Delicious and Healthy Herbs

Thursday, June 20th, 2013 by Jenny Watts
    • Feed camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons with an acid plant food now. Remove dead flowers and mulch to keep the soil cool.
    • Check roses for black spots on the leaves and treat immediately to prevent defoliation.
    • When fuchsia blooms fade remove the whole flower stem to prevent it from developing seed pods which reduces continued blooming.
    • Fertilize container plants every 10 to 14 days with a liquid fertilizer. Pinch off faded blossoms and they will keep blooming all summer for you.
    • Red, white and blue petunias, verbena or combinations of these with lobelia, geraniums, impatiens and salvia will make a nice display for the Fourth of July.

Delicious and Healthy Herbs

Plants valued for their fragrance, flavor or medicinal and healthful qualities are often referred to generally as herbs. They cover a wide range of trees, shrubs, perennials, vines and ferns. From wild plants to garden favorites, there is a wide, wide world of herbs to choose from.

Culinary herbs are the most popular with local gardeners. They are used in all different kinds of cooking from all over the world. “Herbs” usually refers to the aromatic leafy parts. Basil is a popular, tender, annual herb. It is native to India and Asia, and is grown for its aromatic leaves which are used fresh or dried as a flavoring. Many different basils offer a wide variety of flavors including lemon basil, Thai basil and Greek basil.

Other popular culinary herbs are chives, dill, French tarragon, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme. There are many different mints which, like basils, have various interesting names and flavors. Peppermint, spearmint and lemon balm are well known, but chocolate mint, apple mint, lavender mint and Corsican mint offer many different taste experiences.

Stevia is grown for its sweet leaves and used as a sweetener and sugar substitute. Lemongrass is native to India and tropical Asia and is used for its citrusy flavor in Asian cuisine.

Fragrant herbs are herbs used in bath oils, perfume and aromatherapy. Bergamot, catmint, chamomile, thyme, lavender, lemon balm, mints and sage can be used in herb sachets, to make lavender wands and for fragrant herb pillows. Fragrant rose petals can be used to make a delightful potpourri.

Herbs have been used as medicines for centuries. From the medieval French apothecaries to Chinese herbalists, plants have been used to cure illnesses and stimulate health since ancient times. Herbal remedies are made from thousands of different herbs. Some of the more common ones are chamomile, echinacea, calendula, St. John’s wort, feverfew and valerian.

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils in massage, inhalations, baths, natural room fragrances and perfumes to maintain and improve health and vitality. Some of the more common herbs used for aromatherapy oils are basil, bergamot, chamomile, gardenia, lavender, marjoram, peppermint, rosemary and sage.

Herbs can also be very ornamental. They add various leaf colors, textures, fragrances, and flowers to the garden, making them attractive as well as useful. You can grow them in individual pots, grouped together to catch the sun, or in a special part of the garden.

A small bed of culinary herbs within easy reach of the kitchen is a popular choice. A “tea” garden could include fragrant lemon balm, chamomile, peppermint and your favorite open-faced rose for rose hips. Scented herbs are always nice near entrances and walkways where you can enjoy their lovely fragrances.

Make your garden a little more appealing with herbs for color and fragrance in the garden.

Fragrance in the Garden

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Roses bloom all summer with their abundant flowers in so many different colors. Choose some now when you can see their lovely flowers.
    • Attract hummingbirds to your patio this summer with hummingbird feeders, so you can enjoy their iridescent beauty and charm.
    • Azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons can be pruned now without sacrificing next years bloom. Ask at your nursery if you need help.
    • Feed rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with an acid plant food to encourage lush growth. Pinch or prune to promote full, dense growth.
    • Paint trunks of young fruit trees with Tree Trunk White. This will keep the soft bark from sun-burning which leaves cracks for borer insects, the most common cause of death of young apple trees.

Fragrance in the Garden

Nothing conjures up memories of the past the way a familiar scent can. Orange blossoms, jasmine, lavender, fragrant stock, gardenia – even the words seem to perfume the air. To bring back pleasant memories and create some new ones, choose a few plants to place near the door or by the walkway, or fill your garden with wonderful fragrances all season long.

The first plants that wake up our noses in the spring are narcissus, hyacinth and lily-of-the-valley. Not far behind is the sweet-scented daphne, followed by the intensely fragrant flowers of the lilacs.

Chinese wisteria blooms with a profusion of fragrant lavender flowers in long clusters. The evergreen clematis vine, with its powerfully fragrant white flowers, adds its sweet scent to the springtime air.

The white snowball bush is another sweet scent in the spring garden and so are the tiny flowers of Sarcococca. Mock orange (Philadelphus) is an old-fashioned favorite with its strongly scented showy white flowers in early summer. The large pompom flowers of peonies bloom in late spring. Place one in a vase in a room, and it will fill the room with its delicate fragrance.

The spring flower bed can be filled with the lovely scents of stock and sweet peas. A carpet of sweet alyssum in purple, rose and white will perfume the air from spring to fall.

Summer brings us lovely lavenders, butterfly bush, star jasmine, lilies, honeysuckle and, of course, roses. Varieties like ‘Falling in Love’, ‘Rock ‘n Roll’, ‘Midnight Blue’, and ‘Strike it Rich’ have all been developed for their strong fragrances. Gardenias bloom in early summer with their legendary sweet fragrance so loved for corsages.

Heliotrope has large violet flower heads with a strong vanilla fragrance in warm weather. It’s hard to find a more sugary fragrance than purple petunias, especially the variety ‘Sugar Daddy’.

The large, beautiful, white flowers of the Southern Magnolia tree bloom in the summer and their heavy fragrance and welcome shade make the perfect place to relax on a hot summer’s day.

Late summer bloomers with strong fragrance include the exotic and heady fragrance of tuberoses. Sweet Autumn Clematis blooms profusely with wonderfully scented tiny white flowers. The pink flowers of Naked Lady Amaryllis have a strong fragrance that wafts on the air.

Don’t overlook the herbs for their fragrant foliage. Rosemary can be grown as a shrub or a ground cover. Thyme has many varieties with scents ranging from lemon and lime to caraway. The mint family has a long list of fragrant varieties as do the basils: lemon, cinnamon, spicy globe and Thai basil. Many Salvias, or sages, have beautiful flowers and fragrant foliage. There are lots of other herbs that can help create an edible, fragrant garden.

Fragrance plays an important role in our enjoyment of the garden. Plant some memories in your garden with fragrant plants you’ll enjoy all season.

Sweet Fragrance of Daphne

Friday, February 20th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Potatoes can be planted any time now. Choose from red, white, yellow and purple varieties.
    • Cut back suckers on lilac bushes. Wait until they bloom to prune them, then you can bring the fragrant branches indoors.
    • Bare root fruit trees, grape and berry vines, and ornamental trees and shrubs are still available.
    • Plant seeds of broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and other spring vegetables now.
    • Start peas and sweet pea seeds indoors now. You’ll be able to plant the sprouted seeds on the next warm day.

Fragrant Winter Daphne

The sweet fragrance of Daphne is one of the pleasures of springtime. The small, evergreen and deciduous shrubs which make up the Daphnes, all have handsome foliage and numerous white, rose or lilac flowers that bloom in the spring. One stem will scent an entire room.

Of the 50 species of daphne, Daphne odora, winter daphne, is the most familiar. It is an evergreen shrub growing to about four feet tall in this area, and at least as wide. In early spring, clusters of one-inch flowers appear at the tips of the stems. The pink buds open to white or pale pink flowers that are intensely fragrant, with a citrus-like odor. The leaves of winter daphne can be solid green, or bordered with a pale yellow edge. It makes a very neat, handsome, evergreen shrub year-round. Plant it in a spot where it gets protection from the hot mid-day sun.

Less common is the Garland daphne, Daphne cneorum. It makes a choice rock garden plant, staying low, about a foot tall, and spreading to three feet wide. Its trailing branches are covered with small, narrow, dark green leaves. In April and May, masses of fragrant, rose-colored flowers open in clusters at the tips of the branches. It is probably the showiest of all the Daphnes, and has a sweet, intense fragrance.

This daphne also likes partial shade. Mulch underneath the plant with peat moss or potting soil to encourage stem rooting and the development of a larger clump. It also makes a good container plant. The variety ‘Ruby Glow’ has larger, more deeply colored flowers and often re-blooms in late summer.

The wonderfully fragrant ‘Carol Mackey’ Daphne is not easy to find but it is a real garden gem. From pink buds, it’s fragrant white flowers open in the month of May. This daphne is similar in growth habit to Daphne odora, but has smaller, variegated leaves.

Daphnes need air around their roots, so they must be planted in light, well-drained soil. Put a little dolomite lime in the hole at planting time. If you don’t have fast-draining soil, you can grow them in containers for many years.

Plant daphne where it will get at least three hours of shade a day. Be sure it is set so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Daphnes will tolerate acid soil but do not require it. Fertilize right after bloom with a complete fertilizer, but not acid plant food.

During the summer, water as infrequently as the plant will allow. Light watering in summer increases flowering next spring and helps prevent sudden death from water mold fungi.

Prune daphne just after it finishes flowering to shape the plants. All parts of daphne plants are poisonous, and deer seem to leave them alone.

Daphnes are slow to take off but once they do they are generous in flower and fragrance. Enjoy the sweet fragrance of daphne in your garden, or make a gift of one to a friend.