Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Herb garden catch up

Well, recently it has actually felt like spring has arrived and our plants should start to feel like bursting forth in to growth. I thought I would do a catch up on the herb garden that I planted last year.

Considering how crazy the weather was last year I don’t think the new garden did too badly, but there have been a few changes to make this year. Some herbs like Sage and Motherwort have done extremely well, a little too well! I think I under estimated how much space they were planning on taking over! So one motherwort plant has been taken out and is moving to another exciting herb garden project – which I will tell you about later. One Sage plant has also been moved to allow the Vervain to get more sunlight and air circulation.
Last year I harvested a lot of Sage and Rosemary which I have made into herbal vinegars. I have used the Sage vinegar as an effective gargle for a sore throat and the Rosemary vinegar has mainly been used as a final rinse for my hair. Both vinegars have been used in salad dressings too.
Last year I put my Marigold and Chamomile seedlings in the ground too late and because of the lousy weather they took their time to flourish. Having said that, I did manage to keep harvesting Chamomile flowers through the late summer enough to dry for a few aromatic brews through autumn. This year I plan to grow much more and aim to be Chamomile self sufficient !
The garden has had a few casualties though. I have lost two thyme plants and one Rosemary. I think this is because of the heavy clay soil, even though I dug plenty of gravel in – it obviously wasn’t enough! Also a bit of over crowding and lack of sunlight may have played a part (that would be my fault then!)
This is what we look like so far in 2013.
Looking a little scruffy around the edges but nice and green!
There is a new Herb garden project happening down at Archway House Natural Health Centre in Market Harborough where I am a Herbal Medicine and Reflexology practitioner, more to follow.

Have fun in your herb garden.
BotanicalBird - Julia


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Daffodils are not the only gold...

Coltsfoot has arrived, which in my book means that spring is definitely just around the corner!

It was during a dog walk on the Bank holiday Monday when I spotted the golden smile of this early flowering herb. Coltsfoot has a fab latin name Tussilago farfara, which is taken from the latin tussis for cough. Coltsfoot has been used traditionally as an effective cough remedy and not so long ago you could buy Coltsfoot rock, a soothing confectionery for coughs and splutters.

The flowers come first, small golden disks that are coaxed open by the warmth of the spring sunshine. They are similar to Dandelion flowers but have a button of florets in their centre. The green leaves appear after the flower with an underside that flashes silver when the wind catches them.

Last year there where two very small patches of Coltsfoot, clinging to quite a steep bank under the hedge line. This year I have counted six so they are hopefully here to stay.

Monday, 31 December 2012

It's been a long time.....

The only excuses that I can rustle up for not blogging for 6 months are one, not having enough time in the day and two, loosing the camera. Not having enough time is not a real excuse though, I know people with far busier lives than mine. I think my down fall is lack of organisation!
But this is the time for New Year resolutions so I will aim for a blog a week!
Now on to all things Herby...

One thing I wanted to share through Autumn and the Winter months was the glories of the Wild Rose. Rosa canina or the Dog Rose is full of immune boosting potential. I have made quite a few bottles of Rose hip syrup this year, which is easy to make, delicious and full of Vitamin C. I have attached the recipe for you to use in October and November 2013.


Rose hip Syrup

Wash and crush 2lbs of rose hips (you may have to whizz them in a blender because they are quite tough!) and put into 3 pints of boiling water. Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and let stand for 20minutes.

Strain through a jelly bag or muslin cloth in to another pan. When it has ceased to drip return the rose hips to the original pan with another 1 ½ pints of boiling water. As before bring to the boil and then leave to stand for 20 minutes. Strain as before and add to the first extract.

Next strain again through a fine mesh muslin, or a pop sock does the job very well, to make sure the fine hairs from within the hips have been removed.

Pour into a clean pan and reduce by boiling until the juice measures 1 ½ - 2 pints. Add 1lb of sugar and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves, bring to boiling point then pour into sterilised bottles and seal. You could use honey but heating honey destroys all the health giving qualities and also the syrup doesn’t keep as well. You could add honey when the syrup has cooled slightly if you wish.

Always make sure you have correctly identified your hedgerow bounty by using a plant identification book. Always try to make sure you collect rose hips away from a main road and wash them well.

Rose hip syrup can be slurped by the spoonful, 5mls once a day, or as a delicious warm drink to chase away the winter blues.


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Plantago lanceolata, the strength of the sword and the beauty of an angel.

I realise that I may have become a little obsessed/over enthusiastic about Dandelions just recently,
so I’m moving on.

There are so many herbal goodies bursting out of the hedgerow at the moment it’s difficult to know where to begin. Having said that, I’ve noticed that Ribwort plantain or Plantago lanceolata is strutting it’s stuff spectacularly well today.

Most plants are lush at the moment due to all the rain so the Plantain leaves are fresh and extremely green. The sword shaped leaves of this architectural little plant have deep ribs running length ways, hence ribwort. The darkest brown mouse like flower heads,  will become more oblong and a softer brown later in the summer. With pale yellow anthers dancing round it, giving this angel of a plant a halo. I have always thought of this herb as an angel.

Like the Dandelion, this little plant has It has both structure and beauty and could look great in a terracotta pot! 

Ribwort plantain showing off his ribs!

Medicinal uses 

Plantago is a famous wound healing herb. It has antiseptic and astringent qualities, so an infusion of leaves used as a wash for cuts and grazes helps to stop bleeding and clean the injury, great in the first aid box. Fresh leaves can be bruised (or chewed) and applied to a cut or an insect bite for instant relief.

Plantago is a wonderful cool and soothing remedy. Used for irritable or sore respiratory and digestive systems, this herb helps an irritable bowel, bronchitis and even toothache.

I have a huge respect for this amazing healing herb.
Both strength and beauty in large portions.


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Medicinal Herb Garden - The Herbs

Last time I mentioned some of the herbs to be included in the medicinal garden, we now need to look a bit deeper into why and how these herbs can be of benefit.

The herbs will be used in different ways, infusions, tinctures, infused oils and we will go into the methods of making these once the construction of the garden is underway. So in no particular order of preference or importance here are some of the perennial herbs for the garden, with the annuals and short lived perennials tackled next time.
Let’s start with Sage.

Salvia officinalis

Sage is multi-talented. Not only will sage help support us through winter coughs and colds by strengthening our immune systems, it will help calm any anxiety and nervousness. An infusion of Sage leaves used as a gargle will ease a sore throat and taken as a ‘cool’ drink rather than hot it will help to reduce menopausal hot sweats. 
Sage also helps poor memory and mental confusion – so that’s me sorted then!

Sage likes a sunny position and a light/well drained soil.

Rosmarinus officinalis

Rosemary is an uplifting wonderfully aromatic herb, which will help with headaches, exam stress and memory recall as well a cold sluggish digestion. An Infusion of the leaves in olive oil (we will make a Rosemary infused oil in a few weeks) will help aching muscles from too much cricket and an infusion in boiled water will make a refreshing, uplifting cuppa and also a scalp stimulating rinse for dark hair.

Rosemary likes to have her head in the sunshine and a sandy/well drained soil around her roots.

Thymus vulgaris

Extremely anti bacterial, anti viral, antiseptic, it’s anti everything! Great for chest infections and coughs. Infused in honey and possibly combined with Liquorice you have a fantastic cough syrup. Recent research gives evidence that Thyme will help with problem skin.

Another sun lover, Thyme likes a bit of gravely soil to sit in.

Melissa officinalis

Fresh Lemon balm tea is a real delight. Delicate and light it lifts the spirits and soothes emotional ups and downs. On a hot summers day you can add ice cubes for a cooling, refreshing drink. Lemon balm relaxes and calms the nervous system, and is especially good for anxiety that effects the digestive system and which also causes palpitations.

Lemon balm likes a good deep root run and sunshine.

Hyssopus officinalis

Hyssop is warming, relaxing and cleansing herb. It helps to clear coughs and sore throats but also the herbs bitter qualities aids digestion. A cup of Hyssop in the evening will help sweeten dreams.

Although Hyssop likes the sun she will take a little shade too.


Hypericum perforatum

St John’s wort is an incredible healing herb. The golden yellow flowering tips are used and can be made into a variety of helpful things. St John’s wort is anti viral, anti bacterial and anti haemorrhagic so great for cuts and grazes, even cold sores. Used as a tincture St John helps depression. In this garden the flowers will be used to make an infused oil which can be made into an healing ointment or a cream.

St John's wort likes a sheltered spot with lots of sunshine.

Both Lemon balm and St John’s wort will need some serious harvesting. They just love to grow and could invade and conquer!

The soil condition

Having made a start on the digging I think the soil needs a little help. This particular patch has been hidden under grass for at least the last fifteen years so needs some compost and horticultural grit digging in. This will improve the quality and drainage of the earth, Rosemary, Sage and Thyme all like a bit of good drainage, they don't like sitting in waterlogged ground.

More on the annuals and short lived perennial herbs next time.
Have you thought of making a medicinal herb garden?

Have fun


Thursday, 10 May 2012

Medicinal garden or cricket wicket?

Having asked the opinions of my nearest and dearest, what seems apparent is they would be more interested if I announced I was building a cricket wicket rather than a herb garden!

This doesn't put me off or surprise me really, so I shall press on with my plans to make a medicinal herb garden as it feels like I've spent far too much time in the thinking stage and now need to get on with the doing stage.

The herbs in this garden need to have benefit for all the family. As a whole we need herbs to help with general stress and relaxation, sensitive digestive issues and hormonal uprisings! So what has emerged is a list of perennial and annual herbs that make up a 'prescription garden'.

A very rough idea - perennials like Rosemary and Sage on the left
and annuals like Marigold and Chamomile on the right.

This small circular space needs a simple design with an element of all year round structure. So having dismissed a formal knot garden and various star and spiral designs, I've opted for a smaller circle within the circular shape which forms an internal crescent. 

St Johns Wort - Hypericum perforatum
Within the smaller circle there will be structural herbs like Rosemary, Sage and Lavender and also softer herbs like Marshmallow,  St Johns Wort and Lady's mantle. Around the edge of the large circle will be the great and glorious Thyme.

Beautiful Borage - Borago officinalis
Within the crescent shape will be annuals and bi-annuals like Chamomile, Marigold, Borage and Hyssop - so far, there could be others. The crescent can evolve through the year from the glorious blues and yellows of the summer annuals to the cheerful smiling faces of Violas and Pansies in the winter months.   

In the next installment I will give more detail on the herbs and their medicinal qualities, how to get the best out of them. There also has to be a certain amount of hard graft to prepare the soil for planting and of course the good bit, which is finding and planting the herbs.

Have fun

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Dandelions are so useful...

This golden herbal infused oil is yet another use for our friend the Dandelion. This time it’s the flowers which are good for aching muscles and joints.


Infused oils can be made from many different herbs for many different reasons. For instance, Calendula or Marigold petals make a wonderful healing oil for inflammation and dry irritated skin. Rose petals are used as a cooling and nourishing oil that is exquisitely scented.

I found the details for this infused oil in one of my favorite books Hedgerow Medicine by Julie Burton-Seal and Matthew Seal.  When you have picked your Dandelion flower heads leave them out on some paper so that any wild life can escape. Then fill a jam jar with the blossoms and cover completely with either olive oil or sweet almond oil. Each time you check your oil over the next couple of weeks make sure that the flowers are submerged under the oil or they may go moldy.  Cover the jar with a piece of muslin so that any moisture from the flowers can escape into the atmosphere.

Place your jar on a sunny windowsill (we only seem to have rainy windowsills at the moment but I’m sure it will brighten up!) and leave for 2 weeks. Then strain off the oil leaving any watery residue in the jar, pour into sterilised bottles and label with the date and name of the oil. Store in a cool dark place.

Your oil can be combined with Rosemary essential oil for a warming muscle rub using 1 drop of essential oil to every 5mls of infused oil.

You could also make an Dandelion oil ointment, which is really simple to make, check it out on my website.

Have fun.