You’ll Want this Ornamental Oregano

You’ll Want this Ornamental Oregano

When I saw HSA member Mary Nell Jackson’s photos of Oregano ‘Kent Beauty’ (O. rotundifolium x O. scabrum) I was smitten. So many possibilities. Eager to own it I googled the aesthetic gem. Did you know you can buy herbs on Etsy? I didn’t. I suspect I’ll stop by mail-order giant Bluestone Perennials because the company is in my backyard.

 In the meantime, here’s what Mary Nell has to say about this deer-resistant gem. – PW

By Mary Nell Jackson, HSA MemberOrnamental Oregano

I brought Kent Beauty, a hybrid ornamental oregano, home from The Herb Society of America’s Educational Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas in May.

Unlike culinary oregano, it is grown primarily for its delicate pink/chartreuse-tinged flowers that grow on wiry-like stems covered in small oval light green veined leaves. The stems have a drooping growth habit that makes it perfect for hanging baskets, window boxes and rock gardens. Not a large plant, it can mound up about a foot and trail about 18 inches.

This hybrid oregano isn’t recommended for use as culinary like its pungent cousin oregano (Origanum vulgare). Its fragrance reminds me of a smooth pleasing version of oregano. ‘Kent Beauty’ is prized for its ‘fairy like’ blossoms that dry reliably to use in crafting for wreaths and dried bouquets.

Ornamental oregano vase‘Kent Beauty’ is an annual in my North Texas garden so I planted my new plants in pots that will move indoors before frost. Bloom time for ‘Kent Beauty’ is June to September. Frequent pruning of the beautiful showy flower stems encourages more blooms.

The growing conditions make this herb an easy addition to your garden as it likes to be on the dry side, produces its cascading blooms for four months, requires very little fertilizer and its unusual coloring and growth make it a stand out in any garden.

If I could have more of this beauty I would create a rock garden, have it cascading in annual planted hanging baskets or allow it to border my garden paths but alas I must be practical and thrifty as my garden needs endless supplies of compost and mulch!

Mary Nell Jackson, a longtime member of HSA, is a Member at Large in the South Central District. She gardens in Parker, Texas, near Dallas.


A Midsummer’s Herbal Dream

By Jackie Johnson ND, Northeast Wisconsin Unit

Chives Herbs - 16 -Niagara Parks Botanical Garden (14)Today, June 21, is Midsummer, the longest day of the year. Throughout history and across cultures our ancestors celebrated the day with bonfires, storytelling and working with the fruits of the summer.

The ancients believed that plants harvested and prepared today had extra potency. With that in mind, we can celebrate using herbs.

1 – Prepare chive vinegar.  Use the chives blossoms and vinegar of your choice.  I prefer a white wine or apple cider vinegar.  For an interesting twist, add a few lovage leaves to the mix.

2 – Pick nine flowers that are blooming. Use cotton twine to tie them into a bundle. Let them dry so you can burn during winter to release their magic.

3 – Harvest herbs and make a dream pillow with extra potency. Partially fill small muslin bags with fiberfill and add your favorite sleeping herbs.  Chamomile is always a first (if you don’t have allergies to the Aster family). The sweet smelling elder and linden flowers are also nice. Consider adding just a pinch of mint and mugwort.  Put one small piece of rosemary for good dreams!

4 – Encourage dreams of an absent lover by putting the roots of daisies under your pillowComfrey Herbs - 16 -Niagara Parks Botanical Garden (35)

5 – Gather plantain and comfrey leaves to dehydrate for making salves later this year.  Or make poultices from the fresh leaves –  Chop in your food processor. Add a bit of flour to make them stick together. Wrap the mixture in clean muslin and freeze for future use.

6– Enjoy a Midsummer tea using equal amounts of chamomile, lemon balm, and hibiscus with just a pinch of mint.  Dry the same ingredients for tea making year-round.

Thyme Herbs - 16 -Niagara Parks Botanical Garden (16)Our ancestors were a suspicious bunch.  Today is a great day for fairy and elf frivolity so keep an eye out for them!  Thyme is one of their favorite plants, and if you watch intently — and the fairies see you as harmless — you may see them dancing with the thyme. (Don’t bring wild thyme indoors, it was considered unlucky in the day.)

Ideas to Make Herb Garden Markers

Ideas to Make Herb Garden Markers

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

I love herbs and I love making things, especially simple craft projects with immediate gratification. Combining them in the garden makes me happy.

This year, I’m overwhelmed by garden marker ideas. So many choices that I may choose different styles for pots and gardens.

I thought, for this post, I’d let pictures tell the story. Each craft is fairly self-explanatory and different approaches will appeal to different gardeners or different locations.

Corks star twice, first on skewers with names written in permanent marker. And, perhaps more decoratively, on fork tines with my best printing in black ink.

20170511_191210Silverware makes a second appearance with names stamped on flattened spoons. This is perhaps the most time consuming of my efforts. My dad flattened the cutlery in his workshop and I bought the stamping supplies at Joann stores. I’ve also seen them on

Speaking of spoons, last year I painted wooden spoons and printed names on them. Bright red added a festive touch to our patch of kitchen herbs and peppers.


Craft - Spoon markers (14)

20170515_180816And, finally, it felt a bit like cheating, but I stalked the “dollar spot” at Target and found a variety of different options. These chalkboard stakes were among them.

Show us your favorite garden markers – handmade or purchased.

Montreal Tea Tour is a Must Do

Montreal Tea Tour is a Must Do

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of Americanewby tea bag

I’m becoming a tea snob. I never meant to be, but the more I learn about the herb the more selective I become about my camellia sinensis brew.

I blame Melissa Simard, owner of ‘Round Table Tours in Montreal for my growing obsession with quality tea. In early 2017, Melissa took me on a Tea Tour of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. We visited five different tea shops. I came away with a new appreciation for the evergreen shrub that grows in tropical and subtropical climates.

We met at My Cup of Tea, a narrow tea shop in Montreal’s Chinatown. Owned by Kenny Hui, Carina Vong and Leo Leung, the company sells traditional Chinese teas grown specifically for the company. I was learning that tea can be a personal experience for a tea vendor and something they personally taste before sharing with consumers.

Montreal Tea Tour 2017 Blooming tea Paris Wolfe (3)In addition to traditional tea, they carry “blooming teas.” These hand-tied balls of herbs and flowers wrapped in young green tea leaves “bloom” in hot water. Packaged individually, they’re popular as wedding favors.

Our next stop was Camellia Sinensis, famous in the tea world for operating one of few tea sommelier training programs on the continent.  The salon is small and cozy, with only about ten tables and free from the glare of electronic devices. Whip out your cellphone or laptop and risk being gonged for disrupting the aura of calming energy.

Montreal Tea Tour 2017 Camellia SinensisParis Wolfe (4)Teas served here or sold in the adjacent boutique are sourced by one of four owners who travel to the great tea-growing regions of the world.  Leaves may be single estate oolong or vintage Pu-ehr or any of their other 250 teas. Those on the tour sample three varieties – a white, oolong and pu-ehr.  A server teaches guests to “wake up” the tea leaves with a quick rinse of hot water before steeping them. A “tea wheel” similar to a wine flavor chart helps tasters find words to describe subtleties. For example, a white tea could taste a bit vegetal; perhaps a hint of spinach describes the faintly amber liquid.

This is where I had an a-ha moment. Commercial bagged tea blends will never taste the same. I won’t shun them. In fact, I’ll still drink McDonald’s iced tea. I just think of it as a different caffeine-delivery system.

Montreal Tea Tour 2017 Kusmi Paris Wolfe (5)Our third stop, Kusmi, has romantic history. It began in 1867 when a young Russian tea blender received a tea shop as a wedding present.  The business remained in his family for 80 years. After nearly disappearing in the second part of the 20th century, the Kusmi brand was reborn in the early 2000s.

The company specializes in tea blends.  A purist may snub the idea of flavored teas, but would be wise to put aside prejudice and taste the masterful blends, perfumed only with natural essences. Tea tour participants get a private tasting of eight blends. Among them are the more traditional Anastasia, a combination of black tea, bergamot, lemon and orange blossom, and the more innovative BB Detox, a combination of green tea, maté, rooibos, guarana, and dandelion and flavored with a hint of grapefruit.

A fourth stop – The Mayfair Cocktail Bar — comes about three hours into the tour, just in time to meet the need for food. Inspired by late 19th century Victorian high society, it offers a late afternoon pause to sit and regroup with a tea-based cocktail.

Montreal Tea Tour 2017 Paris Wolfe (6)The Green Velvet cocktail, for example, combines gin, absinthe, lime, cucumber with Kusmi’s gyokuro tea. Other cocktails are touched with Earl Grey, chai or kombucha.  Reinvented and swankier tea sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres are served high-tea style

The finale – the Cardinal Tea Room – is behind a red door up 20 stairs above a small independent restaurant. It’s difficult to spot unless you know where you’re going.

Again, this spot differs from earlier stops. It is French café meets tea room complete with mismatched cups and red ceramic tea pots. And, it’s wonderful. The menu offers simple scones, sandwiches and pastry that are delightful with white, green, black, oolong and other tea selections. All brews that satisfying the emerging tea snob in me.

Stopping at five tea spots, the tour takes about five hours and covers 1.6 miles of comfortable walking plus a taxi ride. Tourists visit Chinatown, the Latin Quarter, The Plateau and Mile End. The tour is available year ‘round; though busier in summer. With cupsful of warm tea it’s comforting on a drizzly afternoon. Melissa or her guides come prepared with umbrellas and bottled water. Guests are advised to wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather.

For more information visit or contact the company at (514) 812-2003 or, The Glutton Guide to Montreal, a 130-page e-guide to Montreal’s food scene by Simard and Amie Watson, is available at

Herbs Build Fragrances for Sweet Anthem

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Sweet anthem logMarisa Borrevik has spent several months working with essential oils and has created three new, all-natural fragrances for Sweet Anthem perfumes.  They’re now available via mail order.  Herbal notes play a role in creating delight in these zeitgeist-based fragrances.

Sweet Anthem, in the Pacific Northwest, offers artisan fragrances that are 100% vegan, have an organic base and are made by hand in small batches. Marisa’s efforts were covered here last year.

sweet anthem times“Developing the ‘Timeless Collection’ concept was easy,” says Marisa. “I knew right away what time periods I wanted to evoke. Getting there took me months of just playing with different scents and amounts. There were quite a few times I was worried I wouldn’t take the fragrance where I wanted it to go.”

  • 1948 BEGINNINGS is a tribute to Marisa’s mom and named for her birth year. “I wanted the product to smell refreshing, and sweet like the beginning of a new day,” explains Marisa. “1948 is a blend of frankincense, honeysuckle, jasmine, vetiver and a few other essential oils and absolutes.”
  • 1969 REVOLUTION was inspired by the 1960s, all things Beatles and the emerging counterculture so the scent is meant to be earthy and rebellious. It has notes of sandalwood, oakmoss, tuberose, benzoin and a hint of Moroccan rose.Sweet anthem 1969
  • 2020 HOPE, she says, “was by far the easiest to formulate. I feel there is a lot going on in today’s political climate that is troubling, confusing and sometimes just plain crazy. 2020 HOPE had to be something uplifting and comforting, and it was easy to begin with notes of yuzu and vanilla and build from there using lavender, amyris and tonka bean.”

You can reach her at


Herbal Aromatherapy Encourages Sleep

Herbal Aromatherapy Encourages Sleep

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Falling-Rock_Serenity-Room_Nemacolin-Woodlands-Resort (6)
Sleep is a pillar of good health and at least one-third of Americans are getting less than they need. That might result in higher health care costs and lower quality of life. Herbs and essential oils can play a role in the solution.

“When you look at recent research, sleep deprivation can really have some damaging effects on our long-term health,” says Katlyn Hatcher, director of spa and wellness at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. “It affects mood, relationships, work functioning. It can affect your mental health and increase your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, Long-term studies have even shown that consistent lack of sleep can drop your metabolism up to 40 percent.”

Woodlands Spa - ExteriorTo help people manage sleep-related issues and improve their health, experts at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, just outside Pittsburgh, are pioneering a Sleep Revolution Retreat. Guests sign up for immersive two- or four-night packages that include exercise, yoga, meditation, relaxation treatments, journaling and essential oils. The workshops are conducted at the five-star Falling Rock boutique hotel that’s part of the Nemacolin complex.

“One thing that blew me away is that, in 2015, Americans spent $41 billion on sleeping pills and sleeping aids,” says Katlyn. “People want better sleep, but may not have the tools.”

Among the many tools she offers is aromatherapy, using herbal essential oils to encourage healthy sleep. She says

  • Lavender is calming to the nervous system. It lowers blood pressure and heart rate. It can be rubbed on pressure points like the wrist and neck or used in a diffuser in the bedroom.
  • Citrus aromas like lemon and bergamot relieve tension and anxiety. At the resort’s spa technicians use lotions with a bergamot scent to finish treatments.
  • Clary sage helps with relaxation and some research suggests it has an antidepressant benefit.


Nemacolin-Woodlands-Resort-relaxationThe spa has a local vendor custom blend essential oils with carrier oils for their use.  Proprietary blends of essential oils are mixed with two-thirds fragmented coconut oil and one-third grape seed for massage oil. “If you want to make your own massage oil, you can add more or less to your liking,” Katlyn advises. “It’s a great thing to incorporate at home. Rub it onto your hands, hover hands over your face and do three deep inhalations.”

Of course, herbal teas have a place in sleep preparation as well. “I think the act of making and sipping tea can be a meditation and very relaxing,” sh says. “Herbal tea can be great for your routine. Jasmine tea has a sweet aroma. Chamomile is great for calming as well.”

“Aromatherapy is great,” she says, “but, you do have to be careful. I don’t recommend ingesting essential oils.”

Join the Emerging Foodscape Landscape

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of Americafoodscape revolution cover

You may already be part of the emerging “foodscape” movement. Perhaps, like me, you have herbs worked into the landscape around your home or business. Mine include mounds of variegated lemon thyme as a border around the front walk, sage for textural contrast in the middle and vibrant red bee balm tucked into the tall stuff in the back. Purple coneflower is running wild and needs a little discipline this year.

In her book the Foodscape Revolution (St. Lynn’s Press, 2017), author Brie Arthur offers a handbook to inspire more foodscape throughout the yard. Her goal is to mainstream the model of growing edibles, from fruit and berries to vegetable and herbs, within the normal landscape. Grains, she writes, can be sown in clumps to mimic the look of ornamental grasses. And, small-leaf globe basil can be lined up as a border or hedge.

20170501_172704While herb growers will learn from her discussion of seed, soil, care, harvest and preservation, she goes far beyond an integrated herb garden to cover all growing edibles.

While I value the practical stuff, my favorite part of the book is “Part Two: Foodscaping Projects.” I like the inspiration. For example, turn an unused fire bowl into a bowl of loose-leaf lettuce. Arthuer’s patio pot ideas offer no-brainer combinations of height and color.

The 183-page, well-illustrated book is ambitious and well-organized. In the end the author explores aquaponics and hydroponics as well as how to get active in the cause.  And, surprisingly she even squeezes in a few recipes like bloody Mary mix and candied jalapeno peppers.

20170501_172942After reading Foodscape, I picked up last year’s the downsized Veggie Garden by Kate Copsey (St. Lynn’s Press, 2016). The lushly photographed, 174-page hardback is designed to help readers find space to grow vegetables wherever they live. I think the books, both by the same publisher, are spiritual companions. Both authors suggest ways to best use gardening space at urban and suburban homes.

20170502_085418Of the “Five Themed Gardens for Small Spaces” (pages 80-81), herbs dominate three of Copsey’s suggestions – Pizza Wheel Garden, Italian Garden and French Culinary Garden. And, they play a key role in the Mexican Garden.

Another section identifies 12 herbs you may want to grow and their characteristics. Despite years of gardening, I got new ideas for containers and learned something new about natural fertilizers and what they do.

If foodscaping a trend? Here to stay? Its worth exploring to find out.