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aromatherapy

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…

how to grow herbs

You decided to start an herb garden? Here are a few tips. Most herbs like full sun (except a few, like mint and lemon balm) and a sweet soil that keeps moist but drains properly. If your soil is acidic, improve it with lime.

If you decide to grow a perennial herb garden, it is easier to start it from seedlings rather than seed, for two reasons. First, some of the perennial herbs, like rosemary and tarragon need to be started from cuttings anyway, germination is not always reliable and very young sprouts are vulnerable to anything from a late frost to dry spells or unseasonably warm weather. Read more…

working with herbs

Working with herbs is an art and small details in the practice of harvesting and preserving them make the difference between success and failure.

Harvesting:
Always harvest herbs in the morning, right after the dew has dried up but before the heat makes the plants release their volatile oils. Harvest fresh young leaves free of blemishes from areas away from roads and traffic. If you grow herbs for their flowers, always pick the flowers before they fully open. Never harvest plants on rainy days.

Read more…

oil of geranium

After a streak of sunny days, mother nature decided to bring the gloom, and I never pass the opportunity gloom provides to indulge in relaxation and pampering, isn’t this what rainy days were created for?
The flower buds are on the brink of opening, but it looks like they decided to wait for the sunshine before doing that.
Back to the pampering, what better plant to chose to represent all things indulgent for skin care than the geranium? Well, maybe not this specific variety. Read more…

sweethearts

Since they went above and beyond this spring, let’s talk about sweet violets.
These beautiful early spring bloomers love moist, rich soil and are quite sensitive to slug attacks in summer, when the bigger plants’ foliage gives those pests a place to hide.
Some gardeners suggest feeding them in spring and fall, but in my experience the last thing you want to do for those prolific seeders is to give them additional reasons to spread out. Read more…

rosemary

When you start looking into its qualities, rosemary can be quite intimidating, it seems to be good for everything: it makes hair grow strong and shiny, rejuvenates skin, boosts memory and concentration, sharpens eyesight, thins the blood and helps lower the risk of cancer. The impressive resume is due to the fact that this blessed plant is rich in iron, calcium, phosphorus, vitamins A, C and B6, folate, and some other plant specific compounds that act synergistically. Read more…

yarrow

A resilient weed, native to the northern hemisphere, yarrow grows wild in open fields and along the sides of the roads, and had only recently gained the privilege to be cultivated in flower gardens.
Don’t judge this humble herb to be ordinary, Achillea millefolium is a well documented medicinal plant, astringent, anti inflammatory and tonic, but above all it has a special gift: it is a hemostatic agent. Read more…

tending the herb garden

All the medicinal plants are in bloom, a rare sight for the herb patch, whose blossoms are usually scarce and short lived.
One might think the herb wheel is a happy go lucky mish-mash of perennials that take care of themselves and require minimal interaction, when in fact it is the exact opposite. You can’t grow an herb garden without giving it your whole heart and your full attention. It needs meticulous care, constant trimming and weeding, it needs to be pristine. Read more…

chamomile groundcover

If you have a sunny slope that is difficult to mow, in a location with well drained, sandy soil, try a chamomile lawn.

The delightful apple scent is a reward in itself, and using chamomile as a groundcover offers some advantages, like low mowing, feeding and watering needs, but the plant is definitely not low maintenance. Read more…

nature’s antiseptics

There are two strong antiseptics directly extracted from plants: one is tea tree oil, only found in the leaves of the Australian plant, and the other one is thymol, a potent antimicrobial found in thyme and oregano, a substance bee balms also have in abundance.

If you ever brushed against a clump of monardas you surely noticed that their leaves’ spicy fragrance is stronger than any other plant’s from the mint family, mint itself included. Read more…