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Archive for the ‘Tea Plants’ Category

The Rainy Day
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

This is my dream house, north of Yountville in the rain. Haunted and unfinished, surrounded by ethereal trees, and it desperately needs a garden!

We have just had the most amazing storms! The temperature dropped drastically. Then came the rain. Then came the hail and the wind. We had a fire going and a nice bottle of wine, or two, from our Napa trip, some movies, and Tom made a meatloaf. It doesn’t get much better than that as far as winter evenings go.

The talking news heads were advising us to cover our plants, but I never actually had that kind of time. I think it’s fine though. Everything that lives out there has already survived my ‘back-to-school’ neglect and if it can also survive some ice being pelted at it, well I have a pretty strong garden to build on! Also, I’m very glad I once again resisted the urge to prune back the roses because they would have had new growth from last week’s warmth and that would be a disaster. Wait wait wait – it’s worth it! (at least if you live in Southern California!)

Waiting until after the worst of the cold to trim my roses has another benefit: I have a nice harvest of rose hips to use. Rose hips are the fruit of the rose plant. Most of us never see them because we dead head our roses and chop that part off before it has a chance to develop. We don’t plant roses using the seeds that are inside either. I remember learning years ago that there were rose seeds…!?…well of course there are!

Rose Hips...aka Rose Haws


Rose hips are considered the top plant source of Vitamin C. You’ve probably seen the jars of “Vitamin C with Rose Hips” on your drugstore’s shelves. They can be dried and used as tea, made into jelly, jams and preserves, or added to other recipes like you would a cranberry. There are tiny little hairy seeds that should be removed first, otherwise it’s pretty straightforward. I’m planning on drying mine for tea this year. Here’s a website I found which may clear things up.

Shiny and Ripe


This last year, my roses were left alone to their own devices and didn’t get pruned much. Aside from having the ‘hips’, they got a nice rest. In my opinion, pruning away at roses the way we do forces them to constantly produce and grow in ways that are human-driven and not necessarily natural. Right now they’re a tangled mess, but they’re also full of energy and life and rain and I just know that the moment I prune them they’re going to burst forth into brand new life, strong and vibrant. Or maybe I’m anthropomorphizing my roses and I really just want to feel that way myself.

Suburban Rainbows. Suburban Roses.

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O happy Garden! whose seclusion deep
Hath been so friendly to industrious hours;
And to soft slumbers, that did gently steep
Our spirits, carrying with them dreams of flowers,
And wild notes warbled among leafy bowers;
Two burning months let summer overleap,
And, coming back with Her who will be ours,
Into thy bosom we again shall creep.

~William Wordsworth (from “A Farewell)

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, has become one of my most cherished herbs in the garden. In my mind, I categorize it as an “old plant”: one that has a long and rich history and seems unchanged by horticulture. I never consider a plant like an orchid an “old plant” because humans have altered the species in so many ways. Yarrow is simple, faithful, dependable and quietly noble. The reading and research done for this plant was pure enjoyment for me. My old books came out, every book had a reference – I was in book/herb heaven!

Yarrow


The names given to the plant were the best part of the research; Bad Man’s Plaything, Carpenter’s Weed, Death Flower, Devil’s Nettle, Eerie, Knight’s Milfoil, Military Herb, Soldier’s Woundwort, Nosebleed, Old Man’s Mustard, Sanguinary, Seven Year’s Love, Snake’s Grass, Thousand Seal, Sneezewort….there were a few more but I kept my favorites here.

Old Man's Pepper


Yarrow is said to have been used for healing on the battlefield by the Greek warrior, Achilles, by the Native Americans who call it a “life medicine”, and by the Chinese for divination. In fact, the “50 wooden sticks” mentioned in the I Ching are actually yarrow sticks. (I know nothing about Chinese divination so I’ll post the link and stop with that!)

Woundwort


There are many references to yarrow being used by the Druids and in several love spells. One spell said that if you hung it over your bed it would ensure 7 years of love. Scott Cunningham’s book “The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews” calls it “One of the true treasures of the Earth”.

Devil's Nettle


“Thou pretty herb of Venus’ tree
Thy true name it is yarrow
Now who my bosom friend must be?
Pray tell thou me tomorrow”
~an old spell found in “Mastering Herbalism” by Paul Hason

Sanguinary


Its historical uses are not much different from the current ones; fever, skin ailments, arthritis, blood clotting, bruises, menstruation, circulation, varicose veins, high blood pressure, etc. It contains chemicals that aid blood flow as far as I can tell. I’m no doctor so I’ll go easy on its medicinal business. I can say, however, that if I’m having a difficult time of it during my time of the month, all I have to do is waltz outside, cut off a flower head, steep it warm water for a nice cup of tea…and I feel better. It also makes you pee a lot, which I assume explains why it may ease high blood pressure. I usually mix it with another tea, like Jasmine, for flavor. It doesn’t taste bad by itself, kind of like hay or grass…herby!

Snake's Grass


In the garden, it survives well, needs lots of sun, not a lot of water, and blooms most of the year here in San Diego. It enjoys being cut so don’t let it get too leggy. Deadheading will keep you in tea and keep the plant healthy and bushy. Also, Peanut likes to take naps in it.

Devil's Plaything


All of my yarrow is yellow and from one original plant that I separated 6 months ago. It’s a perennial with a creeping rhizome. The leaves are soft, ferny, feathery. It works well as a dried herb in flower arrangements and seems to last forever in a vase with water.

Hundred Leaved Grass


My favorite thing about the plant though, is that no matter where it grows, it adds a sunny glow of happiness to its corner.

Seven Years Love

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“To enliven the sad with the joy of a joke
Give them wine with some borage put in it to soak”. ~ old English rhyme

Borage - June 2010


Borage (Borago officinalis) is a hardy annual herb. Some of its other names; Bugloss, Bee Bread, Herb of Gladness and Star Flower. It likes lots of sun, grows about two feet high and gets rather bushy. Mine likes to lay down over the lawn after a while and then grow straight up from the reclining stems, which are round, hollow and juicy. It will reseed itself quite efficiently so I try and collect the seeds before they hit the lawn. This is hard to do since the whole process of opening and then dropping seed happens so quickly. Since I have more than one plant at a time, I usually snip several stems with flowers, hang them upside down in a paper bag and let them dry – collecting the seeds later. If I’m lazy, I just pick some flowers and toss them back into the flower bed before they hit the grass.

Bees in the Borage


Bees absolutely love Borage. When I go out to pick it, there are always quite a few buzzing around in the five-petal flowers, which turn from pink to blue when the plant deems the nectar and pollen ready for collection. Bees are very attracted to the color blue, so I think this is rather smart of Mother Nature.

Borage is quite fuzzy


Historically, Borage was believed to cure sadness and boost courage, which I think is awesome. The Romans used it steeped in cups of wine – Pliny said “it maketh a man merry and joyful” – and John Evelyn said it was “of known virtue to revive the hypochondriac and cheer the hard student.”

still pink around the edges


It was believed to also cure skin problems, bruises, inflammation, stress, colds, fevers…the list goes on. We now know that this is due to the high content of gamma-linolenic acid. It also contains potassium, calcium and mineral salts.

blue means 'open for business' in bee-speak


I found references to it being used as an embroidery subject as far back as the 17th century and quite a few modern stitches as well. Understandable since it’s such a friendly and straightforward flower.

Nom!


In my opinion, the flowers are the tastiest part of the plant. They can be candied for tops of cupcakes, thrown in a salad or frozen in ice cubes for beverages. I like to toss a handful into a glass of water with a slice of lemon – the beverage takes on a nice little ‘tingle’ from the mineral salts and it instantly makes your dull glass of H2o completely fabulous. Borage tastes like cucumber so it adds a fresh coolness, or maybe cool freshness to whatever it’s with. If you’re into companion planting, it likes to be near strawberries. Who doesn’t like to be near strawberries?

Borage seed


Many sources said it should be taken “in moderation” and the sepals are NOT edible. Besides the flower, the stems and leaves are edible and I found lots of recipes for savory dishes like the ‘Borage Fritters’ by Maria Batali – which I’m planning to try! My absolute favorite way to have it is in a glass of wine, just like the ancients and I can say quite honestly that I’m in a much better mood afterward. 🙂

Borage, Bubbles and strawBerries

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Feverfew


Feverfew: Tanacetum parthenium or Chrisanthemum parthenium is also known as Bachelor’s Buttons, Featherfew, Featherfoil, Febrifuge, and last but absolute favorite: Flirtwort!

The name comes from the Latin word febrifugia or “fever reducer”. It is a perennial in the daisy family that re-seeds itself quite prolifically and will grow and bloom heartily in most gardens. Mine seems to bloom all year round, demands little to no attention and will take over any space if left alone for a few years. It has a strong and very bitter “camphoric” odor when crushed and insects don’t like it. I grow some under my rose bushes for that reason.

Flirtwort


The lore and history of this plants goes way back as an herb of protection against accidents or “mishaps” while traveling and was included in love spells and tussie mussies, being considered a plant of Venus. It was taken as tea to remedy fevers, headaches, trouble sleeping and arthritis, and was considered a “woman’s herb.” Nicholas Culpepper (an English botanist from the 1600’s) said it cured those who were “troubled with melacholy and heaviness or sadness of spirits.”

Modern science has decided that the active ingredients to be credited with all these miracles are “sesquiterpene lactones” and I found quite a lot of modern literature on its recent comeback as a reliever of migraines and arthritis. The only major negative side effect I could find was that chewing the leaves fresh could cause mouth ulcers. I figured this was common sense you should know just by smelling the leaves – this is pretty strong stuff. Thanks, but I’ll stick to drinking the tea!

I like to cut mine and put it into bud vases around the house. The flowers are cheerful and last a long time. They can be propagated by seed (which they do wildly on their own) or from cuttings: chop of a chunk and put a good part of the stems and leaves underground. Once you have an established feverfew plant, you will always have feverfew. This is one of my favorite ‘go-to’ herbs and is like an old friend in the garden.

Feverfew

Disclaimer: I am in no way recommending this plant be used medicinally…I’m a gardener, not a doctor. Also, I found plenty of warnings that specifically stated feverfew should not be ingested by pregnant women, children or anyone taking blood thinning meds. As with any plant that you choose to ingest or smoke or cook with….do your research and pay attention to your body’s reactions. Amen.

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