New garden flowers – Skirret, Calendula, etc

A single Skirret (Sium sisarum) composite flowerhead. I’ve seen bees visit, but mostly the smaller predatory insects that need a small boost of nectar to keep them going in their hunt for the pests. This is why we call skirret a great insectary plant – it helps out many different kinds of insects.

This is one skirret plant. Note to Self – skirret in part shade should be staked.

I am conflicted about these. They come up as weeds every year by themselves. I think I’ve heard them called harebells. The flowers are great, the bees LOVE them, but they spread by rhizome AND seed and will easily take over a garden bed in a season if I don’t dig them out. Excavating the edges of my strawberry bed I was finding rhizomes over an inch in diameter…

Calendula var. Alpha, the great medicinal variety specific to skin complaints. Visited by bees and smaller friends.

Calendula var. Triangle Flashback, an ornamental.

And a phalaenopsis Orchid, come outside to enjoy the humidity.


Junior Master Gardener, with marshmallows

Last fall I took the Master Gardener course, so this year I am working on the 40 hours volunteer time required to get the Official Certificate and T-Shirt (TM) (not kidding.) By the way, I still need hours, so if you have any gardening questions send ’em over!

They asked us to teach a session of the Junior Master Gardener summer program for 3rd-5th graders. I pulled the first session, Plant Development, which turned out to be Super Cool as I got to bring in lots of show-and-tell.

Plants are Cool Because They Give Us:

  • Clothing!  FABRIC: Above you can see Flaxseed, Linen, Cotton, Mercerized Cotton, Knit Picks Shine which is a mix of cotton and Rayon from the beech tree, and some Recycled Sari Silk made of Rayon from the banana tree.
  • Clothing: DYE TO COLOR IT WITH: A Weaver’s Garden, amongst many other things, provides the Requisite Gross-Out Story: Indigo blue. Indigo dyers used to keep vast vats of the dye simmering, and when the dyestuff was exhausted would simply add more plant material to the existing liquid and keep going. Unfortunately the most popular liquid used to make the dyebath was human urine, as it contains a small but perceptible quantity of the same pigment that turns into indigo blue. So, as you can imagine, the dyers were generally kept wayyy outside of town. (Hmm… human urine can also be distilled into phosphorus… I wonder if there were any explosions if dyebaths were left to burn too dry?) 
  • Clothing:  SOAP TO WASH IT WITH: See below for some Soapwort herb feeling sudsy.

  • Medicine! We had Horehound (cough drops! Beekeepers used to keep a hive planted closely in Horehound, and when the flowering season was done pull out that honey immediately and jar it up as cough syrup), Mint (tummyaches!), Calendula (scrapes and diaper rash), Catnip (sleepytime), Lovage (a digestive, plus the seeds smell like yummy spicy celery), Aloe (scrapes and burns), and my favorite, Marshmallow (a demulcent good for sore throats and upset tummies.) The big draw with this one is that I had seed for their test garden, and we’ll be making real live marshmallows from the roots for their graduation ceremony. (Recipe will be in the next post.) The best reference ever – Making Plant Medicine. With essays, techniques and a list of plants and their uses, I like to sit down and read this for fun. I will be trying the Honeyed Marshmallow Roots cough sweets with my own marshmallow planting this fall.

We finished up with the Also Requisite Messy Class Activity – making aloe lotion from the goo inside aloe leaves. We basically slit open leaves, had the kids strip out the goo, and mix it into already-prepared lotion – but it was wonderful as the stuff inside was stringy, sticky, clung to your hands, and was clear with the faintest yellow color… i.e.  SNOT. One little boy got his hands entirely covered with the snot, with strings connecting finger to finger… it was absolutely lovely but as I was a bit snotty at the time myself I could not get a pic.

My favorite natural baby gift

Quickly becoming my standard baby gift (outside of bizarre crocheted hats with smiley faces):

Baby Moon offers baby wipe juice concentrate! Made with calendula and chamomile it is naturally healing to irritated skin, and the lavender and balsam make it smell heavenly.

For thrifty moms and those whose day care requires disposable wipes: cut a roll of paper towels in half, remove the center cardboard tube, place in a resealable container and add diluted baby wipe juice. Marinate, and voila – homemade center-pull wipes. Eco-moms can replace the paper towels with cotton washcloths.