Saturday, July 9, 2011

Welcome To My Garden!

Nothing brings me back into focus when I'm feeling chaotic and scattered more than spending time in the garden.  Being with the plants, pulling the weeds, harvesting nature's bounty while the bees and insects fly and scramble all makes me take a deep breath and really feel nature at work all around me.  I grow many herbs, big surprise, and we also grow vegetables, pumpkins, strawberries and flowers, albeit they are mostly medicinal but make the garden more beautiful with their vibrant colors and plant energies.  I believe some flowers are healing just in their beauty alone.

Columbine peeking through my prized, medicinally valuable Stinging Nettles

Why don't you brew up a cup of refreshing peppermint tea and take a stroll with me through our garden.  Gardening was mostly a new experience for me when my husband and I bought our home in 2004.  I had never done much gardening, except for container gardening on apartment balconies, in the past and in the spring of 2005 decided to dig up some grass and plant a small 3x5 herb patch.  I planted Basil, Sage and Pleurisy Root to begin with and that was the beginning of my incredible herbal journey!  Soon I had extended the garden space and was now also growing Rosemary, Peppermint, Onion Chives and Yarrow.  Some St. John's Wort volunteered and looms cheerily over the other plants in the summer.  I make a nice oil from the St. John's Wort flowers that is a nice all purpose healer when crushed and placed in a healing oil for a week or two, but I have to confess to you that I mostly like to watch the bright yellow flowers turn the oil bright red over a week's time.  As you can guess, St. John's Wort is used for dying and produces vibrant red shades.

Rosemary stands tall and is surrounded by
Basil, Sage and Peppermint

St. John's Wort and Yarrow
growing happily together

I grow these herbs for both cooking and medicinal purposes.  Rosemary is a great reliever of headaches and Sage is wonderful for sore throats and laryngitis.  Basil is a mild antiviral that is also good at lowering blood pressure.  Peppermint is great for many things, including headache, gas, stomach pain and nausea, fatigue...did you know that a strong Peppermint tea, infused for about an hour (the longer you let it steep the stronger the medicine) will give you as much energy as a strong cup of coffee?  It's true!  You get a good "kick" of energy but it won't give you the jitters or withdrawl headaches and will even freshen your breath.  I grow Pleurisy Root in this garden as well but it is not in bloom in these pictures.  Here is a pic that I took a couple of summers ago with a bee that posed for me, turning to look at me when I said "smile!"

Bee on Pleurisy Root
I grow Pleurisy Root for my own bronchial and respiratory issues and it works quite well but I enjoy the beauty of the bright orange flowers almost as much as the relief I get from drinking a decoction of the root when I have breathing problems.

This next garden went in my second year of herb gardening and though you can't see them now, soon it will be ablaze with striking yellow and orange Calendula blooms, the main ingredient in my Gone With The Wound Cream, the healing cream I make and the product I have formulated that I am most proud of!   For now there are Strawberries, Yarrow and St. John's Wort growing here.

Currently my miniature Rose blooms rule the soon -to- be Calendula garden.  I grow the mini Rosebushes simply because we have had no luck with the full sized plants and I find that the mini Roses are great for my purposes.   I use the petals in rich facial creams and drink the tea for an uplifting and refreshing treat.  Rose petals make wonderful potpourri as well.  The mini rosebush has to enjoy it's brief time as the garden centerpiece for soon it will be surrounded by Calendula.  People often ask me how I maintain all of these herb gardens and are surprised when I tell them that herbs require very little care and often grow best in harsh conditions.  As long as I keep the weeds at bay, all my herbs grow robust and healthy.  Most herbs do not require much watering and they do not like fertilized soil.  I usually just add organic compost to the soil once a year and my herbs are vibrant, healthy and full of good natural medicine!

Beautiful and healing Calendula
In the picture above is a small patch of Calendula that has volunteered outside of the Calendula garden.  The petals of this plant are useful in cooking, adding a very light flavor comparable to Saffron, and the flowers and leaves are excellent for wound healing when made into a salve or cream.   
The herb garden pictured above is the 3rd garden I put in and grows Horehound, Rosemary, Lemon Balm, Thyme, Valerian and Onion Chives. Horehound is grown for the excellent cough remedy it provides.  Lemon Balm is grown mainly as a mild anxiety reliever but also for cooking and making popsicles!  Thyme is grown for cooking purposes as well as medicinal, being known to help cough, spasms and laryngitis.  Thyme is also useful for sluggish appetites and stomach complaints.  I grow Valerian for the powerful sedative and sleep remedy that are found in the root of this plant.  Onion chives are used for cooking and I also make a lovely and tangy chive vinegar that is bright pink and a delicious salad dressing or marinade for chicken and fish.  Rosemary is a strong and woodsy tasting herb used in cooking but it's also a great tea for headaches and externally it's a marvelous hair rinse that darkens the hair and keeps dandruff under control if used regularly.

Along the east side of our property we grow Lemon Balm, Valerian, Self-Heal and Stinging Nettles. I use the Self-Heal in my Gone With The Wound cream and the Stinging Nettles provide relief for allergies, asthma and are quite delicious when cooked!  I also occasionally flail my hands with the leaves for the relief it provides to my aching, arthritic joints.  Most people find the sting of Nettles to be painful but I am so used to the discomfort that I usually harvest the leaves without gloves.  Not too long ago we had high-speed internet installed and the cable man had to access the wall through the Stinging Nettle plants...I felt so bad for him when he showed me his painful welts and immediately applied my healing wound cream to his sores.  He was amazed at the quick relief of pain and how fast the welts and redness disappeared!

A neglected and unweeded herb bed...
I like to let this one just go wild!

Stinging Nettles, good for so many things!

In my 4th year of herb gardening I put in this small bed of herbs and planted Lavender, Spanish Lavender, Sweet Marjoram, Sage, Lemon Balm, Marshmallow and Artichoke.  This pic was taken shortly after the garden was planted.  It is now more mature and full of plants, bees and butterflies!  I grow Marshmallow for it's powerful helps to relieve swollen mucous membranes and is great for sore throats, laryngitis, coughs and more.  You can even make old-fashioned marshmallow treats by candying the roots.  I myself have not tried it but would love to hear from someone who has!

This is the same garden now, thriving and in need of a major harvesting of Sweet Marjoram that seems to have every intention of taking over!  I have learned over the years that many of the culinary herbs are best grown in containers.  Many of them are part of the Mint family and spread by underground runners, making them choke out other plants if not regularly cut back.  The Lemon Balm is ready to harvest but I let the Sage bloom this season...I love leaving it for the bees! 

We have a small hillside garden on a steep slant of ground that grows beautiful pumpkins, potatoes and strawberries.  This year, for fun, I planted bird house gourds and hope they will make a nice home for some feathery friends next spring.

Potato Plants

The strawberries are ripe and being harvested
daily now.  I love to eat them by the

Here are more pics of herbs I grow...

Wood Betony, an effective reliever of
mild pain and also good
for headaches
Mint, grown in
a container to
keep it under
California Poppy, a mild sedative
that is safe for children
Lovely and oh-so-useful
Lemon Balm

Spanish Lavender

We grow veggies in containers and line them up like soldiers, as you can see in the pictures below.  We grow Lettuce, Walla Walla Sweet Onions, Scallions, Green Beans, Tomatoes (cherry and regular), Carrots, Leeks and more herbs such as Dill, Catnip and Basil.

Having a large yard and several herb gardens can be a lot of work but we find it rewarding, fun and educational.  We learn something new each year, through good old fashioned trial and error, and we are able to cut our produce budget significantly through the summer.  It's a win-win all around!
Gunnar waters an ever evolving
herb garden
This dead Curry plant is
outta here!
Hard at work eradicating the weeds
that are not helpful or edible
Weeding and getting
ready to plant this
season's Calendula

Of course I can't forget to wrap up our garden tour without introducing you to our tree sentinals that proudly watch over our small 1/4 plot of land.
A face in the tree
And, amidst all of this, our dog Fraulein loves to romp and play chasing balls and critters and thinks she owns the yard.

I hope you've enjoyed our garden stroll as much as I have. Thanks for joining me!   I hope I've inspired you to plant a few herbs, and if you already have a garden I would love to hear what you grow and see your pictures!  You can send them to me at and I'll be sure to post them for you so you can showcase your garden to the world!

If you are interested in using herbs but don't have room for an herb garden you can purchase high quality organic herbs at Mountain Rose Herbs.  When I buy herbs I only buy from this award-winning company because they are simply the finest herbs I have found and I can't grow every herb I use, so having a resource like Mountain Rose Herbs is a godsend for this backyard herbalist.   To purchase herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs simply click on one of the banners on the HOME page.

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