Plant Labels

By Sam Webb

Webb plant label

Normally I don’t use plant labels, unless it’s the label that came with the plant when I bought it.  That is, until a visitor to my garden criticized, “What’s with all those ugly labels?”  I thought to myself, “Just great, now when I look at my garden all I’ll see is ‘Ugly Labels’. That is, unless I do something about it.”  That something is to make the effort to properly label the herbs using their botanical and common names. I’m retired now and have the time.  Do you think the great gardeners of a hundred years ago worried about plant labels?  Probably not, but the plant collectors would have; it’s part of collecting to know the names of the objects of your collection, document their acquisition, and most of all, to fill in what’s missing and acquire more. 

I started the label project by going to my local botanic garden to see what their plant labels were all about.  Their labels (see photo above) have all kinds of information on them.  In this example, the family name (Rubiaceae) is in one of the corners and in another corner, the country or region where the plant originates (Europe, N Africa). In another corner is an inventory number (2010026.7) that corresponds to information on file as to the date of acquisition, who acquired it, its location in the garden, and other facts about the plant. In the middle is the botanical name (Galium odoratum) and the common name (sweet woodruff).  Sometimes there is a short description of the use of the plant, an anecdote or folklore at the bottom.

Webb plant label 2So far so good. However, my penmanship is poor so I use a label maker with metal tags for my herbs.  My labels only need two things: a botanical name and a common name.  I am also lucky that I kept the names of all the herbs in my garden.  If you didn’t do that or don’t know at least the common name of any herb, labeling it may take more research. Use your HSA membership and ask. Most members love to help out other members.

Additionally, the botanical name is always expressed in Latin and is accepted worldwide, but there is so much more one can do with the common name, like add the foreign translation to the label.  I like to grow the Herbes de Provence,  so I can use sarriette d’hiver for winter savory, and so forth.  My pickling herbs could be in German, such as Deutscher thymian for German thyme. I could keep going but you get the idea of all the possibilities.


Sam Webb has a BS in Ornamental Horticulture from Delaware Valley University.  Retired from 25 years with Federated Investors Legal Department, Sam has spent most of his free time volunteering at three local institutions, the Carnegie Public Library’s Community Gardens, Carnegie Museum of Natural History- Botany Department and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.  He is a member of the Herb Society of America.

Growing Herbs in Small Places (Pots and Various Containers)

By William “Bill” Varney

A great advantage of herbs is that regardless of your limited space, almost all herbs can be successfully grown in containers and small spaces. In fact, potted herbs will make a garden where nothing else will.

Virgil the Roman poet said it best: “Admire a large estate, but work a small oncontainer, herbse.”

Tips:

  •  No place is too small for a garden of potted herbs, and there is always a place in any type of garden for decorative containers of herbs.
  • Any container from one gallon to forty is usable. However, it is advisable to plant only hardy perennials in your largest containers. If five-gallon containers are used for tender perennials or annuals, keep them near your front or back door, then when a freeze is predicted, moving them indoors is easier.
  • Be creative in choosing your containers: Horse troughs, iron kettles, old watering cans, cinder blocks, pallets, unusual old tins, the list is endless. Of course, the traditional clay pots, redwood, and cedar containers are the old mainstay. Other alternatives are hanging baskets and containers.
  • Requirements for any container include good drainage and a depth of at least six inches is essential, regardless if the container is plastic, clay, or unusual material. There must be room for a root system to draw sufficient moisture and food to keep the plant growing and healthy.
  • Grow plants together in a large container. A whiskey or wine barrel, for example. Strawberry pots are perfect for many smaller growing herbs, such as thyme, parley, marjoram, and chives.
  • A slightly richer soil is suggested for potted herbs, especially mint, parsley, chives, and chervil, than those in the garden.
  • Additionally, potted herbs should have four to five hours of sun. If placed in full sun, recognize that they will dry out very quickly during the summer.

If you live in a warmer part of the country, fall is a great timcontainerse to bring your herbs a little closer to your kitchen by planting them in pots. If you live in a colder climate, start making notes about planting some of your herbs in pots next spring.

 

Bouncing Bet – A Soapy Herb

soapwortBy Maryann Readal

How can a gardener resist an herb with the name bouncing Bet? I could not resist this delicate pink and floppy plant after seeing it blooming in the summer heat in my friend’s garden. After hearing the name, I was curious about the story behind its title. For as you know, many herbs have interesting stories to tell.

Bouncing Bet, Saponaria officinalis, sometimes called soapwort, latherwort, and lady’s wash bowl earned some of these names because of the saponins in the roots and leaves of the plant. Since the Middle Ages, the leaves and roots have been boiled in water to make a soapy lather that is good for washing and bleaching delicate fabrics. Research studies show that soapwort was used in the making of the Shroud of Turin. It is true that museums have used the soapy solution of soapwort to clean tapestries and other artifacts. In France and England, where textile shops stood, patches of soapwort could be found because the herb was used in the textile industry for cleaning purposes. The French name for it was herbe à foulon or Fuller’s Herb, a fuller being someone who works with cloth. In the early 1900’s it was referred to as old lady’s pinks referring to its tenacity and ability to withstand harsh conditions.

Friars brought the seeds to England from Europe, where they planted them near their monasteries and used soapwort to keep themselves clean. The English colonists brought the seeds to the New World and used the lather of the plant to restore a sheen to pewter, china, glass, and old lace.

As sometimes happens, a good thing becomes too good as bouncing Bet escaped the garden and became invasive in some parts of the United States and southern Canada, spreading into fields where cattle and horses grazed. The saponin in the plant is not kind to the digestive systems of some grazing animals.  However, it does not seem to affect the deer that consistently consume it in my yard.

Because of the saponins it contains, soapwort’s roots and leaves are potentially toxic and should not be taken internally. However, beer brewers have used it to put a head on a mug of beer and it is used in the Middle Eastern tahini and the candy, halvah.  Historically, soapwort has been used to treat rheumatism, coughs, and itchy skin conditions.

Soapwort is a perennial in the carnation family that grows in zones 3-9. It likes well-drained, alkaline soil, tolerates drought conditions, and likes sun to partial shade.  It blooms in shades of white to pink single or double flower masses on a single stem. Bloom time is from spring to fall and it makes a nice ground cover. Despite the deer, I can’t resist trying to get it to spread in my more acidic soil. I love the flowers and love its rose-like smell.


Herb Society of America Medical Disclaimer … It is the policy of The Herb Society of America not to advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any medical or health treatment.

Webinar – Herbs: The Multifunctional Workhorses of the Garden

Webinar – Herbs: The Multifunctional Workhorses of the Garden

By Jen Munson, Education Chair, The Herb Society of America

Webinar anise hyssop with bee (1)Look beyond the edible goodness that herbs provide and you’ll quickly recognize these unassuming plants are hardworking powerhouses in the garden. Herbs make great companion plants, aid in pest control, and support welcome beneficials. Plant mint near cabbage and tomatoes and you will help to deter the white cabbage moth. Anise hyssop and mountain mint will attract pollinators and other beneficials. Still further, fennel and dill provide food to the swallowtail butterfly caterpillar. Transform herbs like garlic and chili peppers into organic pesticides while the herbs in companion plantings create beautiful and structured designs.

Webinar fennel with swallotail (2)Join HSA at 1 p.m. (EST), Tuesday. August 20, 2019, for our webinar, “HERBS: The Multifunctional Workhorses of the Garden” with Rose Loveall-Sale owner of Morningsun Herb Farm. Rose will speak about the extensive, and sometimes unusuall, uses of some of the lesser known herbs that will add color, fragrance, and texture to your planting designs.

Webinars are free to members. Non-members are charged a nominal fee of $5. Join HSA on or before September 3, 2019, and your webinar registration will be applied to your new membership. Can’t make the date? Register anyway as recorded webinars are sent to all registrants.


Make your own insecticide using garlic…

Garlic Insecticide Spray

Puree 2 whole garlic bulbs (not cloves) with 1 cup of water.
In a quart jar let mixture sit for 24 hours or overnight.
Strain. Add ½ cup of vegetable oil.
Add 1 tsp of liquid soap (Dr. Bronner’s is recommended)
Fill quart jar with water.

To use: combine 1 cup of mixture with 1 quart of water and spray on infested plants.


Webinar speakerAbout the Presenter: Rose Loveall-Sale, along with her husband Dan Sale, owns Morningsun Herb Farm, a specialty nursery in the countryside of Vacaville, Ca. Morningsun propagates and sells over 600 varieties of culinary, medicinal, and landscaping herbs, as well as many unusual perennials for hummingbird and butterfly gardening. They also sell scented geraniums, and heirloom vegetable starts in the spring. The nursery is located in an old walnut orchard that has been owned by her family for more than a half century. Spread throughout the property are numerous demonstration gardens, quiet sitting areas and a small gift shop. Besides the retail nursery, Morningsun also ships plants throughout the United States. Visit their website at https://www.morningsunherbfarm.com/

Visit the WRHS Rose Garden

Visit the WRHS Rose Garden

“Love, which, in concert with Abstinence, established Faith, and which, along with Patience, builds up Chastity, is like the columns that sustain the four corners of a house. For it was that same Love which planted a glorious garden redolent with precious herbs and noble flowers–roses and lilies–which breathed forth a wondrous fragrance, that garden on which the true Solomon was accustomed to feast his eyes.” – Hildegard of Bingen

Untitled design (94)By Beth Schreibman-Gehring, Chairman of Education for The Western Reserve Herb Society unit of The Herb Society of America

My husband says I seem to wake up craving roses and sleep dreaming of them. Maybe it’s because the scent and flavor of the beautiful historic and fragrant roses in my gardens bring back so many of my best memories. They remind me of my father and the happy times that I spent with him in his rose gardens. Or maybe it’s because the magic spell of the roses helps my skin stay happy and smooth and my heart stay open and gentle.

The entire Western Reserve Herb Society (WRHS) herb garden at the Cleveland Botanical Garden is glorious, but Historic Rose Gardens are overwhelming. When they bloom, it is feast for all the senses. I spend about two weeks harvesting and drying rose petals from them to make wonderful products for WRHS Herb Fair which will be held at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens on October 12. 2019.

“The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.” — Gertrude Jekyll

Judy Kutina, Gwen Zeitz, Jane CavanaughThe Historic Rose Gardens of the Western Reserve Herb Society cannot ever be celebrated without mention of the three beloved Rosarians and Master gardeners who still lovingly tend the beautiful roses as they have for so many years. Judy Kutina, Gwen Zeitz and Jane Cavanaugh can still be found in the garden every week caring for this extraordinary and historically relevant collection of roses, with the help of WRHS Unit and current Rose garden chair Kathleen Hale, and other Western Reserve Herb Society gardeners.

“In 2012, the WRHS Historic Rose Garden became the proud recipient of the Certification of the Historic Rose Collection from the Herb Society of America. This rose garden was the first rose collection in the United States to receive this recognition. Starting with Blanche Harvey, who researched and planted some of the most cherished historic roses in the collection, Judy Kutina, Section Chair along with Jean Ingalls (Past Chair) and the members of their committee, (Jane Cavanaugh, Gwen Zeitz, Toni Becker, Debra Brink and Nancy Gustafson) documented the historic authenticity of each rose. A bronze plaque was placed in the historic rose collection on June 5th, 2012, commemorating this honor, placing the Collection in the elite company of the National herb Garden in Washington DC and the Chicago Botanical Garden.” — “50 seasons of growing- The Western Reserve Herb Society Herb Garden 1969- 2019″

IMG_9590Receiving this certification was a four-year project, meaning that all of the renovating, documentation identification and research began four years before the actual certification was granted.

Judy, Gwen and Jane and late member Jean Ingalls, were the four Western Reserve Herb Society members who were instrumental in ensuring that the garden met every classification needed for this special certification.

When it comes to the roses in the WRHS garden, we all have favorites. Mine is the beautiful and ancient Rosa gallica officinalis, more commonly known as Apothecary’s Rose, also known as the Red Rose of Lancaster.

The Apothecary’s Rose is just a joy, a rose older than the Renaissance and used for medicinal purposes during Medieval times. It is extraordinarily beautiful to see and smell when blooming. Its intense, deep pink-to-light red coloring and luscious old rose fragrance make it a must in any herbalist’s garden.

I have always found it easy to grow, which may be the source of its longevity and popularity. It only blooms once in a season, but it’s a generous rose. Mine bloomed in my northeast Ohio garden for more than a month. I return to it time and again to make rosewaters, jams and jellies.

Untitled design (97)It gives me a real thrill of connection to my medieval sisters to be able to use this ancient rose to infuse into my rose honey and other rose preparations. I find rose-infused honey to be ever so helpful when I have a sore or scratchy throat and although you can buy it, it is just so easy to make. Stirred into a cup of hot water, or simply taken by the spoonful, the anti-inflammatory properties of the rose petals and the antibacterial properties of the honey seem to relieve any irritation quickly.

Rose Petal Honey
6 cups fresh rose petals (4 cups dried)
2 cups honey, room temperature
1-quart glass jar with lid

Add petals to the jar until half full and firmly packed. Pour honey over rose petals and stir to remove air pockets. Cap the jar tightly. After several hours stir petals and honey. (I use chopsticks for this.) Add more rose petals and stir. Leave the jar in a warm place for about two weeks, stirring from time to time.

After two to four weeks, warm the jar in a pot of hot water (do not boil). Strain the warmed honey through a cheesecloth into a clean jar. Press the rose petals to remove all honey. Cap the jar and enjoy on toast, over yogurt, with ice cream and in cocktails.

I use rose water in my drinks consistently because I believe that it is so helpful for hydrating the skin from the inside out.

I also spray rose hydrosol (a fancy name for rosewater) on my skin every morning after my shower to moisturize my aging skin. I spent way too much time in the sun without sunscreen as a teenager and I have noticed that this daily spritzing with rosewater seems to have softened some of my wrinkles as well as tightens my pores.


I’d love to know some of your favorite uses for your favorite roses, so please feel free to share them with me in the comments.

May everything be coming up roses for you all summer long!

HSA Webinar– Incredible Edibles: Flowers in the Kitchen

HSA Webinar– Incredible Edibles: Flowers in the Kitchen

By Jen Munson, Education Chair, The Herb Society of America

Did you know many herb flowers are also edible? Experience for yourself the dimension that flowers can add to your meals. To start with, flowers of edible herbs are consumable. They offer the same flavor as the other parts of the plant but generally are a bit milder. Learn about herb and other tasty flowers that are safe to eat by signing up for HSA’s webinar, 1 p.m. Eastern, July 25, 2019, when Honorary President Susan Belsinger will wow attendees with Incredible Edibles: Flowers in the Kitchen. To sign up for this webinar click here. It’s the perfect time to surprise family and friends by throwing some edible flowers into your next summer dish.

matricaria-discoidea-846636_1920Webinars are free to members and $5 for non-members. As an added incentive join HSA on or before August 8th and your webinar registration will be applied to your membership. Can’t make the date? Register anyway as recorded webinars are sent to all registrants once available.

One of my favorite edible flowers is pineapple weed, Matricaria discoidea. This lesser-known plant surprises folks with its mild, pineapple aroma and taste. Pineapple weed, aka wild chamomile, is a native plant that can be found in compacted poor soil. The shortness of the plant makes it easily overlooked; however, once you realize that it emits a light pineapple scent and has an equally refreshing pineapple taste you will be on the hunt for it. It’s best used fresh in teas but the following recipe makes a nice alternative use.

Pineapple Weed / Zucchini Bread

2 eggs
1 cup mild vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup grated zucchini
¾ cup fresh ground pineapple weed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease loaf pan.
2. In large mixing bowl, beat eggs until foamy.
3. Stir in oil, sugar, zucchini, pineapple weed, and vanilla.
4. In separate bowl mix dry ingredients.
5. Blend dry ingredients into pineapple weed mixture.
6. Pour into greased loaf pan, and bake 1 hour or until inserted knife is removed cleanly.

Herbalist Hildegard of Bingen

By Kathleen M Hale, Western Reserve Unit

Once upon a time, about 1098 to 1179, there was a little girl named Hildegard. She was the tenth of ten children. Her parents were “minor nobility,” but ten kids are a lot of kids. When she was eight years old, Hildegard’s parents gifted her to a convent.

Later, when she wrote her autobiography, she would say that she had started having visions from the time she was six. In these visions, Hildegard witnessed “the fiery life of divine essence,” a living light. This light spoke to Hildegard (in Latin) and explained…everything. Some modern commentators speculate that Hildegard might have suffered from migraines. The visions tended to leave her drained and exhausted.

The care and education of little Hildegard was entrusted to a remarkable woman named Jutta. They lived together in a cottage on the grounds of the Abbey of Saint Disibode, founded by an Irish monk at Disibodenberg. Hildegard became a literate and accomplished woman, took vows as a nun, and continued to have visions. She wrote her first book, Scivias, which means “Know the Ways”, between 1141 and 1151, in which she talked about her visions. She herself painted the image that became the front of the book and portrayed her repeated vision of receiving light. This is the image. She’s writing down things on a wax tablet, discussing things with her secretary. (My children claim the image reminds them of various sci-fi alien visitations.)

Hildegard's visions

The book was a great success. The Bishop of Mainz, (now in Germany), read it, and passed it on to Pope Eugenius III, who became a fan. The literal “enlightenment” that Hildegard received from her visions was examined by the Pope and a special committee. They concluded that her visions were divine. The Pope told her to go on and write whatever the Spirit told her to write. Can you imagine what a big deal that was?

The book was a big hit with women who wanted to join Hildegard, in her rather austere monastic life. The community of women at Disodenberg outgrew its quarters. So she moved to Rupertsberg, near Bingen. Although she traveled widely, she lived mostly at Bingen for the rest of her life, writing other books…and a play…and music. Hildegard wrote about everything. Theology, natural science and medicine were, for her, all part of the same spectrum of knowledge. Just for fun, she made up her own language. She corresponded with four popes and the crowned heads of Europe, giving them personal advice.

This was, as her painting suggests, a woman on fire.

Hildegard’s book, Physica, or Liber Simplicis Medicinae, begins with the study of plants. She goes on, in her delightfully methodical way, to discuss elements, trees, stones, fish, birds, animals, reptiles, and metals. But the section on plants contains entries on more than two hundred plants with medicinal uses. Mostly these were plants that could probably be found in the monastery garden or the nearby woods and fields. Some were exotic but could be purchased. This was, after all, the time of the Crusades. People were traveling, and when they got back from all that bloodletting, they brought back cosmopolitan tastes.

Hildegard organized her observations about each plant in accordance with the understanding of the time: the division of all matter into combinations of the four elements of hot, cold, wet, and dry. It was all a matter of balance. This understanding of the universe sounds strange to modern ears. But Hildegard was a renaissance woman before the Renaissance. She may have made up her own language, but she expressed her understanding of plants in the language of the time.

Hildegard, while aware of the hand of God in all things, was essentially a pragmatist. All things were created by God to serve man. Good plants nourish, and restore elemental balance. Bad plants may be used by the devil to bring ruin to those foolish enough to be deceived by them.

Here are some of Hildegard’s thoughts – from Physica — about herbs you may have in your herb garden or pantry right now:

  • LAVENDER (Lavendula) is warm and dry since it has just a little moisture. It is not worth a person to eat it, but it does have a strong smell. If a person has many lice, let the person smell lavender frequently; the lice will die. And its smell clears the eyes since it contains the power of the strongest aromas and the usefulness of the bitterest one. Therefore, it constrains many evil things, and evil spirits are driven out by it.
  •  NUTMEG (Nux muscata) has great warmth and good temperament in its strength. If a person eats nutmeg, it opens the heart and purifies the senses and brings a good disposition. Take some nutmeg, an equal weight of cinnamon, and a little cloves. Grind these to a powder, add a similar amount of whole wheat flour and a little water, and make a paste from this. Then eat it often. It will calm all the bitterness of heart and mind, open the heart and clouded senses and diminish all the noxious humors; it will contribute good liquid to the blood and make one strong.
  •  ROSE (Rosa) is cold and this same coldness has a useful temperament in it. At daybreak of in the morning, take a rose leaf and place it over your eye; this draws out the humor and makes it clear. Let whoever has a weeping ulcer on his or her body, place a rose leaf over it and draw out the pus. But rose also strengthens any potion or ointment or other medication when it is added to it. And these are so much better if only a little rose has been added to them. This is from the good strength of the rose, as previously mentioned.

Cloves will help a stuffy nose, gout, and dropsy. Hellebore is good for a fever. Wild thyme is curative for those suffering from “a sick brain.” And there are a lot of things that will foster sexual desire, with or without a corresponding increase in fertility.

This is a very small sample. For more, see Bruce W. Hozesli’s translation in Hildegard’s Healing Plants (2001). It’s terrific fun.

Hildegard was obviously a woman of substantial importance in her own time. A Jesuit friend of mine says she used to terrorize her local bishops. I love that. While the process of recognizing her as a saint of the Roman Catholic church began with her beatification in 1326, Hildegard wasn’t canonized until 2012, when she became a Doctor of the Church. Hildegard’s influence was there, quietly waiting for the world to catch up with her. It’s time to share, with delight, her extraordinary divine alchemy.