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.

Lemon Verbena – Herb of the Month July 2019

Lemon Verbena – Herb of the Month July 2019

lemon verbenaBy Maryann Readal, HSA Secretary

Lemon Verbena has literary connections. Were you a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic Little House on the Prairie? If you watched the popular television series in the 70’s and 80’s, you may remember that lemon verbena was the favorite perfume of Laura’s teacher Miss Beadle. You may also recall that in Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara’s mother wore lemon verbena perfume. According to Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay in their book, Southern Herb Growing, it is sometimes called the Scarlett O’Hara herb.

This delicate, lemony herb was a popular herb for perfume in Victorian times. It was often sewn into seams of clothing and its lemony scent made it a favorite addition to the tussie-mussie. The dried leaf keeps its fragrance a very long time, making lemon verbena an understandable choice for potpourris.

Lemon verbena, Aloysia citriodora, is native to South America and was brought to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 17th century. Being from South America, it is a plant that grows outdoors best in warmer climates where it can reach a height of 6-8 feet. It must be brought indoors in the North for the winter. Here in my Texas 8b partially shaded garden, it does very well outside with little care, as long as it is protected from our occasional hard freezes.

An interesting fact about this herb is that it is deciduous. So do not give up on it when it loses its leaves in the fall. The leaves will grow back in the spring. Trimming back in the spring will keep its growth tidy.

Medicinally, the flowering tips and leaves have been used to ease digestive disorders, as a sedative, and as a fever reducer. It has antimicrobial properties but its effectiveness has not been sufficiently studied. Although it has been rated as safe for human consumption by the FDA, folks with kidney problems should use it sparingly.

Lemon verbena makes a nice tea and can be used in any recipe that calls for lemon. Fresh leaves are tough so they should be chopped finely before adding to recipes. Bury 6 or 7 leaves in a cup of sugar in a closed container and you will have a nicely flavored sugar for use in your tea.

It is summer, it is hot. Here is an easy, refreshing, and cooling sorbet to cleanse your palette.

Lemon Sorbet
1 ½ cups water, divided
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. finely chopped lemon verbena leaves
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 6 lemons)

Combine ½ cup water and the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring often until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in remaining 2 cups of water and lemon verbena. Refrigerate sugar mixture until cold, about 2 hours. Stir lemon juice into sugar mixture. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Freeze in a covered container until firm, about 4 hours. Makes about 1 quart.

Serve alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Sprinkle with Limoncello liqueur and finely chopped lemon verbena leaves. —  From the Texas Thyme Unit Thyme to Cook cookbook.

For more information and ideas for using lemon verbena, go to The Herb Society of America’s website for the Herb of the Month for July.

Turn Your Yard into Flowery Mead

Turn Your Yard into Flowery Mead

By Beth Schreibman-Gehring, Chairman of Education for The Western Reserve Herb Society unit of The Herb Society of America

Dandelion (1)I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those gardeners who see a perfectly manicured lawn and thinks to herself that there must be something more. Here in America, we seem to have an obsession with the pristine, green and weed free lawn, but is this is at all practical for the world we live in now? Lawn grass is the largest crop that we grow, and it serves no real purpose and requires so much water to keep it green and alive.

Lawns as we know them today began to appear in the 18th century England and France, when the trend began to move towards the large open landscape. A large swath of overly manicured green lawn with a deer park or a bowling green was seen as a sign of affluence, but today we are living in a world with completely different environmental challenges. Our pollinator populations are in peril and what makes sense is to find new ways of living sustainably in the natural world, adopting greener approaches to landscaping.

Sometimes it’s best to learn from the past. Consider allowing your lawn to revert to its original state of luscious and abundant variety or what medievalists would call a “flowery mead.” That would happen naturally if you stopped weeding and seeding.

First would come the dandelions and the sweet little flowers of chickweed and purslane would probably be next. Quickly you would begin to see small patches of flowers and different grasses and herbs begin to emerge in small patches and very quickly, all types of pollinators would begin to find them. It seems to happen like magic, but the biology is easy. Birds and small animals eat the flowers, herbs and fruits but the seeds are generally indigestible. As their droppings begin to be deposited in your lawn, these seeds begin to sprout and very quickly, a natural flowery meadow will begin to establish itself!

Untitled design (64)If you are quietly wondering if I’ve suddenly taken leave of my senses, you need look no further than the beautiful French tapestry named “Unicorn in Captivity”. The captured unicorn is sitting in the fenced paddock, surrounded by a sea of low growing flowers and herbs. That is a perfect example of a medieval “flowery mead,” or flowering meadow!

My father was an organic gardener who allowed his yard to evolve in this way and the results were truly beautiful. He turned the perimeter of his property into an English style border filled with historic roses, lilies, daisies, and many other flowers and herbs. Once his borders were well established, he allowed his lawn to be slowly transformed into the mead he desired. The result was a still a composed garden, but it was much wilder and very much alive.

My father was frustrated by the amount of work that it took to simply keep his lawn green and healthy every year. A grass lawn is a monoculture and by its very nature, not easily sustainable without a large quantity of human interference, excessive amounts of water, chemical pesticides, and herbicides. Dad’s gardening philosophy was that all plants needed different companions to thrive and his lawn was no exception to that rule. His thought was that left to its own, a lawn will revert quickly into a beautiful meadow, so why not help it along and at the same time support our pollinator friends? What started out as an amusing experiment turned into a romantic and beautiful green space. My father’s yard was always filled with the buzzing of honeybees, fluttering butterflies, and bird song.

He began by allowing plants to be naturally introduced into his lawn like violets and perennial pansies, little wild strawberries and sweet woodruff, bluebells, beautiful blue flax flowers, lady’s mantle, ground ivy, and buttercups. He had huge patches of lilies of the valley and beautiful swaths of coltsfoot everywhere.

IMG_7340He loved the dandelions and let them stay, knowing that they provided the first suppers for the bees every spring.

He allowed the chamomile and thyme to take off and spread. He let daisies spring up wherever and whenever they wanted. He had abundant amounts of multi-colored cosmos in his border that reseeded. With so many different plants his garden ecosystem easily remained strong and healthy. He had virtually no disease among his plants. On the rare occasion a plant would perish, others quickly replaced it.

If he were doing this today his yard would qualify for HSA’s GreenBridges™ certification. The GreenBridges™ Initiative creates opportunities for the safe passage of plants and pollinators and avoids habitat fragmentation. Each GreenBridges™ garden is a link in the chain across the nation, providing safe movement for the plants and pollinators that help maintain healthy ecosystems.

img_7341.jpgIf you are tired of trying to keep your lawn green and alive every summer, I encourage you to consider planting your very own wild garden. A wildflower meadow is a thing of beauty. An easy way to start is with a low-growing wildflower seed pack. I’ve had great luck simply scattering the seed, but it works even better if you can lightly loosen up the top 2 inches of soil where you want your meadow, toss the seed, and then cover them with compost and/or straw. Be sure to water frequently and soon you will be rewarded with a beautiful flowering meadow of your own. All you’ll need then is a jug of wine, a loaf of bread, some fruit, cheese a good book and thou…..

Just curious! Do you love or hate your lawn? Let me know in the comments!

Herb Gardener Gift-Giving Idea: Light

I’ve asked five blog contributors to share their favorite herb-related gift ideas.  HSA’s blog will be running one per day during the first week of December. – Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster

By Kathleen M Hale, Western Reserve Herb Society

light.jpgBeing a somewhat difficult person, what I want most during the holiday season is what, by definition, is in shortest supply…light.  Candles in the darkness are very sweet.  But I mean LIGHT.

We are all starved for light in the darkness of winter.  But gardeners, in spite of exchanging hopeful and philosophical images on Facebook about how all the growing things are only sleeping, are left bereft.  Plant and seed catalogs will soon arrive, and whether you consider them aspirational or plant porn, they feed the hunger for the time when light returns and growth becomes visible.  But gardeners are patient. They can wait.

Gift giving contestUnless they have a really awesome light rig!  Yes, I have a lot of natural light in this house, when there’s any to come by.  But I also have a three-tier, pebble tray lined light cart, with growing lights on a timer and a gentle clip-on fan to wheedle the plants and seedlings entrusted therein into thinking this is the real thing. It is presently serving the needs of scented geranium cuttings, a bunch of amaryllises brought back to life from last year, assorted Christmas cacti and the mighty Cthulhu, the first aloe I ever acquired, now too big to put anywhere else.

I inherited my light rig from my late mother-in-law, Mertena Hood Hale.  She was an extraordinary gardener. So, in my case, the light is brighter, because it also brings with it the magic of a torch passed from one gardener to another, across time.