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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!

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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…

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.

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leda the damask

On 15, May 2017 | No Comments | In plants, roses, scents | By All Year Garden

First of all, this is why the Leda rose is not red. It magically dilutes its ruby stain and pushes it further and further out towards the edges until it is no more. These roses spend most of their bloom time simply white.

Second, I was wrong, it is a little fragrant, if you really really want it to be.
I’m not sure if this rose was supposed to be trained on a trellis or a pole or something, it’s plopped all over the flower bed, kind of shapeless and crushing everything under its hefty weight. I managed to pull it out of the delphiniums and found a full grown perennial I had forgotten about agonizing underneath.

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purple queen

On 08, May 2017 | No Comments | In plants | By All Year Garden

An image for those dreary days in February or November when you can’t see the end of grueling chores, when your back hurts, your feet freeze and your hands bleed from all the raking and cleaning and when you have to fight your way out of a mound of yard debris. Today the garden turned on the love in drones.
This photo is probably going to find its way into winter articles again and again, it takes some ingenuity to come up with garden writing material when you don’t even want to get out of the house. Read more…

peonies

On 24, Apr 2017 | No Comments | In advice, plants, scents | By All Year Garden

The peonies would have bloomed by now, the buds have been ready to burst for more than a week, but it is so unseasonably cold, weird May weather! Temperatures in the fifties, I almost have to question the wisdom of moving the basil outside, it looks miserable.
Peonies are the object lesson for why gardeners benefit from being patient. You don’t get this cascade of blooms from a plant that doesn’t ask anything of you until you put a few years into it. Three, to be specific. Read more…