Calendula Revival

Calendula StartsAs I mentioned in my post, Solstice, my calendula plants didn’t make it through the winter freeze this year. I was intending to plant seeds this Spring to begin again. However, while hand weeding, I noticed several calendula starts already. Last summer, once I gathered enough seeds from the plants, I just scattered any additional seeds around the bed. I had wanted to encourage more plants, but also wondered if they would survive  the winter. What a delight to see their tru-leaves now. Calendula seeds remind me of little crescents and it’s been fun to see the seed remnants on the new leaves.

I didn’t know much about calendula before a few years ago when I interned at a Children’s Garden. Did you know that the previously, accepted treatment for burns was to use butter? No longer, because the butter just traps the heat in, intensifying the burn instead of healing. However, I learned the reason why butter used to be put on burns. Previously, calendula was used as the dye in butter to make it appear yellow. Calendula is an excellent treatment for healing the skin after a first degree burn. (After following the Red Cross’ First Aid guidelines, cool the first degree burn by running cool water over it, making sure it’s clean and dry.  Then apply calendula oil or salve to the area. I don’t know about using this for a second or third degree burns – best to consult your medical practitioner before using it for those.) So that’s why people used to put butter on burns – not because the butter helped, but because the calendula did.

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Spring Sales Begin!

This Saturday, April 5th, heralds the beginning of the April Spring Sales. The Audubon Society Plant Sale consistently has one of the nicest selection of native plants that work well in the Pacific Northwest. One of my favorite eco-friendly growers, Tadpole Haven Native Plants will be there. From their website, their philosophy of growing natives is very similar to mine to partner with nature for mutual healing.

“We plant native plants because they are good for the environment. Native plants heal damaged land, provide food and shelter for creatures large and small, filter runoff and cool streams. It only makes sense that growing native plants be done in a way that heals.

I highly recommend taking the time this Saturday from 10am – 4pm to stop by & see for yourself.


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Bringing the Outdoors In II

Forsythia DaffsSpring lures out my favorite flowers – the daffodils. Combined with forsythia, their sunny cheerfulness chases away winter doldrums. We’re a little late for St David’s Day (March 1), but we still enjoy the flowers named for him. And many of you are still waiting for the crocuses and glory of the snow to begin peeking their heads above the ground, before you even think about daffs. I hope this inspires you to brighten your home by bringing flowers and flowering branches inside.

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PhotiniaRecently, I’ve been asked about the care of Forsythias. These are a bright, yellow Spring flowering plant that herald Spring. When in bloom, they are also a great reminder that it’s time to prune your roses. When the blooms are gone, they create a hedge or tall, background plant for garden beds.

It is easy to care for Forsythias. They only need an annual pruning to keep their shape, increase air flow, blooms and rejuvenate the plant’s canes. You want to follow the Rule of Thirds to prune Forsythias. Remove the first third of the canes entirely. Cut them down to the ground. For the second third of the canes, prune them about a third the way down. And the final third, leave the canes as they are. If you want a more compact plant, you can pinch out the tips of the canes. Please let me know if you have any questions or need clarity.

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Bringing the Outdoors In

BouquetOne of the easiest things you can do when the weather is dreary and you need some brightness, is forcing flowerings plants to open. I brought in some magnolia branches (the white fuzzy buds), rhododendrons with flower buds not yet open and pine branches. I arranged them in a clear vase and within a week to 10 days I hope to see flowers appear.

I am still working on my ikebana, but here, the magnolia buds represent heaven, the rhodies man, and the pine earth. I like the softness of the pines against the broad leaves and the white magnolia buds pop.

To do this yourself, I recommend waiting until the weather is above freezing to bring flowering plants indoors. You want to be sure your cuts won’t cause damage to the plant. Also, rather than just cutting anywhere along the branch, make the cut just above a bud or where the branch meets another.

I’ve been having fun with cuttings and forcings this year. It’s not just for Paper Whites in December. In January, I took some cuttings from a witchhazel. The blooms lasted about two and half weeks.

I’d like to see your photos of winter bouquets. What materials do you have on hand to make these creations?

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Pre-Spring Activities

CrocusIt feels odd to write about Spring gardening tasks while most of North America is still under inches, if not feet of snow. And I realize that many of you in the UK are still dealing with flooding. But this is the time of year to think about getting your garden ready for Spring planting.

Here, Spring bulbs are blooming and those mid – late bulbs are emerging from the ground. If you haven’t already, prune your roses by cutting them down to about 18″; but at an angle just above an outward facing bud. Be sure all the dead canes are removed as well as any canes or branches going through the middle. With roses, I consistently make each cut angled. This encourages the rain drops to drip off instead of entering the cane core, preventing some rose diseases.

In addition, I have begun to break down my cover crop I planted last fall. I first chop up the cover crop with a sharp shovel, then cover it with newspaper, then cardboard. I want the nutrients of the cover crop to be incorporated into my vegetable beds before the flowers appear. That way, I have the nutritional benefits without additional seeds that sprout and spread more plants I don’t want.

What are your garden dreams in this pre-Spring season?

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The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter IMG_20140202_094928543
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

by Wallace Stevens

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