Welcome to Our World of Plants, a modern open area for learning and understanding the mysteries of the plant world, A place of powerful, videos and articles that lend to understanding plants and their history of use in our world so you get the knowledge to help you in your endeavors, when you want it.
Plants make many chemical compounds for biological functions,
Agrimony is used for sore throat, upset stomach, mild diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diabetes, gallbladder disorders, fluid retention, cancer, tuberculosis, bleeding, corns, and warts; and as a gargle, heart tonic, sedative, and antihistamine. Agrimony is sometimes known as church steeples because of its thin, tapering spikes of small, star-shaped yellow flowers. The mid-green leaves have serrated edges and grow in alternate large and small pairs. The flowers, which are borne throughout the summer, have an apricot scent, particularly attractive to bees and other insects. The flower spike can grow to over 2 feet high.. In Anglo-Saxon times agrimony was virtually regarded as a heal-all with almost magical powers. Its name is thought to be a corruption of the Greek Argemone, used by Dioscorides to describe plants that healed eye disorders. It contains tannin, which as well as being recommended for dressing leather is good for skin eruptions, and it yields a yellow dye. Today it is made into an apricot-scented herb tea, and an infusion of agrimony is often prescribed for gastro-intestinal complaints, coughs, cystitis and as a gargle for sore throats. It may be used in an eyebath to add sparkle to tired eyes. Seed sown in late winter or spring, or, for better results, in late summer or early autumn in well-drained soil.
Alecost was taken by settlers to America, where the Puritans carried a leaf in their bibles as a fragrant bookmark and to allay appetites during long sermons, giving alecost the nickname "bible leaf." The word "cost" derives from costum, the Latin for a spicy oriental herb, so alecost means a spicy herb for ale, and costmary is Mary's or women's spicy herb, as it was used to ease childbirth. According to Gerard, the sixteenth-century herbalist, alecost was "cherished for its sweete flowers and leaves." Its balsamic leaves and flowering tops were also important in brewing to help clear and preserve ale and to impart an astringent, minty bitterness.
ALLIUMS, One of the most popular and widespread culinary flavorings is the onion family.The Value of these alliums is reflected in the Latin unio, "one large pearl," and the Chinese name Lewel among vegetables." Alliums also have marvelous health giving properties. The stronger the smell, the more effective their healing powers. Pyramid builders and Roman soldiers on long marches were fed on a daily ration of garlic, whose power even extended to protection from black magic, as vampire films continue to remind us. Today, garlic is a major flavoring in many cuisines. Chives were recorded 4,000 years ago in China and appreciated there by the traveller Marco Polo. He reported their culinary virtues to the West, where they rapidly became indispensable. Chinese chives have a garlic flavor, and the Chinese grow several forms: one for its leaves; one,'Tenderpole,' for its long-stemmed flower buds - good stir-fried or as a garnish; and one to blanch (using clay pots or straw "tents" to Produce yellow, sweetly flavored bundles).
Angelica A highly aromatic plant, angelica is praised in the folklore of northern European countries as a cure for all ills. It name is thought to derive from the fact that, in the old calendar, it usually came into bloom around the feast day of the Archangel Michael, the Great Defender, who appeared in a vision to explain protective powers against evil. Angelica is a moisture-loving native of damp meadows and river banks. Its large leaves have a tropical appearance and can give the garden a lush atmosphere.
Anise: Early colonists carried the seed to North America where Shakers grew it in their medicinal herb crops. Around 1500 B.C., the Egyptians grew their native anise in quantity to supply food, drink and medicine from its leaves and seed. The field of Tuscany were planted with anise by the Romans, who developed a special spiced cake, mustaceum, as a finishing dish for feasts. It was baked with anise, cumin and other digestive herbs and established tradition thought to be the precursor of spiced wedding cakes. Charlemagne's edict of the ninth century, that every herb growing in Saint Gall's monastery should be planted on all his royal estates, spread anise throughout Europe. It became so valued in England that its import was taxed.
Artemisias: was the sister and wife of the Creek / Persian King Mausolus and ruled after his death in 353 B.C. In his honor she built a magnificent tomb called the Mausoleum, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. She was also a famous botanist and medical researcher, and this genus of 200 mostly aromatic plants was named in her honor. The medicinal values of artemisias were discovered by people living in semiarid and temperate regions where the plants are found. In the ancient Creek text of Dioscorides, wormwood is mentioned for its internal worm-expelling property. Indians from New Mexico to British Columbia use similar varieties to treat bronchitis and colds. The Chinese still use a leaf of wormwood rolled up in the nostril to stop nosebleeds. Many artemisias are also visually appealing. Their silver leaves are stunning when reflected in moonlight, and they also enhance any dried herb arrangement. Mugwort, though less aromatic and attractive than Jther artemisias, features in the magical lore of Europe, Asia and China. In the pre-Christian "Lay of the Nine Herbs," the first incantation for protection is to mugwort, the "mother of herbs":
Have in mind, Mugwort, what you made known,
What you laid down, at the great denouncing.
Una your name is, oldest of herbs,
Of might against thirty, and against three,
Of might against venom and the onflying,
Of might against the vile She who fares through the land.
Arugula : An easy-to-grow salad herb that can be found running wild on wasteland. The cultivated variety grows to a height of 2 to 3 feet, with small creamy-yellow flowers that appear in late spring and early summer. The pointed, lance-shaped leaves are deeply indented near the base of the plant and have a characteristic smell when bruised and a peppery flavor. Sow rows of seed in rich, moist soil in a lightly shaded position from early spring to early summer. Grow quickly for tender leaves, which are ready to pick within six to eight weeks of sowing and should be gathered before flowering. Once used medicinally in a cough syrup, arugula is now grown only as an edible herb. The Ancient Romans prized the flavor of its leaves and seeds. Added to a green salad, the leaves impart a pungent, spicy flavor, which is milder the earlier the leaves are picked. They can also be used in sauces or steamed as a vegetable. The flowers can be used to garnish a salad and in flower language, arugula means deceit.
Balm of Gilead:.The name of this herb conjures up biblical images of aromatic resins and healing oils. The true balm of Gilead is a rare desert shrub, Commiphora opobalsamum, a gift from the Queen of Sheba to Solomon. The tree is guarded and export prohibited. To share this name, and possibly scent, is the lure of Cedronella canariensis, which has a strange "masculine" fragrance the kind of musky scent that gives depth to perfumes. The tree Populus balsamifera is also called balm of Gilead.
BAY, SWEET BAY, or LAUREL. The bay tree was sacred to Apollo, the Greek god of prophecy, poetry and healing. His prophecies were communicated through. his priestess at Delphi, who, among other rituals, ate a bay leaf before expounding her oracle. As bay leaves are slightly narcotic in large doses, they may have induced her trance. Apollo's temple at Delphi had its roof made entirely of bay leaves for protection against disease, witchcraft and lightning. Bay-leaf garlands were subsequently adopted as architectural moldings. A wreath of bay leaves became the mark of excellence for poets and athletes and, to the Romans, bay was a symbol of wisdom and glory. The Latin laurus means "laurel" and nobilis "renowned"; laureate means "crowned with laurels," hence poet laureate and baccalaureate. Bay was also dedicated to Apollo's son, Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine, and it has been used against disease, especially plague, for many centuries.
BERGAMOT. or BEE BALM. This North American native became a popular garden and tisane plant in Europe after settlers sent back seed. The name Monarda honours the Spanish medical botanist Dr Nicholas Monardes of Seville, who wrote his herbal on the flora of America in 15 69. He probably called this herb bergamot because its leaf scent resembles that of the small, bitter, Italian bergamot orange, Citrus aurantium beraamia, which produces the oil used in aromatherapy, perfumes and cosmetics. The Oswego Indians infused bergamot as a drink, and it became a popular tea substitute in New England after the Boston Tea Party, in 17 73. Several Indian tribes used wild bergamot for colds and bronchial complaints, and, as it contains the powerful antiseptic thymol, it is worthy of further research.
Borage. The common thread running through historical descriptions of borage is its ability to make men and women glad and merry, to comfort the heart, dispel melancholy and give courage. The Celtic name borrach meant courage and the Welsh name Llawenlys translates as herb of gladness. According to Dioscorides and Pliny, borage was the famed nepenthe of Homer, a herb wine that brought absolute forgetfulness. The flowers are a beautiful pure blue often chosen by Old Maste's to Paint the Madonna's robe. Flowers were embroidered on fine medieval tapestries and on scarves for tournament jousters. They were included in the page borders of herbals and Books of Hours. For courage, they were floated in the stirrup-cups given to Crusader their departure. The noble qualities of borage may derive from it content of calcium, potassium and mineral salts, and research borage works on the adrenal gland, where courage begins.
Broom. Honored as a heraldic device of the medieval lords of Brittany and the Plantagenet rulers of England, common broom is a deciduous perennial shrub that could once be found extensively growing wild. With a height and spread of 8 feet, it has long, erect branches which remain bright green even in winter. In late spring and early summer the branches are covered with a mass of yellow, fragrant flowers, followed by black seed pods. The flowers, rich in pollen, attract bees, and hjlbrids are available in a variety of colors from white to red. Although very adaptable, broom prefers full sun and a well-drained, slightly acid soil. Sow seeds as soon as they are ripe, and transplant the seedlings to their permanent position in autumn. Broom can also be increased by layering. Prune annually after flowering to prevent the plant becoming leggy. A colorful and useful addition to the garden, broom will bind the soil on a steep bank and provide shelter for other shrubs until they become established. It derives its common name from the fact that its tough and flexible branches were made into brooms. The tannin in its bark was once employed to tan leather and the seeds have been used as a substitute for coffee. Before hops were introduced to brewing, the young green tops added bitterness to beer, and broom buds were held to be a delicacy, often pickled to resemble capers. Known for its medical properties in Angle-Saxon times, broom was thought to cure kidney and bladder complaints. Today it is an ingredient of a number of pharmaceutical drugs, including diuretics. Slightly narcotic, and dangerous in large doses, broom is considered unsafe and not suitable for domestic use. .
Bugle. :A low-growing, creeping perennial, cultivated mainly for its decorative foliage. The oval leaves are dark-green with a Purplish tinge, although both multi-colored and variegated forms are available. It bears blue tubular flowers on short spikes from late spring throughout the summer. Some forms produce pink or even white flowers. Bugle is an excellent ground-cover plant, growing to a height of 4 to 6 inches. It needs partial shade, making it suitable for planting under taller flowering shrubs, near hedging or a trellis. Sow seed in moist, fertile soil in autumn or spring. Propagate by dividing runners and planting out in autumn or spring at 1 foot intervals, to allow space for spreading. A reliable garden plant because ofits eager growth and pretty flowers and foliage. In the past, bugle was a very popular herbal remedy. Among its many applications, it was made into an ointment for bruises, and a lotion of bugle, honey and alum was recommended for mouth sores. An infusion of dried leaves and boiling water is thought to lower blood pressure and stop internal bleeding. It is also believed to have a mildly narcotic effect.
Calendula of Marigold, One of the most versatile herbs, calendula is popular as a cheerful cottage garden flower; for its use in cosmetic and culinary recipes; as a dye plant and for its many healing properties. As this hardy annual seems to be in flower continuously, it attracted a botanic name which reflects the belief that it was always in bloom on the first day of each month. The regular supply of petals and young leaves contributed to its frequent use. Ancient Egyptians valued it as a rejuvenating herb. Hindus used it to decorate temple altars and Persians and Creeks garnished and Aavored food with its golden petals. In Europe it has long been used to flavor soups and stews, and to color butter and cheese. It is a soothing antiseptic and an excellent skin healer, especially for cracked skin and chapped lips. In the American Civil War, doctors on the battlefield employed the leaves to treat open wounds. .
Caraway, Definitely a herb with a pedigree, caraway has been found in the remains of Stone Age meals, Egyptian tombs, and ancient caravan stops along the Silk Road. The Arabic word for the seed, karawya, gives us the present name, and Isaiah speaks of its culture in the Bible. In Shakespeare's Henry IV, Falstaff is offered a "pippin (apple) and dish of caraways," this being a traditional finish to an Elizabethan feast. Caraway has always been popular in Germany, and when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, Britain renewed its interest in his favorite seed. Such an ancient herb is not without its magical properties. Caraway gave protection from witches and was believed to be able to Prevent departures, so it was used in love potions. .
Catnip or Catmint: The name Nepeta may derive from the Roman town Nepeti, where catnip was cultivated when it was more highly valued than today. It had a reputation as a seasoning and medicinal herb, and in less favorable times the mildly hallucinogenic dried leaves were smoked to relieve the pressures of life. set in a border, catnip can be a pretty plant, with its whorls of lavender or white flowers attracting the bees, if it is not damaged by cats. These animals will lie in the center of the plant, rubbing the leaves in a state of sheer bliss, thus giving catnip its common name. The smaller catmint, N. muainii, receives less attention from cats, and its compact form, which produces masses oflavender-blue flowers, is traditionally planted in front of lavender and roses. .
Chevril, In the past, the modest chervil has often been overlooked. It now increasing popularity as people discover its special, delicate parsley-like flavor with a hint of myrrh. It is one of the traditional herbes, indispensable in French cuisine, and is a fresh green asset any meal. A graceful clump of chervil plants will retain more flavor in its foliage if grown in light shade. Viewed in an herb garden moonlight, the clusters of tiny white flowers are like fairy dust See other Catagories for related topics.
Chicory or Succory, According to folk tales, the flowers of chicory are a beautiful clear blue because they are the transformed eyes of a lass weeping for her lover's ship, which never returned. These blue flowers can be changed to bright red by the acid of ants: place a flower in an ant hill and watch the color show. Chicory is often grown in Aoral clocks for the regular opening of its flowers and their closing five hours later. These opening times relate to latitude, but the leaves always align with north. Gardeners interested in metaphysics credit this plant with life-giving forces
Clove Pink, This herb was a flower of divinity to the Greeks, who dedicated it to the "sky father" and called it dianthus, meaning Zeus's flower. To the Romans, it was flos jovis, Jove's flower. In the making of coronets and garlands, in which both these cultures delighted, pinks were given place of honor. These flowers of love were also floated in the drinks of engaged couples, and in medieval art they indicated betrothal. Pinks have long been used to flavor dainty dishes with their spicy fragrance: flowers were crystallized, and petals were used in soups, sauces, syrups, cordials and wine. In 16 99, Tohn Evelyn suggested that the petals could be mingled with other salad ingredients but had "a more palatable relish infused in vinegar.
Columbine, This dainty and elegant border perennial has been a garden favorite for over 300 years. It grows to a height of 2 to 3 feet with thin, erect flower stems that are topped by a loose head of drooping, funnel-shaped flowers in late spring and early summer. The old-fashioned columbine produces blue, pink, or white flowers, but cultivated forms are available in a variety of eyecatching colors. Each of the flower's five petals has a prominent spur, resembling an eagle's talon. Hence the plant's botanical name aquileSia from the Latin word aquila, meaning "eagle." In spring the gray-green, ferny leaves are tinged with pink. While columbine tolerates a sunny, open area of the garden it is happiest in partial shade.
Sow seeds at 1 foot intervals during spring, in the flowering site, or divide clumps in autumn or spring. Soil should be fertile and fairly alkaline. Water well in dry weather, and cut the stems down after flowering.
Today the columbine owes its place in the herb garden solely to its beauty and grace. Once made into an astringent lotion, it is now known to be slightly poisonous and so is no longer used.
Comfey, Among plants, comfrey's claim to be a miracle worker must be preeminent. The list of beneficial substances in its leaves sounds impressive and includes calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A, C and B 12, but not in sufficient amounts to meet our daily requirements, especially as comfrey should only be taken internally in moderation. As it has more protein in its leaf structure than any other known member of the vegetable kingdom, it is cultivated in many countries for fodder. From two to five crops a year can be produced, depending on climate. Comfrey also sends down a 10 foot or longer taproot, to raise moisture and valuable minerals to the upper soil levels. The leaf and roots contain allantoin, a protein that encourages cell division, and the plant is credited with some remarkable cures, from stubborn leg ulcers to broken bones.
Coriander, Cultivated as a medicinal and culinary herb for at least 3,000 year coriander is mentioned in Sanskrit texts, on Egyptian papyri, in Tales of the Arabian Nights and in the Bible, where manna is compared with coriander seed. Coriander was brought to northern Europe by the Romans, who, combining it with cumin and vinegar, rubbed it into meat as a preservative. The Chinese once believed it conferred immortality, and in the Middle Ages it was put into love potions an aphrodisiac. All coriander parts have a pungent aroma; one Peruvian tribe is so fond of the leaf that they exude its scent. That of the mildly narcotic seed changes considerably when it ripens to a sweet spicy flavor, which is best after a few months. Coriander's use in exotic cuisines has rekindled its popularity today.
Cotton Thistle, Readers of A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh will know how fond donkeys are of thistles, and the botanic name of this herb derives from the Greek ones, meaning "an ass," and pedron, meaning "I disperse wind." This perhaps provides a clue as to why the character Eeyore led such a solitary and sorrowful existence. O. acanthium is thought to be the true Scotch thistle, the emblem of Scotland. This symbol was firmly fixed by 15 oh 3, when the poet Dunbar wrote "The Thrissill and the Rose" on the union of the Scottish James IV and the English Princess Margaret. The Order of the Thistle, which ordained Scottish knighthoods, was instituted by King James V in 1540.
Cowslip Primrose, These two flowers of spring never fail to gladden the heart. Favorite of favorites, the primrose is the first to appear. Although picked for jams and cosmetics, its real attraction is the soft yellow simplicity of its perfect flower. Its leaves are enjoyed by silkworms. The cheerful, nodding cowslip, the "Keys of St Peter," has a unique milky scent likened to a cow's breath or to that of a new baby. In some areas, it has almost been picked to extinction, mainly to make seductive cowslip wine, but also for the childish delight of sucking the sweet nectar from the flowers. It can be found wild here in some areas, having escaped from cultivation. Primroses tend to be found only in gardens.
Curry, This plant from southern Europe is a relatively new addition to herbal lists. Curry plant's initial attraction lies in the intense silver of its evergreen leaves, which make it and its dwarf form, H.a. var. nana, a good choice for formal edgings and knot gardens. However, it is the sweet curry scent of its leaves which is so unusual and has caused its recent rise in popularity, especially among adventurous cooks. Visitors to my garden who accidentally brush against curry plant often look around for a picnic group to track down the source of the spicy aroma. The genus Helichrysum also includes H. bracteatum, whose everlasting flowers, though scentless, are often added to potpourri and dried arrangements for their decorativeness.
Deadnettle, So-named because of its strong resemblance to the stinging nettle, the dead nettle is totally unrelated and its leaves have no sting. It can be distinguished from the stinging nettle, even before its clusters of tubularwhite, yellow, pink or purple flowers appear, by its squarer, hollow stem. The leaves are heart-shaped at the base, and those of the purple dead nettle have a purple tinge, with an irregular white stripe in some species. Because in England it first flowers around the day dedicated in the old calendar to the Archangel Michael, 8 May, the dead nettle is also commonly called archangel. It is an important nectar plant for bees, particularly the white dead nettle which, in some areas, can be found in flower in late autumn. An adaptable plant, which provides long-flowering ground cover for wild areas of the garden. It has long been thought to have astringent properties. A decoction of the flowers was sometimes prescribed as a blood purifier. Bruised leaves applied to the skin were said to staunch bleeding, while dried leaves were made into a tea to encourage perspiration. The leaves have occasionally been used in soups or eaten as vegetables in parts of France and Sweden.
Dill "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and dill and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law" (Matthew 23 23). This biblical reference shows that herbs had high and sufficiently stable value to be used as tax payment. Well before that, the ancient Egyptians had recorded dill as a soothing medicine, and the Greeks knew "dill stayeth the hickets" (hiccups). During the Middle Ages, it was one of the St John's Eve herbs, to be Prized as protection against witchcraft. Magicians used dill in their spells, while lesser mortals infused it in wine to enhance passion. Early settlers took dill to North America, where it became known at "meetin' seed," because children were given dill seed to chew during long sermons.
Elder, A perennial, deciduous large shrub or small tree, with oval, serrated leaves, the elder has a height and spread of about 15 feet. Its spreading branches bear large, flat heads of small, star-shaped, creamy-White flowers in late spring and early summer. These are followed, in early autumn, by drooping bunches of purplish-black, juicy berries. A common wild plant, it is part of the folklore of several countries, where ancient legends link it with magic. Sow ripe berries 1 inch deep in a pot outdoors. Plant seedlings out in a semi-shaded position when large enough Or plant 1 foot long hardwood cuttings in a nusery bed in mid- to late autumn and plant out the following autumn. Cut back hard in winter. Elders tolerate most soils; S. canadensis is a more hardy species. This important and valuable tree, once called "the medicine chest of the country people," has innumerable uses. An infusion of the sweet-scented flowers can be used to treat colds. Elderflower water is good for the complexion and the eyes. The flowers are also used in an ointment to treat burns, while an ointment made from the leaves is suitable for bruises and sprains. The berries are rich in vitamin C and are often the main ingredient in jellies and cordials. For centuries wine has been made from both the berries and the flowers.
Elecampane, Helen of Troy was believed to be gathering elecampane when she was abducted by Paris, and its botanic name has captured this association. Its root contains a sweet starchy substance called inulin, which is responsible for elecampane's popularity as a crystallized sweet. According to the Roman writer Pliny, the Empress Julia Augusts "let no day pass without eating some of the roots candled, to help the digestion and cause mirth." In the Middle Ages, dpothecaries sold the candled root in flat, pink, sugary cakes, which were sucked to alleviate asthma and indigestion and to sweeten the breath. In ancient China large-leafed plants were grown under scholars' windows so they could listen to different sounds of rain. Elecampane can be used for a similar effect in temperate climates.
Evening Primrose, A plant for a moonlit garden: the clear yellow flowers of evening primrose unclasp their hooked cover at twilight ahd open their blossom to the moon, welcoming the night with their delicate sweet fragrance and mysterious emissions of phosphorescent light. As the season progresses, the flowers often stay open all day as well. Though probably grown in nineteenth-century monastery gardens, the evening primrose was overlooked by the Austrian monk Gregor Mendel when choosing plants for his famous experiments on inheritance. However, it is now grown by geneticists to demonstrate the principles of heredity. Medical research is also currently exploring ways in which the seeds, which contain the rare gamma-linoleic acid, may alleviate premenstrual tension, menopausal discomfort, psoriasis, reduce thrombosis and control multiple sclerosis and other degenerative diseases. The increasing uses of evening primrose seed may well signal a time when whole fields billow with these glorious yellow flowers.
Fennel, is one of our oldest cultivated plants and was much valued by the Romans. "So gladiators fierce and rude mingled it with their daily food. And he who battled and subdued a wreath of fennel wore" (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). ill an age of banquets, Roman warriors took fennel to keep in good health, while Roman ladies ate it to prevent obesity. Every part of the plant, from the seed to the root, is edible. It was one of the nine herbs held sacred by the Angle-Saxons for its power against evil. Charlemagne declared in 812 A.D. that fennel, with healing properties also to its credit, was essential in every imperial garden.
Fenugreek, is one of the herbs whose medicinal use and commercial cultivation is as of present on the increase. Its seed contains not only mucilage but also diosgenin, which is important in the synthesis of oral contraceptives and sex hormone treatments. Its leaves contain coumarin, which gives them a sweet hay scent when dried, so they are sometimes used to mask inferior hay. Foenum-graecum, in fact, is the Latin for Greek hay and it is a well-known fodder crop. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Egyptians valued fenugreek for eating, healing and embalming. The Greeks and Romans too, enjoyed the seed as food and medicine. On the Indian subcontinent, its spicy seed has long been included in curry powder and its leafy shoots have been curried as a vegetable.
Feverfew, Some medicinal properties of this ancient herb have been known by herbalists, including Culpeper, for centuries. These were its ability to aid "melancholy and aches and pains in the head." However, feverfew's ability to soothe headaches was not given much attention until recently and, after detailed scientific analysis of the plant, several new healing substances have been discovered and patented. For example, in trials to prevent or reduce migraine, 70 percent of patients experienced some improvement after eating a number of feverfew leaves every day, while the best drug on the market currently has a 50 percent cure rate. Feverfew's success in combating migraines may be due to its accumulative effect in slowly reducing the smooth muscle spasms, which are implicated in many forms of migraine.
Forget Me Not, An edging or rock-garden plant, the forget-me-not provides a dense carpet of blue, fragrant flowers mid- to late spring. It has oblong, tapering mid-green leaves below open sprays of small salver-shaped flowers. Easy to grow, the forget-me-not thrives in the shade of other springtime flowers such as tulips or wallAowers. Myosotis sylvatica, a short-lived perennial, can grow to a height of 12 inches, so makes a striking display in a bed of its own and is attractive viewed by moonlight. Sow seeds in late spring. Plant out 6 inches apart in autumn in any well-drained soil. Do not allow the soil to dry out. An asset to any springtime border, with its vivid blue flowers and delicate fragrance. Myosotis is used in a homeopathic remedy for respiratory problems, particularly in Europe, where it is sometimes made a syrup for pulmonary disorders. The juice of the forget-me-not was believed to harden steel. In flower language, a man who gave a woman a bunch of roses entwined with forget-me-nots and lemon grass is offering her words of love.
Foxglove, In some conditions the foxglove is a perennial, but it is usually best treated as a biennial. Tall spikes, growing 3-5 feet long, bear tubular, bell-like flowers throughout the summer. The flowers of the common DiSitalis purpurea are purple or reddish, but hybrids are available in a variety of colors. The large, downy, mid-green leaves have slightly indented edges. Those of the common foxglove are oval, while D. x mertonensis has lance-shaped leaves and more luxuriant, showy flowers. Happy in full sun or partial shade, the foxglove makes a colorful and dramatic background to smaller border plants. Sow seed in spring or early summer the year before the plant is to flower. The foxglove prefers well-drained, acid soil. Water well in dry weather and remove the central spike after flowering to increase the size of flowers on the side-shoots. For over 200 years. D. purpurea has provided the main drug for treating heart-failure. It is also a powerful diuretic. Although a synthetic form of the drug has been developed, the plant is still grown commercially for the drug industry. Note: Foxgloves are poisonous and should not be eaten or used domestically.
Frenck Marigold, Tagetes offers a unique asset to gardeners: it can deter eelworm (nematodes). Its root secretions will deaden the detector mechanism of eelworms so that they don't "wake up" to the presence of their host plant. In Holland recent experiments have confirmed that eelworm among roses can be controlled by interplanting with French marigold. Tulip and potato growers also find it invaluable, and the foliage scent deters insects from tomato plants. African marigold (T. erecta) has similar properties to French marigold, but most effective of all is the Inca marigold (T. minuta), which can grow to a height of 10 feet. For hundreds of years, South American Indians have grown potatoes on the same land and prevented eelworm attack by interplanting with this "sacred weed.
Garden Cress, Sown on a dish indoors, this is the cress of "mustard and cress." Outdoors it can reach a height of 18 inches and bears small white flowers, typical of the crucifer family, in early summer. It is cultivated for its narrow, lance-shaped leaves, which have a biting, peppery taste. Sow frequently in light, well-drained soil anytime from early spring to early autumn. Water freely and gather the young leaves before they have time to toughen in hot weather. Another favorite with the Ancient Romans, this useful cut-and-come-again crop adds piquancy to salads, garnishes and sauces. As a very young plant it gives a tang to mustard and cress, but the leaves develop a hotter flavor as the plant matures. Although it does contain a natural antibiotic, garden cress is not used medicinally.
Garden Orach, This tall erect hardy annual, also known as mountain spinach, was once commonly grown in the vegetable garden as a substitute for spinach. It grows to over 5 feet high. The large leaves are indented and the whole plant resembles a large dock. Gold and purple varieties are available as well as green. A row of orach plants can be grown to form a temporary hedge. Sow seeds in rows 2 feet apart in rich soil in late spring or early summer. Water freely to encourage quick growth. Pinch out the flower heads of all but a few plants, which will then seed themselves. No longer used medicinally, garden orach was once known to every housewife for its healing properties. It was prescribed for sore throats, gout and jaundice. Although considered inferior to spinach, it is now grown a great deal in France, where it is used in soups. The different forms, particularly the purple variety, make it a decorative salad ingredient. Young leaves can be eaten raw, older leaves should be cooked.
Garden Rue, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo both claimed that, owing to rue's metaphysical powers, their eyesight and creative inner vision had been improved. Branches of rue were used to sprinkle holy water before high mass, and it was an important strewing herb and antiplague plant. Robbers who stripped plague victims protected themselves with "Vinegar of the four thieves," rue being an ingredient, and it was also a main component of mithridate, a Greek all- purpose poison antidote. Rue is shown on the heraldic Order of the Thistle and inspired the design of the suit of clubs in playing cards.
Good King Henry, was a most popular herb from Neolithic times until the last century. Its curious name is not taken from the English king Henry VIII, with his many wives, but rather comes from germany, where it distinguishes the plant from the poisonous mercury ,which is known as "bad Henry." Both Good King Henry and fat hen (C. album) have nutritious leaves. The seeds of fat hen, which are rich in fat and albumen, were a food supplement for primitive man, and fat hen was found in the stomach of preserved Iron Age Tollund Man. American wormseed (C. ambrosioides) is sometimes used to expel worms, but only under strict medical supervision, as large doses are poisonous. It is also knownin China as "fragrant tiger bones.
Greater Periwinkle, An evergreen spreading perennial, the greater periwinkle's large, glossy, egg-shaped leaves occur in pairs on the stem. From midspring to early summer it bears purplish-blue, tubular flowers, each with five petals that open out flat. Sometimes more flowers appear in early autumn. The plant extends itself by long, trailing and rooting stems, making it invasive if planted in a border. The botanical name vinca comes from the Latin vincaper vinca, meaning "to bind," and these roots make it an excellent choice for sloping ground, where they serve to bind the soil.
Periwinkles will grow in any ordinary, well-drained soil. Take stem sections 6 inches long and plant in partial shade in early autumn or early spring. Or divide and replant in the autumn. Vinca minor is a more hardy species.
Most attractive year-round ground cover for partially shaded areas of the garden, with the bonus of perhaps two flowerings a year. An old name for the periwinkle was sorcerer's violet, when it was an important constituent of charms and love philters, and was believed to have the power to exorcize evil spirits. Wrapped around the affected part of the body, the periwinkle was also believed to cure cramps. Its astringent and tonic properties were thought to staunch hemorrhaging, and an ointment of bruised leaves and lard was used for treating inflammatory skin conditions. However, today herbalists use the greater periwinkle mainly in the treatment of diabetes. It is related to the plant known as rose periwinkle, which is being used in the treatment of leukemia, but it should not be used in home remedies.
Hawthorn, A tough, thorny perennial, the hawthorn grows very rapidly once established. It will thrive in semi-shade, but is happiest in an open, sunny position where it can reach a height of 30 feet with a spread of 15-20 feet. Its dark-green leaves are lobed and toothed and, in late spring, it bears clusters of lovely, sweetly scented white flowers, followed by bright-red berries from late summer well into the autumn. Tradition links the tree with Christianity. Christ wore a crown of thorns and, according to legend, in A.D. 60 when Joseph of Arimathea went to Britain to deliver the Holy Grail, he struck his staff into the ground at Glastonbury, where it took root, Alowering twice a year, once in spring and once at Christmas.
Sow ripe seeds outdoors in late winter/early spring, or plant young shrubs from autumn until early spring. Protect with tree sleeves. For a hedge, plant shrubs at 12-16 inch intervals and trim between midsummer and spring.
Hawthorn makes a good, thick hedge or an attractive specimen tree for a lawn. When burned, it gives off a great deal of heat. Today the flowers and especially the berries are used in cardiac tonics. A liqueur can be made from the berries mixed with brandy.
Honeysuckle, Also known as woodbine, the honeysuckle is a perennial twining climber which, given suitable support, can reach a height of 20 feet. Like the more common Lonicera periclymenum, L. caprifolium can be found growing wild. It is distinguishable by its light-green oval leaves which sometimes merge across the stem rather than growing in pairs one on either side. The pink-tinged, creamy-white flowers, basically tubular with diverging lips, are borne in close pairs from midsummer to early autumn. Poisonous small orange berries appear after the flowers. The berries were once fed to chickens, and the Latin name caprifolium, meaning "goat's leaf may reflect the belief that honeysuckle leaves are; favorite food of goats and resemble goat's ears. Take cuttings from non-flowering shoots in summer and root in cuttings compost. Plant out during the autumn or winter, preferably in light shade. For areas with cold winters, L. sempervivum is a hardier species. Extremely tolerant, honeysuckle will flourish vigorously in the most unpromising sites. In leaf for most of the year, it can be used to cover an unsightly wall or provide a rich summer-evening fragrance in an arbour. Perfume can be obtained from the flowers, which add scent and interesting shapes to po pourri. They are also useful, as an infusion or syrup, for treating coughs, catarrh and asthma. The plant has diuretic and laxative properties and also contains salicylic acid, from which aspirin was once produced. Large doses cause vomiting.
Hops, In the first century A.D, the Roman writer Pliny described hops as a popular garden plant and vegetable: in spring, young shoots were sold on markets, to be eaten like asparagus. By the ninth century, this plant was used in brewing throughout most of Europe for its clearing, flavoring and preserving qualities. However, in Britain, brewers continued to rely on herbs such as ground ivy and alecost (costmary) until the sixteenth century, under the curious belief that hops engendered melancholy. Even in 16 70, John Evelyn explained that "hops preserve the drink indeed, but repay the pleasure in tormenting diseases and a shorter life.
Horehound, For thousands of years, horehound has been much valued as a cough remedy. Egyptian priests honored its medicinal properties and called it "seed of Horus," "bulls' blood" and "eye of the star." The Greek physician Hippocrates and other physicians down the ages have also held this herb in high esteem as a cure for many ills. It was also thought to break magical spells. Horehound's botanical name comes from the Hebrew marrob, which translates as bitter juice. Its common name is derived from the Old English term for downy plant, har hune.
Horseradish, Originally, horseradish was cultivated chiefly as a medicinal herb. Now it is considered a flavoring herb. In the late sixteenth century, its culinary use was developed by the Germans and Danes in a fish sauce. Around 1640, this usage spread westward to Britain, where horseradish sauce has since become strongly associated with roast beef. Its sharp pungency frequently has a dramatic effect and has been known to clear sinuses in one breath the volatile flavoring pilis released by grating the root. The oil evaporates rapidly, so is not successful in cooked dishes.
Houseleek, According to legend, as a gift from Tupiter for protection from lightning, thunder, fire and witchcraft, houseleek has always been considered a form of home fire insurance. Its wild origins are unknown: even in the fourth century B.c., the Greek botanist Theophrastus recorded its presence on walls and roof tiles. The Romans planted courtyard urns of houseleek, and Charlemagne ordered one plant to be grown on every roof. This spread the houseleek throughout Europe, and eventually to the New World. In the language of flowers, houseleek symbolizes vivacity and industry. It is also one of the oldest first-aid herbs, with similar but reduced healing properties to aloe vera. Houseleek's advantage is that it will survive several degrees of winter frost.
Hyssop, The Greek hyssopos may derive from the Hebrew ezob, or holy herb, because it was used for purifying temples and the ritual cleansing of lepers: "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean" (Psalms. 51 7). The biblical plant may not in fact have been common hyssop but rather a form of oregano or savory. However, research now favors common hyssop once again, with the discovery that the mold that produces penicillin grows on its leaf. This could have acted as antibiotic protection when lepers were bathed in hyssop. A wine called hyssopites, made from hyssop, was mentioned by the Roman writer Pliny in the first century A.D. This may have influenced the Benedictine monks, in the tenth century,
Jack-By-The-Hedge, An early-flowering perennial or biennial found growing wild in hedgerows. It reaches a height of between 2 and 3 feet and is topped by a cluster of small white flowers. The broad, somewhat heart-shaped, heavily indented leaves give off a strong smell of garlic when crushed. For this reason, the plant is also known as garlic mustard. Rarely cultivated, the leaves of the wild plant were gathered by country people as and when they were needed. For garden cultivation, seeds can be obtained from a specialist in wild-plant seeds. The leaves make a tasty accompaniment for meat or cheese in a sandwich or, when finely chopped, add flavor to a salad. They can be eaten fried or boiled in sauces, although they lose flavor slightly when cooked. The juice of the leaves is said to be diuretic.
Juniper: This low, prickly bush or tree, between 4 and 10 feet high, is a slow-growing coniferous evergreen. It has silvery-green spiny needles and, from late spring to early summer, bears small yellow flowers. The juniper is cultivated for its berries, which take up to three years to ripen, when they change from green to silvery-purple. The slightly resinous, sweetly flavored berries are borne only by the female bush, and can be found in various stages of ripeness on the same plant. Their flavor is stronger the farther south the plant is grown. Many ornamental varieties are available.
Suitable for an exposed, sunny site, the juniper will tolerate an alkaline soil. Sow seeds taken from ripe berries in cold frames in early autumn. Grow the seedlings on in nursery rows outdoors for one or two years before planting in permanent positions. Both male and female plants are necessary for berry production. To be sure of the plant's gender, it is best to cultivate from semi-hardwood cuttings taken late summer to early autumn.
As well as giving gin its characteristic flavor, juniper berries are used to flavor other spirits and beer. Crushed berries are added to marinades for game and stuffings for poultry. An infusion of the berries is thought to have diuretic properties and to be good for cystitis. It also soothes aching muscles. Juniper berries should not be taken during pregnancy or by people with kidney problems. Note: Repeated use can cause kidney damage.
Lady's Mantle or Dewcup: From "little magical one," the Arab alkemelych (alchemy), comes Alchemilla, so-called because of this herb's healing reputation and the dew that collects in each enfolding leaf. The crystal drops of dew have long inspired poets and alchemists and were part of many mystic potions. So powerful a herb was acquired by the Christian Church, which named it "Our Lady's mantle." Its protective role was reflected in its nickname, "a woman's best friend," as it was thought to regulate periods, ease the menopause and clear inflammations of the female organs. One German herbalist claims prolonged use of lady's mantle tea could cut gynecological operations by one-third. A. vulgaris is an aggregate name for about 21 subspecies which seem to have similar medicinal properties.
Lady's-Smock: Once commonly found growing wild in moist meadowland, lady's-smock is seen less frequently now that fewer meadows are left undrained. The slender flower stalks can grow to 16 inches in height and have dark-green oval leaves that resemble the leaves of bittercress, to which it is related. It bears flowers of such a pale pink or lilac that they appear white at first glance. A double-flowered form is available which has a longer flowering period. It is also known as the cuckoo-flower because it flowers at the same time of the year as the cuckoo is heard. Plant lady's-smock in the shade of a tree, a wall or a fence where the ground is damp.
Lady's-smock will grow vigorously in a damp, shady part of the garden. In the eighteenth century it was recommended for scurvy, and has since been found to contain vitamin C. It also has expectorant properties, making it a useful ingredient in cough remedies. The leaves taste rather like watercress and make a welcome addition to a springtime salad.
Lavender, Tranquillity and purity are inherent in the unique fragrance oflavender, as reflected by the seventeenth-century angling author Izaak Walton, "I long to be in a house where the sheets smell of lavender." Its fresh clean scent was the favorite bathwater additive of the Greeks and Romans, and its name derives from the Latin lavare, "to wash." A strewing herb popular both for its insect-repellent properties and its long-lasting fragrance, lavender was also distilled for liberal use in masking household smells and stinking streets. Stories that the glovers of Grasse, who used lavender oil to scent their fashionable leather, were remarkably free of plague, encouraged other people to carry lavender to ward off the pestilence. Lavender has long been used medicinally. The herbalist Gerard, for example, prescribed it to bathe the temples of those with a "light migram or swimming of the braine." One Sir James Smith also told Of an alcoholic tincture created "for those who wished to indulge in a dram under the appearance of elegant medicine. "Its healing powers are now mainly obtained from the essential oil. This is distilled from shining oil glands embedded among the tiny star-shaped hairs which cover the flowers, leaves and stems. The best-quality oil is extracted from L. angustifolia and L. stoechas. L. latifolia yields "spike" oil, used to perfume cheaper goods, while L. intermedia yields "lavandin," a medium-quality oil.
Lemon Balm, Sacred to the temple of Diana, and used medicinally by the Greeks some 2,000 years ago, lemon balm was called "heart's delight" in southern Europe and the "elixir oflife" by the Swiss physician Paracelsus. He believed the herb could completely revive a man, and this view was endorsed by the London Dispensary, in 16 96: "Balm, given every morning, will renew youth, strengthen the brain and relieve languishing nature." Lemon balm was reputed to be among the regular morning teas imbibed in the thirteenth century by Llewelyn, Prince of Glamorgan, who lived to 108 years, while John Hussey, of Sydenham, England, lived to be 116 after 50 years of breakfasting on lemon balm tea with honey. Its virtue of dispelling melancholy has been praised by herbal writers for centuries, and it is still used today in aromatherapy to counter depression.
Lemon verbena's immediate attraction lies in its leaves, which have a clean, sharp, lemony fragrance that gives unexpected pleasure with each contact. Despite such an appeal, there is remarkably little history and legend attached to this plant, which is a native of South America. Lemon verbena was, however, brought to Europe in the seventeenth century by the Spanish, who grew it for its perfume oil. Although it is not hardy, a straw-covered pruned plant with deep roots should survive some frost. New growth can appear very late, never discard a plant until late summer.
Lettuce as 'Saladisi.
Lettuce needs a light, well-drained, fertile soil, which retains moisture. For a steady supply, sow seed little and often in an open site while the weather is cool. Thin as early as possible to 10 inches apart.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans were aware of its soporific and health-giving properties. In Greek mythology Aphrodite is said to have laid the dead Adonis on a bed of lettuce leaves. The juice is used in a cooling lotion for sunburn. Mainly eaten raw in green or mixed salads, lettuce can also be braised or made into soup.
Lily of The Valley, A hardy perennial that grows from creeping, horizontal rhizomes, or underground stems, lily of the valley is an important plant in the herb garden as much for its characteristic sweet scent as for the beauty of its small, white, bell-shaped flowers which appear in late spring. The flowers are borne on a slender, arched stem about 6-8 inches high between a pair of large, lance-shaped, mid-green leaves. Lily of the valley grows well in moist soil in the dappled shade of deciduous trees. Divide clumps in early autumn, then plant 6 inches apart in well-drained soil with plenty of compost added. Place the clumps so that the point where the leaves emerge from the rhizomes is just below the surface of the soil. A plant that spreads quickly in the right conditions, its leaves provide dense ground cover until winter. The flowers have traditionally formed part of a bridal bouquet. An infusion made from the whole plant can act as a diuretic as well as slowing the pace of the heart. It is said to be a safer though weaker cardiac tonic than foxglove, but it should only be used by medical personnel.
Linden, The small-leaved linden is a fast-growing, hardy, deciduous tree, reaching a height of 35 feet. Its heart-shaped leaves are a glossy dark-green with serrated edges. The clusters of yellowish, heavily scented flowers, which appear in midsummer, have a sweet nectar that attracts bees. The leaves often harbor aphids which produce "honeydew," a sticky substance which also attracts bees but eventually drips off as an unpleasant residue.
Sow seeds in a cold frame in early spring. Plant out in nursery beds in mid autumn. After growing on for at least four years, transplant to permanent positions, in full sun or semi-shade, in well-drained soil. Linden tea is made from the dried flowers and is very popular in European countries, where it is drunk as a digestive and calming tonic. The flowers are also used to flavor sweets and liqueurs. Linden blossom is used in beauty preparations to soothe the skin. Although not particularly durable, the white, close-grained wood of the linden is the most suitable for intricate carving. Note that very old flowers should be avoided when making preparations as they may produce symptoms of mild intoxication.
Lovage, is a handsome plant with a powerful flavor and numerous uses, both traditional and modern. Its leaves used to be laid in shoes to revive the weary traveler, and at inns it was served in a popular cordial, which was flavored with tansy and a variety of yarrow known as Achillea ligurtica as well as lovage. A modern form is made by steeping fresh lovage seed in brandy, sweetening it with sugar and then drinking it to settle an upset stomach. Lovage leaves add a strong savory flavor to dishes, so use caution at first
Lungwort, is a hardy herbaceous perennial, often cultivated for its ornamental, white-spotted oval leaves Growing to a height of about 12 inches, it bears clusters of funnel-shaped flowers in mid-to-late spring. As they open, the flowers change from pink to purplish-blue. An old cottage-garden favorite commonly known as Jerusalem cowslip, lungwort thrives in the shade of trees and shrubs. Seed can be sown outdoors in any soil in spring, but better plants are produced by dividing and replanting roots in a shady position during late autumn months. Water frequently in dry weather, and cut the stems back in autumn.
Leaves of this rapidly spreading plant provide ideal ground cover for shady parts of the garden. Its name derives from the fact that its leaves resemble lungs and lungwort has long been thought to be effective in pulmonary disorders. Chesty coughs, wheezing and shortness of breath were thought to benefit from an infusion of the dried leaves. It is now sometimes perscibed by herbalists for diarrhea.
Madonna Lily, A favorite plant even as far back as ancient Greek and Roman times, the madonna lily, with its pure white flowers, was dedicated to the Virgin Mary in early days of Christianity. The 3 inch long, trumpet-shaped flowers, borne in midsummer, have a sweet, penetrating fragrance. The erect flower stem grows to a height of 4-5 feet, with pale-green, lance-shaped leaves growing from it. the stem dies down in autumn, it produces a rosette of basal leaves. Once established in a site it is happy, preferably on a sunny sheltered the madonna lily will flourish if left relatively undisturbed.
Bulbs in early autumn in well-drained, alkaline Unlike many lilies, the madonna lily roots only the base of its bulb, which needs to be covered in more than 2 inches of soil. Do not allow to dry out. can be difficult to establish.
Along a garden path or within sight of a favorite to appreciate the madonna lily's striking, exotic-looking flowers and strong perfume. The flowers were thought to be anti-epileptic and, steeped in spirit, provide a soothing lotion for bruises. The bulbs, in late summer, contain a rich mucilage is used in cosmetics and added to an ointment for treating corns and burns. In some Eastern countries the bulbs are cooked and eaten.
MAR JORAMS and OREGANO, The Greeks have given us the legends and the name of this ancient culinary herb ores ganos, joy-of-the-mountain. Those who have visited Greece, where oregano (wild mar joram) covers the hillsides and scents the summer air, would probably endorse the name. The sweet spicy scent of sweet mar joram was reputedly created by Aphrodite as a symbol of happiness. Bridal couples were crowned with garlands of mar joram, and plants were placed on tombs to give peace to departed spirits. Aristotle reported that tortoises who swallowed a snake would immediately eat oregano to Prevent death, so it was taken as an antidote to poisoning The Greeks enjoyed its scent after a bath, when mar joram oil was massaged into their foreheads and hair. Earlier still, in ancient Egypt, oregano's power to heal, disinfect and preserve was well known and has been treasured ever since. Sweet mar joram was introduced into Europe in the Middle Ages and was in demand by ladies "to put in nosegays, sweet bags and sweet washing waters." Its leaves were also rubbed over heavy oak furniture and floors to give a fragrant polish. In thundery weather, dairymaids would place mar joram by pails of fresh milk in the curious belief that this plant would preserve its sweetness. This task might well have been followed by mar joram tea advised by the herbalist Gerard for those who "are given to over much sighing.
Marsh Mallow, This is indeed the original source of the confectionery of this name. Marsh mallow's powdered root containsa mucilage that thickens in water and was heated with sugar to create a soothing sweet paste. However, today's spongy cubes share only sugar in common with the original recipe. Marsh mallow is one of over 1,000 species in the Malvaceae family, all of which contain a healing mucilage, and its genus name, Althaea: is from the Greek althe, to cure. Long used as a healing herb, marsh mallows were eaten by the Egyptiansand Syrians, and mentioned by Pjthagoras, Plate and Virgil. The plant was enjoyed by the Romans in barley soup and in a stuffing for suckling pig, while classical herbalists praised its gentle laxative properties.
Meadowsweet, was the favourite strewing herb of Queen Elizabeth I, and the herbalist Gerard believed it outranked all other strewing herbs because its leaves delighted the senses without causing headaches. Meadowsweet was so frequently in demand for strewing at church weddings and for making into bridal garlands that it was given another name, "bridewort." Other qualities unknown to us once made this plant - together with mistletoe, watermint and vervain - most sacred to the Druids. There is also a gold variegated leaf form, and F. vulgaris, which grows to 3 feet but has larger flowers.
Meltot or Sweet Clover: The name melilot derives from meli meaning honey, and lotos meaning fodder or clover, hence its other name, sweet clover. A native of Europe, Asia and North america, it was once a popular strewing herb and fodder crop, until replaced by common clover, and Mias also a source of many successful medical remedies. M. alba, with white flowers, originates from the Mediterranean and also decorates the highways of northern Alberta. There it is called Canadian sweet clover, and it is a valued honey plant. Near GruyPre, the Swiss pick a local blue form (M. caerulea) to flavor their cheese.
Mints, In Greek mythology, Minthe was a nymph beloved by Pluto, who transformed her into this scented herb after his jealous wife took drastic action. Mint has been highly esteemed ever since, its value being epitomized by biblical references to the Pharisees collecting tithes in mint, dill and cumin. The Hebrews laid it on synagogue floors, and this idea was repeated centuries later in Italian churches, where the herb is called Erba Santa Maria. Mint as a symbol of hospitality is mentioned by the Roman poet Ovid, who wrote of two peasants Baucis and Philemon, who scoured their serving board with mint before feeding guests. Gerard enlarged on this theme in 15 97: "they strew it in rooms and places of recreation, pleasure and repose, where feasts and banquets are made." The Romans also flavored wines and sauces with mint However, when women who drank wine were threatened with death, secret drinkers would mask their breath by chewing a paste of mint and honey. In Japan, the refreshing, restorative scent mint was so highly prized that the Tapanese wore pomanders of its leaves. Many mint varieties had been introduced into Europe by the ninth century. A monk writing during this time said that there were so many he would rather count the sparks of Vulcan's furnace. With more than 600 varieties, which continue to hybridize, the best way to select a good plant is by nose rather than by name.
Mullein, A magical herb of antiquity, mullein was given to Ulysses to protect him from the sorcery of Circe, who changed his crew into pigs. This tall and imposing plant has attracted over 30 common names, including Aaron's rod, candlewick plant, hag's taper, cow lungwort and velvet dock. The soft fine hairs on verbascum's leaves and stems make superb tinder. They also protect the herb from moisture loss, creeping insects and grazing animals, as the down irritates their mucous membranes. This skillfully constructed plant drops rain from its small leaves onto larger leaves and down to the roots.
Musk Mallow, A pretty bushy border perennial, the musk mallow grows to a height of about 2 feet. Spikes of large, single pink or white flowers are borne in abundance on its thick, erect stems from midsummer to early autumn. Even when the plant is not in flower, ample decoration is provided by its mid-green leaves, kidney-shaped near the base and divided on the stem. The leaves emit a musky aroma in warm weather or when gently pressed.
Sow seed in early autumn or spring, or plant rooted cuttings during autumn months, preferably in well-drained, fertile soil. Musk mallow needs staking in moist soil. It likes full sun but will also tolerate semi-shade. Cut down the stems in autumn.
With similar properties to the common mallow (M.sylvestris), its larger flowers and subtle fragrance make the musk mallow the better choice in the herb garden. The leaves can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable. Both the leaves and the roots were once made into ointments and soothing syrups for coughs.
Mustard, Known since prehistoric times, mustard's uses have always been manifold: the writer Pliny, in the first century A.D., listed 40 remedies with mustard as the chief ingredient. The Romans also named this herb: from mustus, the new wine they mixed with the seed, and ardens for fiery. They served mustard with every imaginable dish. Its leaves are so fast growing that it was said you could grow the salad for dinner while the meat was roasting. Belief in its aphrodisiac powers ensured mustard's inclusion in love potions. Black mustard seed has the strongest flavor, brown is easier to harvest, and white mustard seed is the most preservative.
Myrtle In Greek legend, Myrrha was a favorite priestess of Venus, who .transformed her into this fragrant evergreen to preserve her from too ardent a suitor. Venus wore a myrtle wreath when Paris awarded her the Golden Apple for beauty, and this herb was planted around all temples dedicated to her. Representing Venus and love, myrtle is often woven into bridal wreaths, and the Romans displayed it lavishly at feasts, weddings and celebrations. An Arabian story tells of Adam, banished from paradise, bringing a sprig of myrtle from the bower where he declared his love to Eve, and Shakespeare planned that Venus and Adonis should meet under myrtle shade. The apothecary John Parkinson wrote, "we nourish Myrtles with great care for their beautiful aspect, sweet scent and rarity.
Nasturtium, There are many varieties of this colorful annual: climbers semi-trailers spreading and compact dwarfs. It has round, flat leaves with yellowy-green veins and red, yellow or orange, trumpet-like flowers which appear from mid summer to mid autumn.
Nasturtiums thrive in full sun or partial shade. Sow the seeds singly 8 inches apart in late spring in any free draining soil. In general, the poorer the soil, the more flowers you can expect. Both the leaves and flower buds have a cress-like flavor and add bite to salads and sandwiches. The young seeds have a stronger flavor and are sometimes used chopped as a substitute for horseradish in sauce tartare. Pickled in vinegar, they resemble capers. Used whole, the flowers can make a stunning garnish. The leaves have a high vitamin-C content and are thought to relieve cold symptoms. The nasturtium seems to attract hover flies, which will attack aphids on nearby plants, making it a useful companion plant.
Norway Spruce, Familiar to millions of people as the traditional Christmas tree, the Norway spruce can reach a height of 150 feet, (40-60 feet is average), with a spread of 20-30 feet. Its evergreen, needlelike leaves appear on the upper side of its branches only. When the tree is about 40 years old, it begins to produce 6 inch-long cylindrical cones, which hang downward. Like many conifers, it is grown commercially for its light but strong timber.
Sow seeds in pots in early spring. Move the seedlings to nursery beds the following spring. Plant in their permanent positions in the autumn or spring two or three years later. Choose a sheltered site, where the soil is moist and acid.
Oil of turpentine, rosin and oil of tar are all obtained from the r~sin of spruce and other members of the pine family. Its leaves and twigs fermented with Yeast and sugar produce spruce beer.
Parsley, Held in high esteem by the Greeks, parsley was used to crown victors at the Isthmian Games and to decorate tombs, being linked with Archemorus, the herald of death. The Greeks also planted parsley and rue along the edges of herb beds, thereby instigating the expression "being at the parsley and rue," meaning to be at the start of an enterprise. Although the Greeks used parsley medicinally, and Homer recorded that warriors fed parsley to their horses, it appears that the Romans were the first to use it as a food. They consumed parsley in quantity and made garlands for banquet guests to discourage intoxication and to counter strong odors. There are many excellent parsley varieties, including Hamburg parsley (P.c.'Tuberosum'). This has flat leaves and a large, edible, well-flavored root. All parsleys are rich in vitamins, minerals and antiseptic chlorophyll, making it a beneficial as well as attractive garnishing herb. Set out a dish of the leaves each day and enjoy a flavor described as the "summation of all things green.
Peony The sumptuous beauty of the pe ony makes it well worth the initial care needed to establish it in the herb garden. Several large bowls of petals, up to 5 inches across, are borne by each flower stalk in late spring and early summer. Growing to a height of 2 feet, the common pe ony was once available with only single, purplish-red flowers, but now double white or pink varieties are also to be found. The deeply indented leaves are mid-green. It thrives in an open sunny site, although early morning sun is best avoided. Single varieties can be grown from seed sown in autumn. The planting site should be dug deep and enriched with compost. Plant with the base of the stem no more than 1 inch deep in early autumn. It will take at least three years to become properly established. Water frequently in dry weather and stake the stems. Deadhead the spent flowers and cut down in autumn. Many ancient superstitions are connected with the pe ony. It was thought to be a divine plant that would drive away evil spirits and keep nightmares at bay. The seeds were once used as a spice in cookery. Herbalists prescribed an infusion of the powdered root for the liver and associated complaints. It was also thought to relieve spasms and convulsions and was given to women immediately after childbirth. It is now considered poisonous.
Perennial Camomile, The Egyptians dedicated chamomile to the sun and worshiped it above all other herbs for its healing properties, while Greek physicians prescribed it for fevers and female disorders. Among the Nine Sacred Herbs of the Lacnunga, an ancient Anglo-Saxon manuscript, chamomile is the "Maythen." Moreover, chamomile has inspired a proverb about energy in adversity, "like a chamomile bed, the more it is trodden the more it will spread." Chamomile is also valued for its sweet apple-scented leaves. In a popular gardening book of 16 38, William Lawson wrote of the "large walks, broad and long, like the Temple groves in Thessaly, raised with gravel and sand, having seats and banks of Camomile all this delights the mind and brings health to the body." The relaxing aroma was also inhaled as snuff or smoked to relieve asthma and cure insomnia. At beauty salons, chamomile tea is often served to relax facial muscles,
Poppies, Around 3000 b.c., the Sumerians revered poppies as cult plants. The species gives us flowers described as the handmaidens of cornfields, voluptuous garden plants, an oil, edible seed and opium. The laboratory analysis of the opium poppy is historically the transition from the magical and religious use of plants to scientific use. It also highlights the dangers of reducing plants to their chemical components. The opium poppy gives us morphine and codeine, our most important painkillers, and heroin, which is also addictive and results in much human misery. Its growth is strictly controlled in many countries.
Pyrethrum, Although to some the name pyrethrum includes all the single-flowered chrysanthemums, it is in fact only the flowers of C. cinerariifolium that contain a natural insecticide, also called pyrethrum Because it is nontoxic to mammals and nonaccumulative, pyrethruI is also used to kill pests living on the skin of man and animals. Another advantage is suggested by the traveller Chang Yee: "It is a strange coincidence that the leaves can be used for wiping the fingers after eating crabs, to wipe away the smell. Crabs, chrysan-themums, wine and the moon are the four autumn joys of our scholars, artists and poets." Garland chrysanthemum or "chop suey greens" (C. coronarium) is popular in oriental cuisine, and C. indicum is a valued tonic and part of the Taoist elixir of immortality.
Rosemary, "dew of the sea," holds a special place in the affections of many as the essence of a summer herb garden. It has been used by cooks and apothecaries from earliest times. With a reputation for strengthening the memory, it became the emblem of fidelity for lovers; some brides have even worn ROSEMARY richly gilded and tied with silken ribands of all colors." The Spanish revere rosemary as the bush that sheltered the Virgin Mary on her flight to Egypt. As she spread her cloak over the herb, the white flowers turned blue. In times past, resinous rosemary was burned in sick chambers to purify the air and branches were strewn in law courts as a protection from "jail fever" (typhus). During the Plague of 16 65, it was carried in the handles of walking sticks and in pouches to be sniffed when traveling through suspicious areas. In some Mediterranean villages, linen is spread over rosemary to dry, so the sun will extract its moth-repellent aroma. Rosemary also makes a good garden hedge. In Shakespeare's time, it was used for topiary and clipped to a sphere or cone shape. Apart from common rosemary, there are several named varieties, including a vigorous new upright form,'Sawyer's Selection,' with large, mauve-blue flowers, which can reach 8 feet within three years. There is a variable gold-tipped form, and ancient texts mention a silver variegated form.
Roseroot, a perennial alpine or rock plant with egg-shaped, silvery-green, succulent leaves grouped closely aruond its thick stem. The star-shaped yellow flower heads attract bees and butterflies. When dry, the thick roots give off the scent of roses. Some sedums are used successfully to cover a dry wall, but roseroot, which can reach a height of 1 foot, is better suited to a sunny border. Ppropagate by taking stem cuttings in late summer and inserting them in compost, or divide the roots in spring and plant in full sun in a well-drained, gritty soil. Remove dead flower heads in spring. A tough, reliable plant, its flowers provide a splash of summer color. Mentioned in herbals as early as the sixteenth century, the root of the plant was used to make a "poor man's rosewater" Roseroot is little used today except in Greenland, where the leaves are eaten in salads all year round.
Roses, For sheer fragrance and beauty, the rose reigns supreme. Its cultivation spread from Persia and China, bringing inspiration to artists, warriors and lovers in every land. Cleopatra seduced Antony knee deep in roses, and Roman banquets were garlanded with petals. In 11 87, on entering Jerusalem, the Muslim conqueror Saladin even had the Omar mosque washed in rosewater to purify it. This "gift of the angels" was also popular for its gentle healing powers. Rose essence is among the safest healing substances known, and the delicate flavor of rosewater is excellent for cooking. Rose wine dates from ancient Persia, and the candy known as Turkish delight is made with rosewater. Rose petals were historically valued for jam, vinegar, pies and as a garnish. Once again, all the myriad uses for the rose are being rediscovered and enjoyed.
Sage, "The desire of sage is to render man immortal," instructs a late medieval treatise. Indeed, the sage plant has been praised highly throughout history and on many continents for its powers of longevity. "How can a man grow old who has sage in his garden?" is the substance of an ancient proverb much quoted in China and Persia and parts of Europe. It was so valued by the Chinese in the seventeenth century that Dutch merchants found the Chinese would trade three chests of China tea for one of sage leaves. The name salvia, from the Latin ralvere, to be in good health, to cure, to save, reflects its benevolent reputation. To the Romans it was a sacred herb gathered with ceremony. The appointed person would make sacrifices of bread and wine, wear a white tunic and approach with feet bare and well washed. Roman instructions advised against using iron tools, a sensible edict as iron salts are incompatible with sage. This powerful healing plant is also a strong culinary herb, often best used on its own. As one chef wrote: "In the grand opera of cooking, sage represents an easily offended and capricious prema donna. It likes to have the stage almost to itself." However, it is valuable as an aid to digesting fatty foods, both savory and sweet. To complete its commendation, sage is also a beautiful aromatic shrub, popular with bees yet often undervalued as a flowering garden plant.
Salad Burnet, The dainty decorative leaves of this refreshing herb belie its hardiness - its leaves often survive a mild winter. Should they fail to do so, they are then among the earliest leaves to appear in spring. Salad burnet, which the early Pilgrims carried to New England, was thought by Gerard to "make the hart merry and glad, as also being put in wine, to which it yeeldeth a certaine grace in the drinking. The young leaves have a pleasant if somewhat sharp cucumber Aavor. The green flowering globes expand amid tiny red dots with the unfulfilled promise of an explosion of color. This pretty plant was recommended by Francis Bacon to be set in alleys with wild thyme and water mint, "to perfume the air most delightfully, being trodden on and crushed.
Santolina, Although it has long been known as lavender cotton, santolina is not a lavender but a member of the daisy family. The whole plant is highly aromatic and has been used to sweeten the air in Mediterranean regions for centuries. It is valued as an insect repellent and was much used medicinally in medieval times. Santolina was probably brought into Britain in the sixteenth century by French Huguenot gardeners, who were skilled in creating the popular knot gardens. It is neater than the thrift, germander, marjoram and thyme previously planted in such gardens. With three color forms available, it is still a popular plant for edging and hedging.
Sented Geraniums, Most pelargoniums originate from the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, and although they were introduced to Britain in 16 32, they remained relatively unknown until 1847, when the French perfume industry realized their aromatic potential. From the leaf of the rose-scented 8eranium, P. graveolens, the French distilled an oil with a delightful light rose perfume and a fresh green note. It is popular in cosmetics and important in aromatherapy. Unfortunately, it is an easy oil to adulterate, so purchase it from a reputable supplier. In winter, the Victorians brought pot-grown pelargoniums indoors, and positioned them so that their long skirts would brush against the plants, thus scenting a room. In summer, they moved the pots outdoors and put them along paths for a similar effect.
Silver Birtch, :An elegant and graceful tree, with its silvery bark and mid-green oval leaves, the silver birch has a lovely fragrance after rain. It can grow to a height of 20-60 feet with a spread of 8-12 feet and bears male and female catkins in spring. In ancient times its softish wood was used in roofs and boat-building, and its bark served as a writing material as well as a medication.
Sow seeds in boxes in early spring. When large enough, prick out into nursery rows outdoors. After two to three years, plant out during autumn or spring in permanent positions. Thriving in any site and soil type, silver birch needs plenty of space to allow room for its wide-spreading surface roots.
Birch twigs make strong, effective brooms, and are traditionally used in a sauna. Wine and vinegar can be made from the sap, and beer from the bark. Birch tea, made from the leaves, used to be recommended for rheumatism and gout. Oil extracted from the bark is used for dressing leather and in medicated soaps for skin conditions such as eczema.
Skirret, This Chinese pot herb, grown for its aromatic edible root, was brought to Rome by early traders and became so valued by the Emperor Tiberius that he accepted skirret as tribute. In the sixteenth century, skirret was introduced to northern Europe as "the most delicious of root vegetables." As a perennial that multiplies quickly, it was an invaluable crop for peasants. Writing in 16 99, John Evelyn praised skirret. as "Exceedingly nourishing, wholesome and delicate; of all the root-kind, not subject to be windy. This excellent root is very acceptable to all palates.
Smallage or Wild Celery, was used to crown the victors of the Greek Nemean games, held in honor of Zeus. The son of the Nemean king was subsequently killed by a snake concealed in smallage, and so it was then carried as a funeral wreath. The Greeks also used this herb medicinally, and the Romans exploited its culinary properties: stems were purred with pepper, lovage, oregano, onion and wine; leaves were used with dates and pine nuts as a stuffing for suckling pig. Much later, in the nineteenth century, the Americhn Shakers grew smallage for their nostrums and other medicinal compounds.
Soapwort searching for, as it is a lovely garden herb. It yields a soapy sap that is excellent for laundering and revitalizing precious fabrics, and is now used in museums for this purpose It also exudes the most delicious raspberry-sorbet scent with a hint of clove, thus revealing its family connection with pinks. This sweet fragrance will fill the air on hot summer evenings. In the Middle East, soapwort has been used both as a cleaning agent and as a medicinal herb for skin problems such as eczema, acne and those caused by venereal diseases. For these qualities, as well as for its believed ability to help eliminate toxins, especially from the liver, and soothe poison ivy rashes, soapwort was grown on the nineteenth-century herb farms of the American Shakers.
Sorrel Prolific flowering stalks of sorrel, rising above grass on an acid soil, can cause a hay meadow to assume a reddish tint at harvest time. On a hot summer day, haymakers would frequently eat the succulent leaves to quench their thirst. Most sorrel leaves have an intriguing sharp acidic flavor, which is used to advantage in many dishes. However, buckler leaf sorrel (R. scutatus) boasts a milder lemony zest but still with an interesting sharpness. It is preferred by the French for sorrel soup and is known by many as French sorrel. Confusingly, both species have been called French sorrel and garden sorrel.
Summer Purslane, Cultivated for hundreds of years in India and the Middle East, summer purslane was very popular in Europe during the sixteenth century. There are several varieties of this half-hardy annual, which grows to a height of 6 inches with rounded, fleshy, green or, in some forms, golden leaves and reddish stems. In midsummer it bears short-lived small yellow flowers.
Sow each month during summer for a continuous supply. Choose a sheltered, sunny site with light, well-drained soil and sow in rows 1 foot apart with 6 inch spaces between plants. Water well and harvest after six to eight weeks.
The golden-leaved variety can make a very attractive display in a more formal herb garden. The plant was once thought to afford protection from evil spirits. It is high in vitamin C and, eaten raw, has diuretic properties. The thick leaves and stems can be pickled in vinegar, but the plant is usually eaten cooked in the East. With sorrel, it is one of the traditional ingredients in the French dish soupe bonne femme. An excellent crunchy salad plant, its cooling leaves blend well with hotter-flavored salad herbs.
Sunflower, This remarkable flower, which was cultivated by American Indians some 3,000 years ago, has always been revered as an emblem of the sun. In the fifteenth century, Aztec sun priestesses were crowned with sunflowers, carried them in their hands and wore gold jewelry with sunflower motifs. Sunflowers were introduced into Europe by Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century. Large-scale cultivation began in Russia, where the seeds are sold on street corners and offered in large bowls at railwaY restaurants All parts of sunflower are usable. The pith, for example, is one of the lightest substances known and is used in scientific laboratories. The Chinese have used it as moxa In acupuncture, and in the making of delicate silks and coarse ropes, having cultivated sunflowers for hundreds of years. The plant's ability to absorb water from soil has been utilized in the reclamation of marshy land in the Netherlands.
Sweet Cicle Myrrh, The attractive, fernlike leaves of sweet cicely are among the first to appear in spring and the last to depart in autumn. The soft green leaves have a myrrh-like scent with overtones of moss and woodland and a hint of aniseed, the botanic name of this plant being from the Greek word for perfume. An extra bonus of sweet cicely is the cluster of large, upstanding green seeds or, more properly, fruits, which appear in early summer. They have a delicious nutty flavor and characteristic scent and, besides being excellent when eaten raw, they also provide an aromatic furniture polish. A similar North American plant, Osmorhiza longistylis, flowers in early summer and has a sweet, aniseed-flavored root.
Sweet Joe Pye, A glorious feature of the herb garden in late summer, the vigorous purple stems of sweet Joe Pye display clouds of rose-pink flowers. This herb was named after a North American Indian called Joe Pye, who cured a grateful New Englander of typhus. The Indian used this plant to induce profuse sweating, which broke the fever. Its Latin name Eupatorium is derived from Eupator, a first-century B.c. king of Pontus, famed for his herbal skills. Other species, E. cannabinum and E. perfoliatum, are similar in appearance and have medicinal properties.
Sweet Rocket, This pretty cottage flower has maintained its position in the herb garden because of its sweet-scented flowers as well as its medicinal properties. A native ofItaly, it can be found growing wild in much of Europe and northern America as a garden escapee. Its massed flowers, a glorious sight in midsummer, are sometimes called dame's violet or vesper Aower, since its perfume is strongest in the evening. The young leaves are occasionally eaten as a salad herb, but they are more bitter than arugula, or salad rocket.
Sweet Violet, A delightful herald of spring, this modest spreading plant is the most highly scented violet. It has long been cultivated for its perfume and color and is added to cosmetics, drinks, sweets and syrups. Its seductive scent suggested strong emotions, and so sweet violet became a plant of` Venus and Aphrodite, woven with other plants of love into the final scene of the famous Unicorn Tapestries, now held in the Cloisters museum in New York City. The Creeks chose sweet violet as their symbol of fertility, while the Romans enjoyed sweet violet wine; for Napoleon, it was the emblem of the imperial party. It was said to be among the most popular scents in Victorian England, and the last Empress Dowager of China imported bottles of"Violetta Regia" from Berlin. Revered writers from Homer to Shakespeare and the old herbalists all speak with great affection of this charming flower. Its virtues were considered to be cool, moist and soothing.
Sweet Woodruff, This pretty little woodland plant will, when added to a wine cup, "make a man merrie," wrote Gerard. Sweet-smelling garlands of woodruff were hung in churches, strewn on domestic floors, sprinkled into potpourri and linen and stuffed into mattresses, spreading its cordiality around the household. The coumarin in the leaves develops its sweet hay scent only when the plant is dried, so sweet woodruff is invaluable from the appearance of its first flowers for the traditional German May Bowl punch, through to Christmas, when it is use
Tansy ,was believed to arrest decay, and its name derives from the Greek athanasia, meaning immortality. In some ancient cultures, its strong antiseptic properties were used to preserve the dead and, according to classical legend, a drink made from tansy was given to the beautiful young man Ganymede to make him immortal, so that he could serve as Zeus's cup-bearer. In the One 100-year-old monastery plan of St Gall in Switzerland, tansy is shown in the physic garden. This monastery garden was Charlemagne's favorite, and he ordered that all its herbs should be grown on his imperial estates. Tansy was also popularly used as an insecticide, disinfectant and strewing herb, and, at Easter, was made into "Tansy," a rich custardy pudding. Tohn Evelyn, in 16 99, wrote that the new leaves, stir-fried and eaten hot with orange juice and sugar, made a most agreeable dish.
Tarragono be connected with dragons is an honor worthy of this important culinary herb, its name tarragon deriving from the French estragon and the Latin dracunculus, a little dragon. The dragon connection may have come from tarragon's fiery tang or from its serpent-like roots. "Dragon" herbs were believed to cure the bites of venomous creatures, but tarragon's primary use today is culinary. It will also sweeten the breath, act as a soporific, and, if chewed before taking medicine, dull the taste, according to the thirteenth-century Arabian botanist, Ibnal Baithar. Two varieties of tarragon are available: French, which has the refined flavor indispensable to classic French cuisine but needs winter protection when growing; and Russian, which survives both colder and hotter climates but has a coarser Aavor. French tarragon should be divided and replanted every third year to avoid deterioration, whereas the flavor of Russian tarragon improves the longer it grows in one place.
Thyme, has inspired poetic praise from Virgil to Kipling, who wrote of"wind-bit thyme that smells of dawn in Paradise." Its fragrance is particularly strong on the warm, sunny hillsides of Mediterranean lands. To the Greeks, thyme denoted graceful elegance: "to smell of thyme" was an expression of stylish praise. After bathing, the Creeks would include oil of thyme in their massage. Thymus may derive from the Creek word thymon, meaning "courage," and many traditions relate to this virtue. Roman soldiers, for example, bathed in thyme water to give themselves vigor. In the Middle Ages, European ladies embroidered a sprig of thyme on tokens for their knights-errant. A soup recipe of 16 63 recorded the use of thyme and beer to overcome shyness, while Scottish highlanders drank tea made of wild thyme for strength and courage, and to prevent nightmares. The powerful antiseptic and preservative properties of thyme were well-known to the Egyptians, who used it for embalming. It is still an ingredient of embalming fluid, and it will also preserve anatomical and herbarium specimens, and protect paper from mold. Sprigs were included in judges' posies and clasped by nobility to Protect themselves from disease and odor. Thyme is the first herb listed in the Holy Herb Charm recited by those with "herb cunning" in the Middle Ages, and it is featured in a charming recipe from the 16 hundreds "to enable one to see the Fairies.
VAlerian, This ancient medicinal herb, whose name derives from the Latin valere "to be in health," has long been valued around the world. Nordic, Persian and Chinese herbalists used the root, while the similar V. sylvatica was found in the medicine bag of Canadian Indian warriors as a wound antiseptic. Fresh valerian root smells like ancient leather but, when dried, it is nearer to stale perspiration. Its old name, V. phu, could be the origin of our expression for an undesirable scent. Nevertheless, valerian is still used to add a musky tone to perfume. Cats and rats are attracted to the smell, and the Pied Piper of Hamelin is said to have carried the root to lure the rats, his music being a decoy. Valerian returned to prominence in the First and Second World Wars for treating shell shock and nervous stress.
Wall Germander,,a small, bushy perennial, with its spreading, creeping root, bears tubular, purplish-pink flowers on short terminal spikes from midsummer to early autumn. The shiny evergreen leaves are indented and rather similar to oak leaves. Indeed the word chamaedrys means "ground oak." When rubbed, the leaves smell pleasantly spicy. Suitable for a rock garden, it also establishes itself well in the crevices of a dry wall, and is often found growing wild in old ruined buildings. It reaches a height of 1-2 feet and prefers well-drained soil in a sunny position.
For decorative wall-covering, sow seeds outdoors in seed trays in early summer and cover lightly with soil. Plant seedlings in the wall. For a rock garden, divide the roots in autumn. Take cuttings in late spring.
Wall germander is a traditional knot-garden plant. The whole herb was collected in midsummer and dried. A decoction of germander was a famous remedy for gout and other pains in the limbs, such as rheumatism. Thought to be a diuretic and stimulating tonic, germander was also recommended for coughs and asthma. It was a popular strewing herb.
Walnut, This handsome, deciduous tree, with its massive trunk and large, spreading branches, can reach a height of 100 feet. It bears both male and female Aowers in late spring: the insignificant tiny green female flowers in small clusters and the yellowish-green male flowers in catkins. The glossy, bright-green oval leaves have a strong aroma. Walnut trees are cultivated commercially for their timber as well as for their nuts.
Sow seeds in nursery beds in mid- to late autumn and leave for two or three years before trhnsplanting during the autumn or spring. Choose an open site with fertile, well-drained soil, where the tree will be protected from spring frosts. Trees raised from seed will produce edible nuts after about 15 years.
Green, unripe walnuts can be pickled in vinegar, preserved in syrup or made into a liqueur. Mature nuts are added to cake mixtures, stuffings and sauces. They are an essential ingredient of some salads and a variety of salad oil. The boiled green husks of the nuts give a yellow dye, and a brown hair dye can be obtained from the leaves and outer shells. An infusion of the dried leaves can help skin complaints such as eczema and herpes, while an infusion of the powdered bark is said to act as a laxative.
Wild Strawberry, Doubtless God Almighty could have made a better berry but doubtless God never did." Dr Butler's praise sums up most people's feelings about strawberries. Growing in cool, secret woodlands, strawberries are often associated with fairy folk, and in Bavaria a basket of fruit is sometimes tied between a cow's horns to please the elves so that they bless the cow with abundant milk. Woodland strawberries were recommended by Sir Hugh Platt in his Garden of Eden (16 53), as most likely to prosper in gardens. While discussing plants that scent the air, Francis Bacon noted that "the strawberry leaves dying yield a most excellent cordial smell. Strawberries are one of the fruits dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and, astrologically, to the planet Venus. In Lapland, they are mixed with reindeer milk and blueberries to make a Christmas pudding. Their one unhappy association is with the fateful handkerchief that Shakespeare's Othello gave Desdemona. which was "spotted" with strawberries.
Winter Purslane,Also known as miner's lettuce in some areas, this hardy annual deserves more attention as a salad herb. It can provide several winter crops and is useful as a substitute when the soil is too Poor for spinach. During spring it grows extremely rapidly producing small white flowers on long stalks. The early leaves are narrow, while later leaves, just as succulent to eat, are rounded and become wrapped around the stem.
For winter use, sow very thinly in rows in late summer. Any soil is suitable, but the plants need cold-frame protection in a severe winter. When they run to seed and die in midsummer, leave a few to seed themselves, then transplant seedlings that autumn, or the following spring for a summer crop.
A cut-and-come-again crop that is indispensable for providing cool and juicy bulk in winter and early-spring salads. The stalks, leaves and flowers are all edible, and the leaves can also be cooked like spinach.
Winter Savory, with its peppery spiciness, is one of the oldest flavoring herbs and has long been considered an antiseptic herb beneficial to the whole digestive tract. It is also a stimulant and was in demand as an aphrodisiac - a possible reason why it was named Satureia, meaning satyr. Virgil, in a poem of country life, described savory as highly aromatic and valuable when planted near beehives. The Romans added savory to sauces and to vinegars which they used liberally as a flavoring. They also introduced savory into northern Europe, where it became a valued disinfectant strewing herb. Later, it was among the herbs listed by Tohn Josselyn in New England's Rarities Discovered (16 72) as being taken to North America by early settlers.
Yarrow or Milfoil Compositae, This unassuming plant conceals great powers. One small leaf will speed decomposition of a wheelbarrow full of raw compost; yarrow's root secretions will activate the disease resistance of nearby plants; and it intensifies the medicinal actions of other herbs. Yarrow is also a potent healer. The name Achillea may stem from the battle of Troy, when Achilles healed many of his warriors after being instructed in yarrow's ability to staunch blood flow. Long considered sacred, yarrow stems were used by the Druids to divine seasonal weather in Europe, while in China yarrow stems were used to foretell the future with the assistance of the I Ching, (the Book of Changes or Yarrow Stalk Oracle).
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