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plants

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…

perennial groundcovers

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…

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…

the makings of a vegetable garden

Even for those of us with a more relaxed attitude towards garden design, a vegetable garden demands discipline. For one, you don’t want to question whether the contents of your herb wheel are edible, and vegetable crops are energy intensive enough without unproductive demands on their resources.
The most important task in a kitchen garden is keeping it tidy: weed religiously and trim excessive foliage to encourage produce yield. Avoid diseases promoted by poor air circulation by respecting the plants’ spacing requirements. Read more…