Sunday, December 21, 2014

Book Reviews

Here are some reviews on the books I have currently checked out of the library:

The Potted Herb, Abbie Zabar

This is an adorable little book of herbs useful especially for people like me who only have a tiny space for gardening.  It focuses mostly on growing herbs in pots (very inspiring), and it was one of the first books I checked out of the library when I first started gardening.  Now that it's been about 2 years with a garden and I have more experience under my belt, I decided to check it out again and give it a re-read.  There are quaint illustrations in the book and she even discusses how to create herb topiaries.  Very good, basic starter book and I should also add that I enjoyed the tidbits of herbal lore and history that is included along with each herb.

New Book of Herbs, Jekka McVicar

Lots of great photos in this book!  I love a book that has good, clear pictures of the plants they are discussing.  McVicar also includes a good amount of herbal lore too.  The book is laid out in a very organized, elegant design which makes it easy to follow.  All the bases are covered on how to grow, care for, harvest and use over 100 different herbs.  She describes and provides some recipes and instructions on how to use herbs in the kitchen (i.e. tisanes, salad dressings, oils and vinegars and cooked dishes) to using herbs around the home for fragrance, first aid and even pet care.  She also provides a section on herbs for beauty and relaxation and includes recipes on how to make an herbal shampoo, for example, and my favorite use for herbs -- relaxation (herbal bath tonics, foot bath, etc.).

Essential Herbal Wisdom - A Complete Book of 50 Remarkable Herbs, Nancy Arrowsmith

If you REALLY want to get into it, check this book out.  Arrowsmith goes into complete detail of the exploration of 50 herbs.  This book is a deep dive into herbal folklore, superstition and history.  Arrowsmith describes the appearance of each herb, its useful parts, as well as how to dry, store and use them.  She also discusses seeds and germination, gardening tips, culinary, household, medicinal use and a section on "miscellaneous wisdom" for each of the herbs.

And last but not least, my favorite book out of the bunch I'm currently reading:

The Soul Garden:  Creating Garden Spaces for Inner Growth and Spiritual Renewal, Dr. Donald Norfolk

In this very inspirational book, Norfolk goes into great depth about the therapeutic values and importance of a garden.  He suggests that a garden is a place for spiritual and even physical well being and healing and that spending time in a garden and with nature is necessary for the human psyche.  He describes the garden as a place to rejuvenate the soul.  In this book, Norfolk references texts from the writings of historians, philosophers and medical researchers to show how everyone can benefit from the restorative powers of nature.  Dr. Norfolk, who is an acclaimed osteopath, observed that his healthiest and happiest patients were those who spent their time in a garden.  I am a firm believer of this theory and so I enjoyed this book very much.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day December 2015

It's been a busy month since the last Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and it is the time of year when I take time off to concentrate on my photography.  This time of year you can usually find me at either Descanso Gardens or The Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens.  I am lucky to live just a short drive away from both of these magnificent gardens.  If you are interested in having a look at some of the images I've shot over the past several weeks, you can visit my Flickr Page Here.  

As for the latest goings on in my garden, the roses are blooming as usual and never fail to provide the front of my home with an abundance of color and beauty.  But my latest gardening project is that I have now decided to turn the patio area into an all herb garden.  

One of my favorite sections at the Huntington Botanical Gardens is their herb garden.  I've always been interested in many uses for herbs from medicinal to metaphysical to aromatic to culinary, so it just seemed natural that I should focus on this diverse group of plants valued for their contributions to science, history and even superstition.

Last month I posted many of the herbs I already have growing in my garden, but here are just a few photos of some of the latest I've added to my collection.

Chives - First time growing these.  Not sure why it took me so long!
Dill - Can't wait until these flower.
Apple Mint
Patchouli - Will be making incense with the leaves once this plant grows up a bit.
Mugwort - I got this picture just before I cut the aerial parts back for the winter.  It's already sprouting new growth up from the roots.
Deadheading the roses.  We don't need much to keep warm during the 
Fall/Winter months here in California.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Herbal Notes: Caraway

Caraway (Carum carvi)
Caraway is a biennial herb.  In its first year, it produces a leaf rosette.  The second year it produces a flower stalk.  The flowers produce fruits containing two seeds.   The best seeds for propagation are found in the central umbel and will ripen first.  

Use the young leaves which have a slight aniseed flavor in salads and soup.  The seeds can be eaten at the end of a spicy meal to aid digestion and freshen breath.  

In herbal folklore, Caraway is known to ward off witches and evil spirits.  It has also been used to keep a lover faithful.  In addition, this herb has been historically associated with marriage and death.  
For example, in Great Britain, Caraway was included in love potions used to bind two lovers together and keep them faithful to one another.  In Germany, Caraway was placed in coffins with salt to protect the dead on their passage to the afterlife.

McVicar, Jekka. New Book of Herbs.  Woodbury, MN:  Llewellyn Publications, 2009.

Arrowsmith, Nancy.  Essential Herbal Wisdom:  A Compete Exploration of 50 Remarkable Herbs.  New York, NY:  DK Publishing, 2002.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Herb Garden, Herbal Lore and Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day November 2014

It seems the patio garden is evolving into an Herb Garden, which is basically what I first started growing when I was new to gardening.  I’ve always had lots of herbs around.  Maybe I take them for granted since they have been here from the beginning.  Many times my herbs have gone unmentioned in my posts, taking a backseat to showy flowers.  In fact, I’ve had some of my herbs for years... the three old Rosemary plants protecting my front door and a pot of trusty old Sage which has provided me with countless leaves to burn in purification of my home.

For Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, Hosted by May Dreams Gardens, I've put together a list of what's currently growing in my Herb Garden and noted some herbal lore* that I find useful or interesting:

(Folk name:  St. Joseph's Wort, Witches Herb)
If you want to attract wealth, carry Basil with you.  For a love divination:  Place two fresh Basil leaves on a hot coal.  If they lie where you put them and burn quickly, your relationship will be harmonious.  If the coal crackles excessively, expect quarrels.  If the Basil leaves fly apart, the relationship is no good.  If you suspect your lover is unfaithful, lay fresh Basil on his or her hand.  If he or she is untrue, the Basil will wither.  Basil kept in the home will ward off evil spirits.
“Where Basil grows, no evil goes.”

(Folk name:  Bee Balm)

(Folk name:  Star Flower)
Note these seeds were planted not too long ago and they are not yet ready to bloom.
Grow Borage for courage.


For a lust inducing treat, bake Caraway seeds into cookies, bread or cakes and give it to your partner or eat it yourself.  If you carry this herb with you, you will be protected from evil and negativity.  


(Folk name:  Cat’s Wort)
One of my favorites... Catnip can be mixed together with rose petals to create a love sachet.  When hung over a door, Catnip will welcome good spirits and bring good luck into your home.  If you dry and press one of the larger leaves of Catnip, it makes for a great bookmark (just remember to keep the bookmark away from your cat!)   And of course, the obvious... Giving Catnip to your cat will create a psychic bond between you and your familiar.

Coriander, Cilantro
(Folk name: Chinese Parsley)
Add the powdered seeds of Coriander to a warm wine to conjure up a lustful brew.  

Carry Feverfew for protection against illness.  Feverfew has been known to help cure migraines.

"Where Geraniums grow, snakes will not go!"  Geranium is a protective plant that will tell of oncoming visitors by the way they move.  You'll find red Geraniums outside of a Witch's cottage; The flowers will point in the direction of approaching strangers and warn her of unwanted guests approaching.    

A staple herb for purification.  
Hang Hyssop in your home and be rid of negative energy.

(Folk name:  Elf Leaf)
Lavender not only smells wonderful, but it attracts love, promotes relaxation and aids in sleep.  It's great for sachets and pillows.  Scatter Lavender around your home to keep it peaceful.  It is said that if you place Lavender under your pillow while thinking of a wish just before going to bed, your wish will come true if you dream about the wish.  Also, if you want to see ghosts, carry Lavender.

Lemon Balm
(Folk names:  Lemon Balsam, Sweet Melissa)
Carry Lemon Balm with you to attract love.  Makes a delicious tea!

Lemon Verbena
Hang the herb around your neck to prevent nightmares.  It is said that if you wear Lemon Verbena, it will make you irresistible to the opposite sex.

(Folk names:  Joy of the Mountain, Wintersweet)
Keep Marjoram with you to ensure your love remains strong.  Growing Marjoram outside in the garden will prevent evil spirits from entering your home.  Also good to use in money drawing sachets.  

Chocolate Mint
Mint can be used for many purposes.  Rub it against the head to cure a headache.  If you want to encourage money or prosperity to come into your life, place Mint leaves in a wallet or purse and carry it with you.  To rid a home of negative spirits, mix up a potion of the following:  Saltwater, Mint, Marjoram and Rosemary.  Sprinkle the herb infused water around the house.  Keeping Mint in the home, will provide protection from evil and attract good spirits and positive vibrations.



(Folk name:  Devil’s Oatmeal)
If you are in love, don’t cut Parsley or you'll sever your love along with it!


Peppermint can be used in healing and purification.  Rub Peppermint leaves against the head to relieve a headache.  Wear it on your wrist to ward off illness.  Having Peppermint around your home raises positive vibrations and welcomes good spirits.  It's also highly aromatic.  Inhale the aroma of Peppermint to induce sleep.  Place it under your pillow at night to invoke psychic dreams.  If you want to cleanse your home of negative energy or evil spirits, rub it on walls and floorboards.  Like Mint, Peppermint also helps to attract money and prosperity if placed in a wallet or purse or wherever money is kept.

(Folk name:  Dew of the Sea)
Another multi-purpose herb is Rosemary.  Burn it to clear an area of negative energy.  Placing Rosemary under your pillow at night ensures a good night’s rest and banishes nightmares.  If Rosemary is laid under your bed, it will protect you from harm.  Hang Rosemary on the porch and keep or hang near your door to prevent thieves from entering and for protection.  If you want to stay in good health, carry Rosemary.  Bathing in a Rosemary infused bath will preserve your youth.  If you want to know the answer to a question, burn Rosemary on a charcoal and inhale its smoke.  The answer will be revealed.   

Rue (Folk name:  Herb of Grace)
Wearing Rue around your neck aids in healing and protects from illness. By adding Rue to a bath, you will break any hexes that may have been placed upon you.  Hang Rue over doors to protect your home or rub the fresh leaves on floorboards to send back evil.  To clear a house of negativity, mix together in infusion of saltwater and a sprig of fresh Rue.  Sprinkle the potion around your house.

Burn Sage (or smudge the home) to cleanse the home of negative energy.  If you want to make a wish come true, write it on a Sage leaf and hide it under your pillow.  Sleep with it there for three nights.  If you dream of your wish, it will come true.  If not, burn the leaf so no harm will be done to you.   

Same properties as Peppermint.  

Lemon Thyme
Burn Thyme or or wear this herb to promote good health.   Place it under your pillow to ensure restful sleep and rid yourself of nightmares.  Wearing Thyme will aid in developing psychic abilities.  Thyme is also a purification herb.  If you want to banish negative energy from your past, in the Spring, take a bath with Marjoram and Thyme.  You will be cleansed of the past negativity or sorrow.  Also, if you want to see fairies, wear Thyme. 

(Folk names:  Garden Heliotrope)
Valerian aids in sleep.  Hang it up in your home to guard against lightning.  

A staple herb in the "Witch's Garden".  Hang dried Yarrow over a bed to ensure everlasting love. By carrying Yarrow, you will attract love and friends - you may even receive a phone call from a distant relative or a long lost friend.  Drinking an infusion of Yarrow flowers is said to improve psychic abilities.

*For more information about herbal lore, I recommend "Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs" by Scott Cunningham (one of my favorite authors) which is where I have collected most of this information regarding these magical of herbs.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fall Patio Garden & Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, October 2014

Here are some highlights from my small space, urban patio garden in the city of Pasadena, CA for May Dreams Garden's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2014:

Since I last updated, my Odessa Calla Lilies are blooming.  The bulbs were a birthday gift from my husband, and I planted them in a pot in early September.  They are now blooming in a hauntingly beautiful shade of black/dark purple.

In keeping with the theme of black flowers, I have some velvety Black Magic Petunias and a newly planted a pot of Phantom Petunias.  Don’t you just love the names!  Very fitting for the season.

In the East side shady corner of the patio, I placed a majestic Maidenhair Fern.  It’s leaves are silky to the touch, and it’s soothing to look at.  No wonder it’s called maidenhair.
Earlier this month I was in Pennsylvania.  While I was there, I visited Peace Valley Lavender Farm.  What a wonderful place!  Lavender everywhere!  And an adorable gift shop full of products made with their home grown lavender.

Upon my return to California, I was so inspired, I went right out and bought 6 more lavender plants, (1 Provence; Lavandula x intermedia, 1 Lavandin Grosso; 3 ‘Hidcote’; Lavandula angustifolia, and 1 Lavender Lady English).  You can imagine how great it smells when I water in my small patio area.  Its already full of fragrance with all the different herbs, and with the added abundance of lavender… Ah! You can just imagine.  I don’t expect the new lavender to bloom anytime soon, however; as it’s Fall and not the time for lavender blooms, but the foliage is highly fragrant. Hopefully, they will last the Winter and boom in the Spring.
In other flowery news… The Feverfew is still chugging along.
I also have a small pot pot of Chamomile which is blooming, although I’ve noticed aphids appear to have made it into a buffet.  I wish one of the Praying Manti that live in the rose bushes out front would find its way back to my patio and handle the situation.
Next we have Lisianthus which has gone into another full bloom.  I’m learning that they go in cycles, just like the roses and this bloom session is very abundant with beautiful pink flowers.
And finally, I will highlight the white Columbine which is blooming with new flowers.
For this entry I have not included any of the blooms in the front yard.  The chaos of the construction is almost finished and once things settle down a bit more, I'll take some images.  Until then, I wish every one a Happy Halloween!