Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Welcome Spring!

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first
spring day is another. The difference between them is
sometimes as great as a month.
— Henry Van Dyke, "Fisherman's Luck"
While March may own the first day of spring, it also is responsible for the last day of winter!
Even though end of winter offers hope, it can also be as endless as the cold winter nights of December and January.
Perhaps it's time to sit a while and contemplate the ways of Mother Nature and not take her for granted, although the snow, a four letter word, is not so bad after all.
Wake me up when spring has sprung and the cold days are gone.  March still wants to hold on to the blankets of snow and keep the shades of grey drawn as if to say, "I'll hit the snooze alarm, pull the covers over my head and get a few more moments of sleep, out in the field, too.
Tables and chairs at the ready to welcome a change of pace and a flush of color along with the warm breath of sunny spring days--hope springs eternal!
Blossoms and snowflakes vie for their own space on this first full day of spring who, by the way cannot make up her mind as to which one is her favorite.  My money is on the blossoms that may fall off in the long run but, they are making way for green leaves.
Have a happy first day of Spring.  Keep in mind that the snow is just a fleeting fancy in March, a most fickle month!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Ultra Violet--It's Really Ultra Lavender!

Image result for images of pantone color of the year for 2018

Every year, I wait in anticipation for Pantone's announcement of their chosen color of the new year and I especially love it when they choose a shade of purple that most resembles the color of lavender--the plant, I mean.  They always seem to avoid the elephant in the room and give the pretty purple hue another name than what it really should be.  After all, a rose by any other name is still a rose so why should it be different for another garden princess whom we lovingly refer to as lavender?

Lavender in bloom here at Blooming Hill last summer.
Ultra Violet looks wonderfully, yet not surprisingly familiar to me so I'll just cut to the chase and say that lavender is purple and purple is "Ultra Violet", therefore "Ultra Violet" is purple and purple is lavender! It's gonna be a great year.  Thanks Pantone.  You made my life in lavender even bigger and brighter than I ever could have imagined for 2018.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Ol' Red

A week to go until Christmas and the rush is on since there is no place like home for the holidays and the best way to get there, at least in a Hallmark Christmas card, and perhaps in our own imaginations, would be in a vintage-style, fire engine red truck with your faithful, furry four-legged friend at your side and a freshly cut fur tree in the back, maybe with a few wrapped presents, too.
This piece of Americana seems to be the newest holiday--yet has always been there in plain site--symbol of coming back home to spend time with family and appreciate the simpler things in life, even if it means your home is in a city high-rise.

Our Blooming Hill rendition of "OL' Red" is a real work horse here, hauling everything from trailers and boats to stone and mulch the whole year through:)
I happen to be one of those fortunate owners of an old red truck.  However, our "Ol' Red" is  border-lining on something akin to being beyond bucolic, but has survived more than a few new transmissions, is approaching 300 thousand miles and is proudly competing with the Ever Ready Bunny and an old Timex watch as it "takes a licking and keeps on ticking!"  Yes--I know I'm showing my age with that commercial buzz line:)

Something about these images of old red trucks carrying a fresh, perfectly shaped Christmas Tree just plucked from a snow covered forest of fragrant pine and ready to be displayed in a place of honor, turns our hearts toward home, wherever that may be.  Anticipation swells in our hearts as we envision the emerald green tree in a ruby red truck trundling through the woods and over the icy roads to the front door of the ever familiar homestead.  A wood burning fire, Nana's cookies and hot chocolate await their arrival. There is no room for Scrooge here--just homecoming happiness and love!

In any case, fire engine red trucks with faithful four-footed companions sitting calmly in the truck bed along with the perfect Christmas tree is portrayed just about everywhere from trays to mugs to life-sized nostalgic renditions ready for sale in modern Christmas displays.  Who can resist these iconic pieces of Americana---It seems I certainly can't! Season Greetings to you and your family from Blooming Hill.

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Witch's Garden Courtesy of the Herb Society of America

Thought I would share this interesting and fun blog posting from the Herb Society of America, of which (not witch, mind you) I am fortunate and proud to be a member.  Note: Anyone can join--it's a great organization.  Anyway, this is terrific read for you "Herbie-Halloweenies!"

Herb Society of America posted: " By Jackie Johnson ND, Planhigion Herbal Learning Center From Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling, we seem to have an undying curiosity of what plants witches used….and for what.  In the spirit of Halloween, it seems appropriate to explore these. Shakespeare g"
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The Witch’s Herb Garden

By Jackie Johnson ND, Planhigion Herbal Learning Center
From Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling, we seem to have an undying curiosity of what plants witches used….and for what.  In the spirit of Halloween, it seems appropriate to explore these.
Shakespeare gave us the most recognizable and infamous of all incantations with the three Scottish witches in Macbeth:
"Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."
Although there are variations on the plants symbolized in the chant, following are some of the more accepted versions:
·       Eye of newt – mustard seed
·       Toe of frog – buttercup leaves
·       Wool of bat – holly or moss
·       Tongue of dog – hounds tooth
·       Adder’s fork – violet
·       Blind worm’s sting - knotweed
·       Lizard’s leg – ivy
·       Howlet’s wing – garlic or maybe ginger
We wonder, did the wise women (or witch) use odd names for effect, for safety, or something else?
Perhaps it was something else, something politically motivated. After al, women practiced the healing arts throughout Europe, mostly as midwives, until the church and state targeted them. And that happened because the church and state wanted the power and money associated with healing arts.
When Rome fell, monks gathered the healing herbs brought across Europe by the Romans.  Then, they became the healers. Power hungry and corrupt leaders always need a scapegoat to blame for the troubles in their worlds, and what better place to look than older defenseless women who owned valuable property just waiting to be confiscated?
I’ve always wondered about the bravery -- or maybe the stupidity -- of these foolish men. It raises a question: If these women were as powerful and wicked as charged, how could the prosecutors survive? Weren’t they afraid that a nose twitch could web their fingers, curse their family….or  far, far worse?
But these powerful women persisted, from the burning times until now. The journey of the “witch” (or wise woman) continues, though still under a cloud of suspicion.
Let’s look back to the Wise Old Woman who lived on the far edges of the village, alone, with her cats.  Her home is rundown, the plants and trees are overgrown, the path is covered in leaves and rusty gate squeaks as we push it open.  It’s autumn and the days are shorter and the air is brisk.
You’ll find monkshood (aconite) so lethal that it was used to poison arrows and, in World War II, the Nazi’s put it on their bullets.  Witches believed it could make them invisible if they tied the seeds to them wrapped in lizard’s skin.  It was reputed to protect one from vampires and werewolves.
In the garden the winter rose (black hellebore) sits in the corner in bloom. Thought to be a cure for insanity, it would also help one become invisible.
In the back is a lush bunch of witch’s bells (foxglove).  They seem to be growing in each corner of the stone fence.  Ahhh, for protection. I imagine if we looked in the cottage, we’d see black stone floors – dyed with the leaves of the foxglove- to keep negativity out.
What self-respecting witch would be without moonflower (datura) with white flowers that bloom in the night and give off an intoxicating fragrance?  Used as a hallucinogen, and to increase physic vision and communicate with friendly spirits, the plant is poison to even handle.   When a visitor would come begging for something to stop another from harming her/him, the Old Woman would often take the seeds, wrap them in brown cloth and tell the visitor to gather something belonging to the alleged ill-doer and place the bag of seeds on top of the item and hide it well.  So long as the bag remained over the object, the ill-doer could do them no harm.
Overgrowing anything in its way, the deadly nightshade knows it will always be the Devil’s favorite plant.  Often nightshade was put in ‘flying’ ointments, but was also handy for helping one forget an old love.  Some believe the more nightshade in a garden, the greater the protection from evil.
Continued on October 31, 2017 

Part  II:

The Witch’s Herb Garden II

By Jackie Johnson ND, Planhigion Herbal Learning Center
L0051251 Mandragora (Mandrake) plant from 'De historia...'Continued from October 30, 2017 … See Part I
All alone in a corner of the Old Woman’s garden are the mandrakes – waiting for some poor fool to pull them out.  They scream when ripped from the ground you know, and any person or animal hearing the scream will immediately perish.   Long used for dark magic, this plant was sacred to Aphrodite and used as a powerful aphrodisiac.  Too strong, some say.  Its roots are shaped like humans and carrying even a tiny piece insures good health and much more.  It hides from man, and it glows in the dark.
The following steps for harvesting mandrake was taken from an old English Herbarium from 1000 AD
  1. Before sunset – draw a circle around it with an iron tool lest it flee from you.
  2. While facing west, cut off the top of the plant.
  3. Being careful not to touch the plant, dig around it with an iron tool.
  4. When you see its hands and feet, fasten them.  Take the other end of the rope and tie it around a hungry black dog’s neck.
  5. Throw meat in front of the black dog so he cannot reach it unless he pulls up the plant.
  6. Run fast lest you hear the screams and perish with the dog.
Difficult, yes, but mandrake was one of the best plants for hexing, and black dogs were easy to find.
Aside from the poison garden, people would visit the Old Woman for a variety of reasons.
Many wanted love charms.  In front of the house, for easy pickings, sits the love potion garden.  The most important plant in the garden for love is the apple tree. Sometimes the spell was as easy as cutting an apple with the intention of forever love, and handing half to the object of affection. Both halves must be eaten simultaneously for the charm to work.
Caution was required when cutting the apple … an even number of seeds on both sides meant love and a happy marriage. If one seed is cut, rocky love will follow and the marriage will be filled with anger and yelling.  If two seeds are cut, the husband will perish within one year.
Apple blossoms are so sweet smelling, is it any wonder they were often dried and used in love potions?
Protective amulets were cut of apple wood, and when properly done, insured a long life.
RoseOther plants in the love garden include lemon balm, roses, basil, catnip, daisies, peppermint mallow and periwinkle.   Several of these in a sachet under your pillow might help the man of your dreams come into your life.   If your love has left you, you might be instructed to put a vase of mallow flowers in your window.  This should make him think of you and return to your arms.
The inability to become pregnant brought a number of women thru the Old Woman’s creaky gate. In the back, along the mossy stone fence, lies the fertility garden.  It is filled with cucumbers, carrots, mustard, and poppy and more.
Some women would come to visit the Old Woman to insure there was no pregnancy or question what was to be done about a current one.   That garden was outside her back gate and the plants were scattered through the forest, looking like they weren’t cared for to the uninformed.  This allowed her to claim ignorance if “they” came for her.  We won’t talk about what might be in that garden.
Infidelity was a common complaint and many women wandered in seeking help with rotten husbands.  The Old Woman might hand them some dried basil with instructions to sprinkle it on his cheating heart as he slept.  Or she might suggest slipping a caraway seed or two in his pocket.
And thievery – oh such a common complaint.  For that the Old Woman might suggest caraway seed sprinkled around the property to help bad guys choose another place. And if you were about to travel, a piece of comfrey with your belongings would help them travel unnoticed.
Yes, the Old Woman’s garden was full of plants.  Every corner of her yard offered up something to the trained healer/witch/midwife.
No wonder so many feared or coveted her knowledge.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wild Women in the Garden

The heavy downpour of rain, last Saturday evening, marked the end of "Naked Ladies" flaunting their figures in our garden. No--I'm not talking about the wonderful women of all sorts, celebrating bridal shower teas, baby shower teas and/or garden clubs holding meetings here while having tea.  I'm talking about Naked Lady Lilies (Belladona amaryllis), of course! Those pretty in pink lacy flowers, whose greenery appears in early spring, then shed the leaves that once wrapped around their slender stems as soon as their rosey floral spring hats bloom to perfection.  I'm sure you have some "wild women" a.k.a. Naked Lady Lilies in your garden, too, and enjoyed their feminine fragrance and coquettish allure while they were blooming.

Black-Eyed Susan's, wild women in their own right, seem a bit timid in the presence of bold Naked Ladies.
Naked Lady Lilies sometimes called Belladonna Lilies or even Surprise Lilies (probably because they bloom all of a sudden after they lose their long leaves, just when you don't expect them to) bask beautifully in the heat of high summer.  They seem to dance wildly in the sunshine and unashamedly under the moonlight.  This year, it's a wonder that they didn't stick around for the solar eclipse next week!?!  I suppose they had other plans and did not want to share the solar/lunar spotlight, or lack there of.

This sorority of beauty queens has been around in the Southern United States since Thomas Jefferson introduced them to Monticello, way back in the 18th Century. He had little luck in growing them, as he wanted to constrain them to his greenhouse.  However, "Naked Ladies" have other ideas and enjoy their unabashed freedom in the light of a sultry summer day, sometimes springing up where no one ever thought they would grow.  They are considered hardy in zones 7-10.  They also thrive here at Blooming Hill, located in Zone 6B, and come back every year, preferring to stick closely together (strength in numbers, I presume, since they wear next to nothing.)

In the meaning of flowers, (Floriography), "Naked Ladies" really don't translate into what their name implies or anything else, for that matter.  However, if you take the meaning of Belladonna, the plant that is dangerous Nightshade and, combine it with the general meaning of a Lily, which is gaiety, coquetry and youthfulness, you kinda come up with a "Lolita-like" meaning for a Naked Lady Lily.  Just sayin'...

I can't recall ever planting Naked Lady Lily bulbs but somehow, they showed up in a garden border off of the back porch years ago and re-bloom every season.
So, their garden-style burlesque show is over for now and the ladies' performances have all but disappeared for the season. Yet, true to form, I know those seductive Naked Lady Lillies will boldly return to dance in all of their glory again and again, in our summer garden, for years to come.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

August Fireworks

Related imageJuly 4th is one good reason to celebrate our country.  It's also, at least to a serious gardener, a way to usher in high summer and relish the zinnias taking hold and savor the burgeoning vegetable garden. But, July 4th comes and goes all too quickly and the high humidity days of late July start eyeing the nasty dog days of August as it looms closer and closer until, one morning we wake up and find August is already upon us.  Already?!? Where did the fresh face of June go to? It seems to me that any day after the fourth of July is a blur of daily hand-to-hand combat with the weeds in lavender beds and, that battle does not yet look to be won during these first days of August and now waning summer. (#nuclear weeds!--haha)
Red Crepe Myrtle posing with it's friendly summertime neighbor, hydrangea.

However, along with these days where one can feel a little "hang-dog" while trying to refresh and replace spent plants in the herb and vegetable gardens, along with the ornamental borders, comes some beautiful bright spots in the August landscape. Here in the mid-Atlantic and southern regions, the beautiful shrubby tree and splendidly colorful Crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia) flaunts her graceful, arching branches in jewel tone colors.   

The pops and sprays of colors from white to purple (my favorite--no surprise there) to blood red explode like firecrackers along roadsides, next to homes and in fields of emerald green, illuminating their surroundings and lending freshness to August's white hot days. If their colors don't make you pause, just take a look at their textured, 3-D peeling bark for added drama.😏 Just sayin'...

The two immense "Natchez" Crepe myrtles that adorn the front of my home sprinkle summertime snowflakes down on our front walk for weeks and carpet the brick path with soft white petals that melt slowly into the ground, making this kind of flowery precipitation at times other-worldly.  By September, these summer blossoms have all but disappeared leaving behind green shiny berries that stay on the trees through winter, turning brown, and then into spring and even summer until a new crop of papery petals come forth.

Crepe myrtle derives its name from two things; first its leaves closely resemble the common herb, myrtle(Myrtus comunus) and secondly, its flower blossoms also have a wrinkly feel to them making them somewhat like crepe paper. These splendid mid-summer to fall beauties are hardy to around zone 5 making crepe myrtle a queen a the south and a rising star of the north as more varieties are introduced in the plant world.

In the Language of Flowers, the meaning of crepe myrtle stands for "eloquence" or "well-spoken" as its power of persuasion in letting us know that summer has no intention of relinquishing it's hold for quite sometime is on full display during the month of August.  So, let the fireworks continue and the colors burst free and wild from the flowers of crepe myrtle and let's celebrate the dog days of summer made so much brighter, due in large part, to the splendid nature of the Crepe myrtle.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

It's May--Let's Celebrate!

Here's to May!

His mantra is "mulch, mulch, mulch...more mulch..."
Yesterday was May 6 and the 143rd Kentucky Derby was on and, it seemed like a good excuse to take a break from the mulching and the weeding in the rain and have a good stiff drink, even if it was for just two really exciting minutes.  So, what should you drink when the horses are "running for the roses?"  Why, Mint Juleps, of course!  A little bit of whiskey, a lot of crushed ice, a good amount of sugar and a long, cool sprig of "Kentucky Colonel" mint makes a hardy pick-me-up while we sat down to cheer on the horses. 

Cold and frosty.
Anywhoo, I realize that we are first and foremost a lavender farm, while we sipped on our mint-inspired drinks, but when you think about it, mint is a member of the same plant family as lavender (Lamiaceae, which basically means square-stemmed flowering plants) and we kind've "took care of that bottle of whiskey--however, it was almost empty, anyway and we will recycle the bottle.  So, hey--it's all good!

Cheers to you!