Adapt and Thrive

As I look back over 2017, it was without a doubt an atypical year for our world, our country, and our home. The saying, “adapt or die,” comes to mind but it makes more sense to me if I reword it “adapt and thrive.” It tends to resonate better for me, although I do indeed respect the original saying.

There is no way I can digest and respond to what has been going on in our world right now, it is too over whelming to tackle but I can focus on a small piece of our lives. This year, I’ve had very little time to focus on the natural world and harvesting herbs except for a couple of moments I stole here and there. With that said, Mike created a wonderful little nursery at our new home for some of my plant allies to move into.  Although, they had a very late start, they do appear to be adapting to their new home and thriving beyond my expectations. Some are even to starting to flower in mid-October!

After I transplanted Arnica (Arnica spp.), it appeared to wither, so I decided to cut off the tops, hoping it would help it concentrate on establishing its roots. For a month, it looked dead, except for a little leaf here or there emerging from the soil. Now it appears that it has settled in and enjoys its new home. It is leafing out nicely, I would be surprised if it flowers this year, but I’m looking forward to it spreading out in 2018.

Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris) seemed to make itself at home instantaneously. I didn’t have to provide much support except water during our dry periods.

Three years ago, I transplanted St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatumin) to my old garden. It didn’t come back until this spring, and it did robustly. I collected flowers daily until I moved some of it to our new nursery. It continued to send out flowers but I did not harvest any, allowing it to get acclimated to its new home. Well, it must like its new home, because it is now sending out fresh new aerial parts. I am mentally prepared to wait a couple of seasons before it revisits the nursery but hopeful that it will return next year.

When I moved to a little cottage in the woods in 1998, I became enamored with Spearmint (Mentha spicata). It was growing right outside my front door. After a summer of adding it to my water, sun tea and random dishes, I couldn’t imagine life without it. It really brightens up the day and I have been planting a little stem at each new home since. Spearmint is a rather vigorous plant, and you really don’t need much for it to get established. Perhaps it was not prudent to put it into our nursery as our little plant is really thriving, but we can always find it a new home on the land next year.

A dear friend gifted me Calendula (Calendula officinalis) seeds and although they had a very slow start, they are now sending out lots of lovely orange blossoms. I am hoping they self-seed next year.

Although the new house’s gardens had Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) already, I needed to bring some with me. I cut the aerial parts so it could concentrate on establishing roots. I am overwhelmed that it is already sending out flowers.

Mike was planting Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) seeds for his orchard garden, so I took a couple seedlings for the nursery. Besides its medicinal qualities, it’s a great asset to any garden, as its root secretions will activate the disease resistance of nearby plants; and it intensifies the medicinal actions of other herbs.

Mike also planted some Tulsi, a.k.a Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) seedlings that I transplanted into the garden, which has started to flower. I love how the bees’ pollen sacs are bright red from visiting the Tulsi.

Although, I didn’t have much time to spend with herbs this year, I am overwhelmed with their ability to thrive in our little nursery. I cannot wait to spend more time with them in 2018.

Let’s see who’s there

If you have been reading my blog, I am sure you know by now that gardening and maintaining a garden is just not my thing. But when it comes to foraging, now that is more up my alley. Although, you can claim removing last year’s dead stems and leaves is actually “gardening,” I view it more like exploration. Because the very act of removing all last year’s detritus from my little medicinal garden is always thrilling. It reminds me of when I would take Mathew into the woods to see what critters were living under logs and rocks. We would very slowly and carefully pick the object up to see who was there. It was always very exciting.  That’s how I approach my little garden. Mind you, it is a very small garden perhaps only 10′ x 10′, but an enormous amount of love and intention goes into it.

waking up the gardenAs I started to remove last year’s detritus, the first plants to reveal themselves were Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria). I think I could also see a very shy Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) peaking through. Since I removed everything that would impede their journey to the surface and as long as the weather continues to be “spring like,” I suspect now all the plants will have an easier time revealing themselves, and by the end of the week more will breaking through the earth.

Waking up Lady's Mantle

Waking up Lady’s Mantle

This will be the 6th year I will be nurturing the garden. Every year, I add one or two more herbs to get to know and learn. Some of them I had never worked with before, so it has been very interesting. Gratefully, most of the herbs love the garden, coming back and flourish year after year. Unfortunately, some have enjoyed the garden a little bit too much. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria) adore the garden but since they thrive all over our land, there is no reason for them to take up space here.  Other plants have found their way into my garden and are welcome, such as Red Clover (Trifolium pretense). Several years ago, I learned how tenacious Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) was, silly me, I planted it in the center of the garden, thinking it would look nice. It really did until it started to crowd all the other plants who were stifled by its beautiful large overbearing leaves and flower stalks.  The next fall, we tried our best to take it all out so the other plants could breathe again. We replanted the Comfrey between Mike’s baby apple trees, where is will help the trees thrive. Comfrey’s root system efficiently mines potassium, calcium along with other minerals enriching the soil around it. We did not do the best job eradicating it from the garden, as it keeps revealing itself, less each year but nevertheless she is always there. Truthfully, I am not too sure that it is possible to totally eradicate Comfrey, but I guess time will tell. It is a fabulous reminder that we really cannot manage nature. One of the very reasons I am more of a forager at heart than a gardener.

 

 

The Little Alchemist

Several years ago, I started a journey of exploration of a magical plant ~ Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris). It is a rather understated herb, often found in the borders of gardens, with cloak shaped leaves and small green petal-less flowers. Nevertheless, it was not named the “Little Alchemist” for nothing. As its genus name, suggests Alchemilla refers to it being highly admired by the great alchemists. They were particularly enamored with the little water droplets that remained on the leaves after the morning dew had dried on other plants. They thought that Lady’s Mantle was “sweating” crystal pearls of water, and collected in the center of its funnel-shaped leaves and along the leaf margins. The alchemist would collect the magical dew from the leaves because the water droplets were considered essential to the Alchemist’s “Great Work” ~ to produce the Philosopher’s Stone. These droplets were collected and used by alchemists in attempts to create gold. I doubt they were successful, but Lady’s Mantle does indeed have other magical qualities.

lady's mantleThe water collected on the leaves is not dew but created within the leaf itself through a process called guttation. The plant pulls up more water than it can use and the root pressure forces some of it to exude through the leaves through special structures called water stomata or hydathodes, forming the droplets. The result is “water” that is high in minerals, organic acids, sugars and even enzymes. Since the surface of the leaves are very hairy, the droplets tend to stay quite a while once they’ve landed there. I have noticed them at 4pm on a hot summer day. The big difference between guttation and dew is that guttation produces droplets generated within the plant and dew produces droplets from the atmosphere onto the plant surface.

Lady’s Mantle has many medicinal qualities. The leaves and roots are used primarily. However, when harvesting leaves, many including myself take great care to collect the magical droplets along with the leaves. Some “believed that to moisten the skin with the sacred dew would impart a special radiance of elfin allure.” I personally find that simply dabbing a little bit around my sore tired eyes is very soothing and reduces any puffiness and redness. Perhaps, I should dab it all over my face. I have also put a leaf with its magical dew on a tender breast cyst and found great relief along with reducing the cyst size.

Lady’s Mantle has become a strong ally during my perimenopausal journey. As my body and cycles change, I experience flooding. This tends to be very inconvenient when traveling to say the least. Lady’s Mantle is rich in tannins giving it astringent properties that are excellent for drying up, tightening and expelling moisture from tissues ~ therefore, reducing the flow. This magical herb is an emmenagogue, which means it stimulates and normalizes menstrual flow as well as being a tonic and strengthening the female reproductive system. Therefore, it assists people with irregular cycles as well as heavy flow cycles ~ it brings balance to each individual. It also contains salicylic acid and has sedative properties that help to alleviate cramps and painful menstruation. Lady’s Mantle strengthens the womb, and therefore may provide support for women who are have a difficult time conceiving or holding onto their pregnancies. Postpartum, it helps heal and restore muscle and tissues integrity along with strengthening lactation.

Even though Lady’s Mantle can easily be claimed to be a woman’s herb, during the middles ages it was better known for its vulnerary properties.  It’s astringent, anti-inflammatory and powerful styptic actions make it excellent for healing wounds. It is also good for any skin troubles ~ soaking inflamed wounds, rashes, cuts, scrapes, or burn is wonderful to soothe and prevent infection. Using a tea for a mouth rinse helps with spongy tissues such as bleeding gums, sores and ulcers by tightening up the tissues and stopping any bleeding.

Although I’ve discovered a lot about Lady’s Mantle, I feel like I am just scratching the surface with the Little Alchemist. What do you use it for? Please share and I will continue to share with you.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition.

 

 

 

What’s under there?

If you have been reading my blog, I am sure you know by now that gardening does not come naturally to me. Foraging does. Perhaps I am approaching gardening differently this year, because the very act of removing last year’s dead stems and leaves from my little medicinal garden was thrilling. It reminded me of when I would take Mathew into the woods to see what critters were living under logs and rocks. We would very slowly and carefully pick the object up, to see who was there. It was always very exciting.  That is how I’m approaching my little garden this year. Mind you, it is a very small garden perhaps only 10′ x 7′, but an enormous amount of love and intention goes into it.

waking up the gardenAs I started to remove last year’s detritus, the first plants to reveal themselves were Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria). I think I could also see a very shy Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) peaking through. Since I removed everything that would impede their journey to the surface and as long as the weather continues to be “spring like,” I suspect now all the plants will have an easier time revealing themselves, and by the end of the week more will breaking through the earth.

Waking up Lady's Mantle

Waking up Lady’s Mantle

This will be the 4th year I will be nurturing the garden. Every year, I add one or two more herbs to get to know and learn. Some of them I had never worked with before, so it has been very interesting. Gratefully, most of the herbs love the garden, coming back and thriving year after year. Unfortunately, some have enjoyed the garden a little bit too much. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria) adore the garden but since they thrive all over our land, there is no reason for them to take up space here.  Other plants have found their way into my garden and are welcome, such as Red Clover (Trifolium pretense). Last year, I learned how tenacious Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) was, silly me, I planted it in the center of the garden, thinking it would look nice. It really did until it started to crowd all the other plants who were stifled by its beautiful large overbearing leaves and flower stalks.  Last fall, we tried our best to take it all out so the other plants could breathe again. We replanted the comfrey between Mike’s baby apple trees, where is will help the trees thrive. Comfrey’s root system efficiently mines potassium, calcium along with other minerals enriching the soil around it. Hopefully, we did a good job eradicating it from the garden. Truthfully, I am not too sure that it is possible but I guess time will tell. It is a fabulous reminder that we really cannot manage nature. One of the very reasons I am more of a forager at heart than a gardener.