Thursday, December 1, 2011

Angelica 'Break-through"

It has been said by some that it is better to know a few plants well than many plants superficially. Angelica is one of those that has fascinated me over the past couple years, and never fails to impress me and surprise me. From it's amazing size summer before last, to the many, MANY volunteer plants this summer it is beautiful and dramatic.
The Fall however brings another whole facet to the plant. The weather has gotten cold and just when you think it should be quietly dying back getting ready for winter, new growth literally bursts forth from this plant.
You may need to enlarge the picture to see how the thick, hollow stem splits right open up the middle as a new stem with leaves bursts forth. It looks like someone has taken a knife to the stem of the plant, but they are all exploding with growth at this time when everything else is faded.
So as I trim back all the growth in anticipation of the winter weather right around the corner, I can't help but leave these new stems bravely reaching out. I find it just incredible, and never get tired of watching and learning about this plant.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Herb Competition

I've never entered a competitive show before, but with the New England Unit of the Herb Society of America having their second annual Competitive Herb Show next door at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, I had to give it a try. I found myself rather nervous bringing my entries in last night, we'll see what the judges say!

The picture above is my Fragrant themed container. It has five plants - Pineapple Sage (salvia elegans), Banana Mint (Mentha arvensis), white flowering Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'alba'), Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia 'Munstead') and a chocolate peppermint scented geranium (Pelargonium 'Chocolate Peppermint').

This is the Lemon Delight container with Lemongrass (Cympopogon citratus), Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla), Lemon Savory (Satureia biflora), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) and Lemon Thyme (Thymus citriodorus). It was hard to get this in the car and to the show without bending the lemon grass - it grew awful tall!

And the third container submission was a single specimen of Lavender, Lavendula angustifolia 'Ellagance Sky'. Ellagance Sky has a beautiful shape and also a unique lovely light violet blue flower. I made sure to take one for myself when they came into the store this Spring as I knew they would sell quickly.

I also submitted two items into the Cut Stem, Medicinal, category - Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) and Horehound (Marrubium vulgare). This was tricky, because I don't think I had a stem in the garden that didn't have at least one leaf with a hole or discoloration. But I picked the best I could find.

So if you get a chance to go to the show this weekend at Tower Hill, see if you can spot my entries and hope the judges are kind. I'll add a post how it turned out!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Foxglove Frenzy

I just love foxglove (Digitalis purpurea). There is all kinds of folklore around foxglove and other common names are Fairy Gloves, Fairy Thimbles, Witches' Gloves and Dead Men's Bells. It
was originally Folksglove as the flowers resemble the fingers of a glove.Foxglove contains cardiac stimulants, the most familiar being Digitoxin. It is extremely poisonous and should not be used internally.

So just enjoy these wonderful plants. They come in all colors and Digitalis grandiflora, the big-flowered foxglove, is a brilliant yellow. The above picture is Digitalis mertonensis, or Strawberry Foxglove, which is a cross of Digital purpurea and Digitalis grandiflora that I am enjoying in my garden this year.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Angelica Angst

Aargh!! What is happening to the angelica? I think it is a gourmet groundhog that only eats angelica? This is what was a good size 2nd year angelica at the store that I was looking forward to flowering this year. In one day, all the leaves were gone, obviously munched away. This plant is surrounded by other herbs, none of which have been touched.

The mystery actually started last week, when the seedlings from last year's beautiful angelica (see the post on that from last summer) filled the garden. They were thinned out and I left a number of them in place to mature. One day, I went out and the leaves were chopped off the seedlings, about every other one. What was up with this?
It was a few days later that the 2nd year angelica at the store was someone's dinner. Did Angelica Alice or Al like the small ones so much they went looking for larger leaves? I have never seen an angelica bothered by any type of animal or insect. Anyone have any ideas or seen this before?
So here is the picture of last year's angelica in June. No hope of that in either garden this year. Maybe if I can protect some of the seedlings we can look forward to next year and Angelica Alice will have to find something new to eat!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Scotland - Part I

Scotland - land of castles, water, mountains, rock...we just returned from a wonderful trip. There were so many wonderful things but here are the "garden" pictures.

Well not exactly garden, I was fortunate to be able to visit for a 2nd time the standing stones of Callenish on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Thousands of years old, no one is quite sure who put them there, or why. Experts are pretty sure it is a lunar alignment, and the area is scattered with them. They fascinate and move me, quite extraordinary.

The land was ablaze in yellow for our visit. The gorse was everywhere. This was taken from the top of Dunnideer Hillfort, the site of an ancient Roman castle.

And more yellow came from the fields of rapeseed. I had a delicious rapeseed oil one night for dinner with fresh bread. Heavier and a bit nuttier than olive oil, it is flavorful and grown all over.

The Highlands are stark, rocky and breathtakingly beautiful, with gorse here in bloom again.

On the Isle of Skye, we visited the "fairy land". I can believe fairies live among these rocks and this tree that seemed to grow right up out of the rock.

A wonderful moss wall on a country road in Insch. It was a beautiful trip, I hope to visit again.

Scotland - Part II

I was all excited when I saw this herb store in Glasgow - with the plants outside and the beautiful signs. Inside was rather like a health food store here in the States, but what I really liked was the desk where you can make an appointment to consult with an herbalist. Wish it was so here!

But here are the formal garden pictures. This collection of different heathers was beautifully arranged on a slope, with rhododendron and ablaze in color.

A formal design at House for an Art Lover at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow.

Also at Bellahouston Park, what is this? It looks similiar to angelica, and obviously the same large size, but not really quite right....

And the British do love their colorful primrose, mixed here with tulips.

A treat to see horse chestnut in flower. It brought back memories for several in the group who remembered them growing up.

At the Glasgow Botanic Garden, I thought this color combination was just beautiful.

Rhododendron in bloom at the Glasgow Botanic Garden, what colors.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Boston Flower & Garden Show 2011

Aaah, flower shows. The Boston Flower & Garden Show is going on through Sunday, March 20th, and I had the chance to attend this week. Is there nothing better on a cold, raw, rainy March day than to smell the dirt, see the green, ooh and aah over the flowers and displays and think of Spring? So of course we have to start off with the tulips and bright colors. But there was so much more!
I loved this beautiful display of foxgloves, one of my favorites in the garden.

Another favorite of mine at the garden shows is the stone work. This circular stone sculpture was breathtaking, and of course there are Spring flowers there as well!
And this one I would like to have in my backyard. I have the perfect spot for it, maybe someday.
The theme of this year's show was the Container Garden.
I went to an inspiring lecture by Deborah Trickett of The Captured Garden. Here is a basket of Deborah's with seedlings just hatching from egg shells. I came home with all sorts of ideas, as Deborah said, anything that can hold dirt can be used as a container!

And wouldn't this have been a beautiful place to sit down and have lunch! The Newport Flower Show put on a gorgeous display that made you want to climb right in and sit down.

So after we rested a bit and ate some lunch, my friend Ginny looked at the plastic containers our lunch came in and declared them perfect for seed starting! We collected
containers from the ladies we were sharing a table with and came home with some nice mini terrariums.

And fasion seemed to be a theme this year as well. The stone lady went with the Newport display, and the pink dress with the flower bodice, in the display by Village Arts & Flowers of Walpole, MA was stunning.

But this lady was my favorite. Perched high on the top of a rock outcropping, you almost didn't notice her unless you were really looking. Gazing down on all of us, she looked peaceful and serene in her woodland setting, right at home.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


When I was first approached by a friend to hold a Zentangle class at the store, I was a bit apprehensive. Zen what? Drawing lines? I'm really not artistic. But I was attracted to the concept and the instructor, Karen Keefe, is always involved in such wonderful beautiful things that I though it was worth a try. And what a wonderful afternoon!

Sixteen people gathered at Scentsibilities to learn from Karen this meditative art form.

Here we all are, the new artists. And I found, you don't need to be an artist to produce something beautiful.

Zentangle is an easy to learn method
of creating beautiful images from
repetitive patterns. It is a fascinating new art form that is fun and relaxing. It increases focus and creativity.

The Zentangle art form and method was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas.

One of the things I liked was that it can be small and portable, or large and intricate - whatever you choose.

Here are the first and second pieces of work of all the participants, most of whom had never zentangled before. All the participants learned the same patterns, but the interpretations are all so different as can be seen.

And the patterns and ways to use them are endless. Karen had a zentangled mug and box. Imagine a zentangle quilt or large collage, wall mural or as Karen shared, a friend has zentangled sneakers!

Give this a try, you'll be glad to did.

Zentangle is a registered trademark of Zentangle Inc. Learn more at or by contacting Karen Keefe, a certified Zentangle instructor, at

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Rosemary Winter Bliss

Rosemary is always a struggle here in New England. It thrives in the summer and then we shock the poor plant by bringing it indoors and asking it to survive for months until Spring comes again.

I get frequent questions at the store about where to keep it, how to care for it and many laments about how it "always dies". I've had those years as well where everything seems to be going fine and then the telltale dropping of leaves. I've been known to beg the rosemary to just stay alive for a little longer!

But this year I seemed to have found the perfect spot with good temperatures and moisture. I came home from Florida at the end of January to find my large rosemary in bloom. It bloomed all through February, bringing a smile to my face every day as I walked by and is still blooming. I've never had my rosemary bloom over the winter so this is a real treat for me.

So here are my tips on how to keep the rosemary going.

1. Preparing it to be brought inside.

This is important. I generally repot and trim back the rosemary, and then gradually accustom it to less light by keeping it outside but moving to a more shaded spot. Once I bring it indoors, I will occasionally put it outside on a nice day, which I consider over 50 degrees.

2. Location.

As they say in real estate, location, location, location. I look for a place that gets as much natural light as possible. Since my rosemary is very large and heavy, I'm limited by places it can go. This year it is in an unheated, glassed in sunroom which seems to be working.

3. Temperature.

Rosemary can be kept cool, and I find this seems to help it through the winter. An unheated room is fine. Since mine is against a glass pane I do lightly cover it if the temperatures are in the teens or below.

4. Moisture.

This is a tricky one. Rosemary likes to be fairly dry, but cannot be left to dry out completely. Especially when it is in a fairly cold temperature location it can be difficult to know when and how much to water. I water once a week or week and a half, lightly so the soil is moist but not wet.

5. Humidity.

One of the things that does seem to keep the rosemary happy over the winter is a high humidity level. If your rosemary is in the house, the liklihood of it drying out just from the heating in the house is high. I mist the plant to keep it moist or it can be put on a tray filled with water and rocks. Just make sure the rosemary is on the rocks and not sitting in the water and the evaporation of the winter will help keep it moist.

So let me know, what tips do you have and how does your rosemary grow?