Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Herb Forest Grows!

Hi all--as Beltane is nearing (tomorrow!) and I'm stuck inside being ill (perhaps even with the dread swine flu), I decided a little update on the herb forest was in order. Against my better judgment, I spent a feverish day in the garden yesterday expanding the herb forest and planting out many, many seedlings. There are still a few more to go (like the wood betony I'm coaxing along), and, of course, many of the plants are rather small, but I'm still terribly proud of my herb forest. Here she is, as of ten minutes ago:
(click for a larger view)
So what's growing in the herb forest? Well let me tell ya'!

(in no particular order)

-Wild Lettuce
-Wormwood (on the outskirts, due to the fact that a lot of plants don't get along with it)
-Bee Balm
-Elfwort (or Elecampane)
-Clary Sage
-Garden Sage
-Lady's Mantle
-Moldavian Dragon's Head
-Russian Comfrey
-Alpine Strawberry
-St. Johnswort
-Evening Primrose
-tonnnes of calendula (just sprouting everywhere)
-Chamomile (also sprouting everywhere)
a Canterbury Bells plant that was put in the bed because it didn't have anywhere else to go!

Oh!! And how could I forget!

On the little stone "plinth," I've set my potted Bay Laurel tree. I've been coveting one for years, and I managed to find one at the local "yuppie nursery."

Soon to be added: Lemon Balm, Pennyroyal, Anise Hyssop, Wood Betony, Tibetan Gentian, and Horehound.

What I love about my herb forest is that part of it gets partial shade and part of it gets full sun. All of it has wonderful, rich, wormy soil. It's just perfect, and I'm so thankful to see this fruition of the herb garden dreams I've been having since the age of 12. It seemed a long time in coming, but this was definitely the right time for it.

In other parts of the garden, the corn is sprouting, the beans are going wild, the peas are shooting skyward, the lettuce is lush, the carrots are digging in, the strawberries are blushing, and, just in time for Beltane, the foxgloves are preparing to bloom (photo forthcoming).

I so love this time of year, even if I do have swine flu (or ebola or the bubonic plague).

And now, I shall take some more orange juice and hyssop-horehound tincture and watch the rain fall soft upon my garden.

Happy Beltane to all,



Mr. H said...

I would love to hear your thoughts on skullcap. I planted some last year and it is doing great, expanding all over the place. For the life of me I can not remember what my original purpose was for planting it. I know it could assist me if I was bitten by a rabid animal, but am pretty sure that was not the reason I decided to plant it. Do you have any plans for yours? Or perhaps, like me, you just enjoy growing a wide variety of herbs.

Think green, get well.


Kelsie said...

Skullcap is one of the best nervines/sedatives you could ask for. It's excellent combined with "sleep" herbs (like valerian, passionflower, or hops) for when you want to beat insomnia, or you can just take it when you feel like your thoughts are running a mile a minute. I use it in a tincture for tension headaches (blended with lavender, yarrow, feverfew, and lemon balm), and I also use it blended with motherwort and lady's mantle for menstrual cramps (but since you're Mr. H, you probably won't need it for that!). Skullcap is definitely one of my herbal allies, as I can be a very tense person.

It's commonly taken in either tea/infusion or tincture form.

To make a tincture, I use a blend of the whole plant (roots included) and the flowering aerial parts--harvest them just as the flowers open. I stuff a jar with the whole plants/plant parts, fill it to the top with either vodka or brandy, and cap it tightly. I let it sit for at least 6 weeks, remembering to shake it daily. I usually assemble my tinctures during a full moon and decant them during a full moon. After the time has passed, I strain the tincture through cheesecloth into a big bowl (making sure to squeeze the herbs in the cheesecloth to extract every last bit of good stuff), and then funnel the resulting tincture into a cobalt blue or brown glass bottle. Cap it, label it, and it's ready to use!

I've found that the tinctures I made two years ago seemed to increase in strength after about a year. I'm not sure if this is my imagination or if this is actually something that happens.

I hope this helps! :) For all I know, the lesson on tincturing wasn't necessary, but I figured I'd throw it out there, anyway.

And yes! Skullcap's traditional use was to cure people of rabies (not sure how well that worked out...).

Mr. H said...

Thank you so much Kelsie,

Great information, we are going to try your tincture recipe when our skullcap is ready. I actually did grow it for a menstrual cramp remedy...for my wife:), and also for tension.

We grow a wide variety of herbs and have not yet had the opportunity to use many of the medicinal ones.

Thanks again,