are not desirable features, since nobody wants to end up with a lawn full of puddles, so the water catchment area needs to blend naturally into the design and be populated with rain garden plants. Read more…

garden planning

On 25, Sep 2017 | No Comments | In plants | By All Year Garden

The weather is fickle, leaning on the side of bright and sunny right now. It rained hard yesterday, and the sky was so dark it looked like dusk in the middle of the afternoon. Sunshine, rain, sunshine again.

The temperatures rose and fell with the moisture levels, trying to stabilize into a more seasonally appropriate range. The days are too short already, passing by faster than the leaves carried by the wind, and in the middle of a somewhat uncoordinated schedule I almost missed the spring bulb planting. Read more…

opal basil

Speaking of purple plant pigments, the ones in opal basil are responsible for turning aromatic vinegars a beautiful shade of rose, I always look forward to preparing them during the summer.

For all of us who enjoy this lovely plant it will come as a shock that the Greeks believed the herb to be driving men to madness. It is associated with the basilisk and folk tales say one needs to curse and rant when planting it in order for it to grow, because it embodies hatred and anger and it’s born of scorpion’s poison.

Read more…

herb harvesting

For a good part of the summer the house is strewn with bunches of herbs hung up to dry. The children disapprove. The cat is reluctant to approach them. The surface below them gets messy.

I keep gathering the fragrant greens, excited by their fast growth in June, and tend to put off grinding and storing them in jars, a task which gets tedious after ten minutes.

By the time I finally resign myself to processing them, the bunches are crunchy and the herbs release their scent freely when crushed, trying to assert their flavors from a distance. The kitchen smells like mint, then thyme, then dill, then lovage, while, slowly, the jars get filled, labeled and stored neatly on the shelves in the pantry. Read more…

perennial groundcovers

On 04, Sep 2017 | No Comments | In plants | By All Year Garden

I can’t figure out the precise point when a fast spreading plant becomes a ground cover. Some, like ivy, periwinkle and the beautiful blue flowering plumbago in the picture, are quite obvious, others, like lily of the valley and sweet violets, take you by surprise, starting with a shy little clump in spring and filling the garden with their prolific progeny in one season.

I guess if we define as perennial ground cover any plant that fills up all the space it occupies, we can expand the list to include daylilies, beebalms, tickseed, irises, raspberry thickets and strawberry patches. Read more…

herbal cosmetics

I am surprised that yarrow is not used more often in skin care, because it can hold its own with calendula, lavender and chamomile. Yarrow has three qualities that make it useful for beauty regimens: it stimulates superficial circulation, it mends minor injuries and it is astringent.

This gentle cleanser is particularly useful for treating oily skin and hair, and yarrow tea makes an excellent toner or hair rinse. Way back in the day people even believed it to be a cure for baldness, but I wouldn’t go that far. Read more…

rain perfume

On 23, Aug 2017 | No Comments | In plants, scents | By All Year Garden

The hostas are in bloom, and much like last year, they are a sight to behold. You don’t know the true meaning of perfume until you experience the fragrance of hostas lingering in the humid evening air. They scent the rain.

The garden is full of them, it is their month, August, the time when they rule the flower universe. They rise, ghostly white, on slender stems, arching over the garden path here and there, asking for attention. As if there was any need for that!

Read more…

goldenrod

I always thought of goldenrod as a dyer’s plant and was surprised to learn that it has medicinal properties.

Its Latin name, Solidago, literally means “to make whole”, and puts goldenrod squarely in the wound healing category. It has other medicinal properties, too, mostly related to improving the kidney and circulatory functions.

Apparently it is edible, but I wouldn’t know about that and will refrain from testing this hypothesis on my long suffering stomach. Read more…