Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tucked In

Out past the new bed of comfrey (which is doing very, very well and will be bigger and thicker next spring)...

And past the closed and drained water lines (where the fresh mint is still growing)....

There lies the winter greenhouse door....

Where the temp is still 110 at 2 pm, and the chosen ones have come inside to winter over.

Tansy, salvia, lavender, the sedum that I was suppose to get planted this fall...

Scottish heather, oregano, rosemary and the plants from the water gardens...

Just waiting for this, which is coming soon enough...

Little greenhouse on the frozen tundra.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Help a Damsel in Dis Dress....

Some of my readers are also followers of New Old School by Damsel in Dis Dress - due to a move to a new platform, you may have noticed your feed to her blog has disappeared.

Being that her blog is one of my personal favorites, I missed it immediately (well, immediately for me anyways) and she has just helped me straighten out the feed for it.

You can go here and just follow the instructions under subscribe:


or just connect to the latest post and then follow from there:


Get thee hence and find the Damsel....

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tiding Me Over To Spring

I have spoken to the cats, and they are willing to re-visit the idea of having potted plants inside.Specifically, ones they will refrain from eating down to the ground, as they did during the Great 2005 Boston Fern Incident.

So this is now the view from my office window. There's a suspended shop light with plant bulbs, big saucers under the plants, and we'll see how it goes.

At the moment, I've brought in the two year old Mandeville (the tall one), Cuban oregano (front right), and the sage bush (front left), so I'll have fresh rinse all winter, and have that lovely aroma in my office.

Also rescued this poor recuperating hanging coleus - you can't tell it, but it's on its way back. In it's prime, this was three-foot in diameter, and hung almost three feet down, covered with heart-shaped leaves, all dark red with a light green border. I owe it a second life.

I've hung the Boston Ferns in the livingroom. They are placed away from anything remotely resembling a climbing apparatus.

Not that I don't trust the cats.

Best of all is the wicker stored on the front porch till spring - the epitome of "Southern". All it needs is the sound of the screen porch door, and a glass of ice tea.

That should get me over the winter...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mildly Magikal and Somewhat Disappointing Bloody Dock

I mean really.

With name like Bloody Dock, I expected high magic of the Dumbledore level.

Perhaps re-animation powers that produces shuffling zombies?

Maybe the secret ingredient for incantations that allow the user to pass through the veil between the worlds?

Apparently my imagination is better than that of the ages, because even its name couldn't save Bloody Dock from being considered a weed (not the fun kind, just a stupid weed).

It is associated with healing, fertility and money (I should mention here that I personally have never noticed any connection between fertility and having money).

The seeds can be used as incense to draw money to the user, or to gain employment (on second thought perhaps this little weed is one of the great well-kept secrets), or, the leaves can be tied to the left arm to help with conception.

This particular little plant loves a wet environment, but will tolerate a dryer planting out in the garden. It thrives sitting directly in water, which is the reason I have it sitting in my fountains.

Just keep those leaves well away from my left arm.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wolfsbane.... Magickal *and* Poisonous

During this Samhain season, with its full harvest moon, you may run across the occasional werewolf.

If you should choose to run with the werewolves, read no further.

But if you have need of a antidote to lycanthropy, or a protective spell to guard against their nibbles, wolfsbane will suffice.

The ancient Roman physician Dioscorides referred to wolfsbane as lycotonum. Today it is also known as monkshood or aconite. It belongs to the buttercup family, and there are over 250 varieties. The flowers can be blue, purple, pink or white and it grows profusely across the northern hemisphere, particularily in Europe (probably in little remote east European villages, at night and in fog, right next to gypsy women that warn of werewolves...).

Aconite was (is?) known as "the quintessential plant of the occult". It was acknowledged to induce the lycanthropic condition (i.e. the wolfman transformation). Mixed with belladonna, a witch might even create a flying ointment.

At the same time, it was said to be the only antidote that reverses the condition, or outright kills a werewolf.

Fact: The seeds, leaves and roots contain aconitine, a deadly poison that slows the heart rate, decreases blood pressure and creates a numbing pain. It is extremely dangerous if ingested or even with skin contact if there are small cuts. (So don't do it.)

During the 1500-1600's Europe was gripped with a plague of werewolves. Humans accused of being werewolves were hunted down with arrows dipped in acontine, while traps baited with meat laced with the poison. If the acontine didn't kill them, burning at the stake usually did.

A brief recap:

Wolfsbane is beautiful, easy to grow, and really, really poisonous.

Wolfsbane kills werewolves.

But really, why would you want to? Seriously, what'd werewolves ever do to you? Leave 'em alone...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Magick Thyme

And the reason we have fairies in our garden is because I planted three different varieties of thyme...including elfin thyme (so you'd think we'd have elves instead of fairies, but, not so much). Rumor has it fairies love thyme. Recipes with thyme even claim to enable people to see fairies.

Will Shakespeare believed the thyme and fairy connection: "I know a bank where the wild thyme blows." (Said by Oberon, the king of the fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream, referring to the bed of thyme where Titania (the fairy queen) sleeps.)

All thyme is magical as far as I'm concerned - the ancient Druids used it to ward off depression and erase negative energy. The Egyptians used it in mummification, and during the Middle Ages it was placed in coffins to ease the passage of the soul to the next world.

My own ancestors - the Scottish Highlanders -believed thyme gave them courage.

For your own fairy visions, or courage, thyme can be burned as incense or sprinkled in a bath.

Or you can just gargle with Listerine (the active ingredient is thyme-also known as thymol).

Best of all, especially during this Halloween season, thyme can be tucked into pillows where it will guard against nightmares.

Remember, you can go in the basement, let the weird guy in with the hockey mask (or fangs/cape, or chainsaw), go off to summer camp, and break open that Egyptian tomb, as long as you have a sprig of thyme. Ultimate protection, it is.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lavender and Magick

I grow a lot of lavender, partly for the fragrance, and partly because it's such an unusual plant. Sometimes it appears dusty gray, turning bright green when a misty rain falls. Sometimes it looks almost dead, but after a heavy rain the plants pop back as if they've always been green and bushy.

And the flowers! Flowering lavender is one of the most incredible plants for a garden of any size - the depth of color against the bright green spires, flowers waving in a summer breeze, and the fragrance is overpowering but not cloying.

But what of magick? Lavender has been used for thousands of years for its calming sleep-inducing qualities. Those who practice magick use it for love spells and rituals (as well as for spells to attract money, proving that love and money can go hand in hand although not in my personal experience).

For the ghost hunters among us, try carrying a tiny sachet of lavender (it's known to attract spirits or....other entities).

A few drops of lavender essential oil can be sprayed on sheets or pillows before bed to induce a peaceful night's sleep. Put a few sprigs under running bath water for a relaxing bath, or add a few drops of essential oil directly to the water.

Dried stalks or flowers can both be burnt to cleanse the air (especially good idea for the dead of winter, if you've thought ahead and dried some of your summer crop).

A relaxing lavender tea can be made from dried or fresh flowers (said to promote a peaceful feeling, good health and longevity).

If nothing else, the perfume from the flowers is intoxicating, the plants are drought resistent and lavender makes the bees deliriously happy (and slightly drunk).

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rosemary is magick too ...

Most of rosemary's special magick comes from its ability to cleanse and purify. Burn it to clean both the air and the negative energy from your home. Wash your hand in rosemary water before applying healing salves or lotions. Add rosemary to your bathwater to refresh your skin.

In ancient classical times rosemary was known to grow on Mount Olympus as the flower of the gods. Its powers of protection can extend to food (add it to bread, tomatoes, butter or drink rosemary tea), and health (I always add rosemary essential oil to shampoo, conditioner and lotions).

It certainly doesn't hurt that rosemary is incredibly easy to grow, drought tolerant, and is a wonderful fragrant addition to your garden.

Probably one of my most favorite of all the herbs, and that alone makes it magickal.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yep, oregano is magick too

Oregano is the patron saint of sheer happiness. Burn it for tranquility, good luck, health or protection. It's sortof the love and peace herb. Probably could have used it back in the day.

Oregano also comes in handy for dealing with that hurt that comes from letting go of someone you love. I'll have to remember that.

Now the question is almost "what plant ISN'T magical?"

Monday, October 11, 2010

Magick Basil

The garden magick continues. Seems almost every plant out there (probably including the weeds) has some power attributed to it.

I love basil, and I plant a lot of it. So I guess my garden is full of some potent magic, particularily since basil appears to be one of the strongest harbringers of wealth and love.Hmm. Mine may need more fertilizer.

Oddly enough, basil is also associated with Erzulie, who, besides being the patron saint of New Orleans, is also the name of three Voodun goddess' representing love, art and sex. One of the three Erzulie, Dantor, is a fierce protector of women, offering protection and possibilites beyond imagination. She is also considered a protector of men who love, honor and respect women. I'm enchanted that my favorite herb is associated with my favorite city, and far be it from me to disrespect the voodun loas.

Legend says placing basil leaves in the four corners of a room guarantees protection for the occupants. Carrying basil in your pocket gives luck in gambling. Basil oil used in room diffusers promotes tranquility. And finally, basil leaves laid on your computer will keep it working.

So I have mint leaves tucked in my cabinets for the mice, and basil leaves strewn across my computer.

And I have no mice in my kitchen and my computer works just fine, thank you very much.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Magick Comfrey

Comfrey has been my new favorite herb for the last couple years. Initially I found the leaves would make a rich, low-cost fertilizer simply being left in a pail of water for several days. It got even better when I found out the huge leaves can be picked off and just laid around the base of plants (especially onions), and while decomposing, give off all sorts of rich nutrients.

Then I made comfrey salve, since the roots and leaves contain allantoin, a natural chemical that encourages cell reproduction and makes for some fast healing wounds.

I even discovered that at one time it was believed that a comfrey bath would repair the hymen, thereby creating born-again virgins. This has to be a useless endeavor if there ever was one.

NOW....I find comfrey has it's own magickal attributes as well.

Historically comfrey leaves were burned to help with concentration and divination, as well as to help the practitioner let go of unhealthy relationships or as an additional boost to love spells (very versatile characteristics there: letting go and bringing forth all at the same time).

Comfrey was (and is still) used in protective spells for travelers, and for guarding against theft.

And finally (of interest to a particular friend of mine who frequents casinos), there is an obscure mention of wrapping money in comfrey leaves for several days before gambling, as it will keep the money flowing in, versus out.

I'll settle for decent fertilizer and compost, but it's nice to know I have options.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Magick Sage

Since this is Halloween month, it seems only natural to mention that many of the everyday herbs in my garden historically have had magick powers attributed to them.

The ancient Druids believed sage could be used to raise the dead (see here for more on zombies). Not likely I'd want to do that anytime soon, results being uncontrollable and all.

The Druids also believed that a healthy crop of sage indicated a home where the wife ruled the household. Evidently husbands would prune the plants back just to show they weren't henpecked. My husband knows better.

Sage is credited with granting wisdom, psychic awareness, long life and wealth. But, by far, its most potent aspect is wisdom and learning ("sage advice").

At our house, sage is dried and burnt to clear the air, while a sage rinse keeps my hair healthy.

Sage is easy to grow. Just make sure your husband doesn't use the weed whacker on it. Plays havoc with the psychic energy.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Renaissance of Peppers

The last of the summer's peppers, looking for all the world like a painting by an old world master displaying the play between light and shadow, the synchronicity of curve and line, and the deep vivid rich colors.

And me smiling like Mona Lisa, 'cause they taste so good.

**The indoor-winter-growing-of-tomatos-project is about to begin, updates shortly.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Turmeric. And Why.

I've never been a big fan of makeup. I think the last time I actually owned any was my freshman year of college, when some hippie company put out blush that came in a little clay pot with a brush - loved the little clay pot, but years later, it was still full of blush.

I just could never stand putting the stuff on my face. I can barely stand putting lotion on my skin. Makes me feel like I'm suffocating.

Now you know that, you know how great turmeric has to be for me to recommend it.

It's not a brand name - just a spice (actually a ground root, and if you really want to grow and grind it yourself, be my guest, but I just went to The Well and bought mine).

Cost is minimal -about $1 an ounce. So much cheaper than high buck products with none of the poisons that go into them.

What do I use it for? What wouldn't I use it for? Especially since turmeric .....

Is natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent for disinfecting cuts and burns.

Might prevent melanoma and even kill existing melanoma cells.

Is a very potent natural anti-inflammatory that works just as well as anti-inflammatory drugs but without side effects.

Is a natural painkiller.

Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, is a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Has been shown to stop the growth of new blood vessels in tumors.

Speeds up wound healing and assists in remodeling of damaged skin.

Helps in the treatment of psoriasis, dry skin, and other inflammatory skin conditions. *

If that isn't enough, it's also a natural antivenin for King Cobra snake bites *and* a home remedy for sunburn (it's the active ingredient in most commmercial sunscreens).

But what do I use it for? Well even though I don't use makeup or face cream or any of that, I still prefer that my skin not look like a weathered old prune. So I fill one of my empty Italian seasoning shakers with turmeric, and sprinkle it onto a generic face wipe**, then use like soap on my face (neck,arms,hands,etc). Then rinse.

Try it. Trust me - it'll blow you away how amazing your skin feels and looks.

Turns out turmeric is loaded with anti-oxidants that will do your skin a thousand times more good than any amounts of expensive face creams or creepy botox - and without tiny needles, never mind the incredibly cheap $$ factor.

**You can use a washcloth, but turmeric is *BRIGHT YELLOW* and I'd preferred it didn't stain the wash cloths. Your face will be bright yellow when you wash with it, but that comes right off with the rinse. I rinse with cold water just because I've always used ice cold water, but I don't think it makes a difference.

Turmeric can also made into a tea or used as a spice or food additive, but before you orally consume any amount of it, go here and read about possible side effects of oral use (not many, abut there are some meds it interacts with).

Meanwhile, I bought a soap making kit, and I'm planning on making turmeric soap. Update to follow.

*information gathered from EAT THIS - HEALTH DIARIES

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Now I know what kills morning glories....

Found this a day or so after the last heavy rain - not on all the leaves but sporadically. Pretty much like....hmmm.....just like it had randomly come down in...oh, THE RAIN maybe?

This is normal after the first light frost.

But this was August, and this is Virginia, and our daytime temps are in the upper 90s, meaning nighttime temps are in the mid-80's.

No frost here. Trust me. Not even in front of the air conditioner.

Without any scientific proof, I'm voting dispersant, carried in water picked up from the poor mistreated Gulf of Mexico. My other choice would be acid rain, which may or may not be better.

And, yes, other plants have the same symptoms, but the morning glories make it through *anything* - nothing fazes these guys. Except apparently dispersant. Or acid rain. Morning glories are the proverbial canary-in-the-mine.

Thanks, BP. Like I can't screw my garden up enough on my own.

Now I'm kindof glad we have no tomato crop coming in, because I wouldn't be eating them.

On the bright side (for me), a drastic turn of events for some close friends (waving to Deb) meant they relocated their outside furniture and various garden implements to our house.

So now the Swing Garden will have the appropriately comfy southern white wicker furniture, just as soon as I get the 20 backed-up projects cleared out and make space for it. We'll give it a good home till you need it back.

Shepherd Girl and Buddha came with the wicker furniture - they aren't happy about the dispersant either. Or possibly their new home. Or both.

As always The Angel is hopeful, even though she's been tag-teamed with the pagan Gnome (she is at our house after all, complete with Fairies in the garden...).

Wait till she gets a load of Halloween at our house.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Experiment #2

And hopefully this one will turn out better than the excruciatingly painful straw bales....

Last week our local evil-that-is-walmart had these upside gardens in the clearance section, marked down from $40 to $15. For $40 I wouldn't try one, but for $15 - hell, I'll try two.

I have plans to grow cherry tomatoes, sage and basil over the fall and winter, in my office, right over there next to the HP All-in-One. The first idea was potted plants set on a gravel base inside one of our 20 gallon aquariums.

Then I saw these.

How perfect!

Easy assembly. Or at least not too bad. Here's the base and the top piece.

And the various leg pieces and connectors. (They're sitting on top of two rolling plant caddies I'm adding to the idea, so I can move them when necessary.)

The legs -if you end up doing this, use a rubber mallet or a block of wood to connect the pieces tightly.


All I need to do is add 30 lbs of sand to each base once they are in place in the office, add potting soil to the top, then in a month or so, plant two tomato seedlings in each one (hanging down of course) and seed the top of one with basil, and the other with sage.

I'll be back in September with the update.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Morning Glories Should Be Good For Something

The path to my garden. It's in there somewhere.

The cukes I planted 2 months ago. They should be long winding vines by now, loaded with cucumbers.

The blueberry patch, after a month of drought and 2 torrential rains. I cannot even begin to think about where to start.

Straw bales - totally not working. Almost the entire tomato crop was planted in these.

Butternut squash. Vine is dead, leaving this little mutant.

One cherry tomato plant in the straw bales has fruit, although every single one is split from too much rain at once. Note the healthy flowers that are climbing up the tomatoes.

There are several healthy gourds. Not a bumper crop, but a few.

This is this year's bumper crop. Anyone who knows me well knows this is my favorite flower. Roses can come and go, but a morning glory is breathtaking.

Plus they're easy to grow, don't care about water, propagate themselves, and are next to impossible to kill.

They also cross-breed, resulting in all sort of color combinations.

Cloudy days bring out walls of blossoms.

Deep jewel tone colors show up on both flowers and leaves...

This vine had both pink and purple blossoms -I've never seen that before.

Sometimes the colors reverse to white with a star.
And sometimes they blend and produce two colors on one blossom -with a glow from inside.

But usually a morning glory is just it's usual intense breathaking beautiful self.

Now if I could just find some way to harvest and eat them.