Costmary, the Garden Story

Hey there,

What the heck is Costmary?  Please be seated, I will be there in a moment.

So we’re back into Summer, here in Southern Ontario. In a big way! Holy smokes.  It’s like early August here this week – hot and humid.  My hair is so not happy.  Good thing I planted those cool weather seeds in my veggie gardens at the end of August >sigh< – they are struggling with the heat.  It was a good thing I didn’t bring in all my potted plants.  The Rosemary is picking up a bit in the hot sun.

Before this “faux” Summer, our nights were dropping to just above freezing…Apparently, Mother Nature is having a tough time making up her mind.  It’s like she’s going into her closet in the morning and wailing “I have nothing to wear” and BAM! She put on her “big pants” and…mixed bag. Everyone here is a little confused.

Nice to see all the city people up here in the country this past weekend for the Uxbridge Studio Tour wearing their fine Fall apparel…complete with sweaters and boots. 🙂  They did look a little warm…Me?  I rejoice still in my sandals, even though I do love the Fall.

I am starting to gather the greenies to dry for Winter use.  My garlic has dried and is still waiting in the barn for me to brush it off and trim the tops to store.  I won’t have quite enough for the entire year until next harvest is ready, but I have a fair amount.  I do use a lot of it.  So good for you!  YUM – I put it in everything.  I also like to roast some and store it in oil in the fridge.  That’s nice to use in cooking.

I’m drying sage, thyme, tarragon to use for cooking.  I bring in my Rosemary and use that fresh all Winter. The basil was used to make pesto with the garlic scapes.  I like to put a scoop of that in rice when it’s cooking.  Gives a nice flavour.  Also great on pizza or cheese and crackers. Mmmmmm

I’ve been making vinegars for salad dressing and oils for cooking and bathing.  There are many things you can use in oils.  Also a good way to use up stems at the end of the season.  Many carry good flavour.  I’m freezing parsley and Lemon Balm in ice cube trays.

Then there are the tea herbs: Lemon Verbena, the Scented Geraniums, of which I have quite a few varieties, Anise Hyssop, Mints, Lavender, Herb Robert and this year I’m going to dry some Costmary.  There it is.

← Ever heard of Costmary?

A lovely old-fashioned plant.  Does not grow wild here, or at least, is not native, but one small plant grows very large in just one season.  Very tough and hardy. It’s the leaves that you use – it is just now producing very small yellow button-type flowers, but they are fairly insignificant.  The scent of the leaves smells like Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum – you remember that, right?

Costmary is also called by other names:  Alecost, because it used to be used to flavour beer, Sweet Mary, which was used as a symbolic name for motherhood and used in a tea to ease the pain of childbirth, and my favourite, Bible Leaf, because…ready? It was used as a bookmark in bibles and was sniffed to keep one awake during particularly long sermons…not going there.  But very amusing, don’t you think?  To this day, many an old family bible will sport a dried leaf hidden within it’s pages.  Love it.  Whatever it’s name, it has a delicate lovely scent and taste in tea.

Story time:

You’ll recall that my Garden Club holds a plant auction every May.  In case you forgot, or you’re new (welcome!), read.  Anyhoo, the plants in the plant auction, for the most part, come from the kind donation of the members.  One of my donations this year was a chunk of Costmary, potted and labeled with a small explanation on the label about the Bible Leaf name.  I thought that was fun.  Some people just scrawl across the pot in purple crayon, or worse, don’t label at all…  Surprise!  You’re the proud owner of Goutweed…YIKES!

Back to the story:

The Auctioneer did not know what it was, and there – you know there’s always one – was the landscaper guy in the audience, who apparently knows everything about everything plant (ho hum – yaaaawwwwnnnn), piped up and said:

Oh yah, that’s a real old one – no one grows that anymore…

Ummm, ok, I thought it would be neat to have some of those plants that no one does grow anymore.  You know, unique much?  Mr. cookie cutter gardener…

No, I didn’t pull out my pointy hat. </:  I sat on my hands and bit my tongue…and waited.  Then the bidding started – others thought it might be neat to have it in their gardens too.  So my donation did, in fact, bring a little money to the auction.  In the words of Steve Martin:

“Well, excuuuuuuse me!”

Mr. Know Everything just fell short of calling me a weirdo.  Not directly, because he didn’t know who brought it in.  Maybe I am a weirdo – but he doesn’t get to call me that.  You don’t get to call me that until you actually know me.  And then, ok, yes, I’m weird.  Maybe I’ll invite him over to see some of the other stuff I grow – and make him some tea…Bwahahahahaaaa

Ahem – back to our regular programming.

That’s my plant story for today.  Hope you liked it. 🙂  One more thing:

If a woman says
First of all” during an argument,
RUN
She has prepared research, data and charts and will destroy you.
-Anonymous

or maybe that’s just me….

The night sky!  Where are we tonight?  Ah, the Moon is in Virgo – and so is Venus!  Very feminine.  Feeling quite at home at the moment.  There you go – there’s where the take it personally, properly labelled, plant story came from…haha.  It’s all about work and detail.  She is in her fourth quarter – the New Moon is tomorrow night. Time to draw back and think about the last Moon cycle as she starts anew.

Today’s colour is white.

I’ll leave you now to tend your own garden – I’m guessing most of you have one or that you have some interest in plants…or maybe you just like to read me blathering on!  Perhaps a sniff of Costmary is in order.

Until next time,

-Debra

 

Lemon Balm floaters

Hey there,

I’ve got my Lemon Balm floater beside me here.  More on that later.  Ready to go?  What should we talk about?

Here we are a third of the way through July.  High Summer and gardens are peaking.  We’ve had lots of rain, so the wild greenies are pretty happy too.  Lawns and trees are lush.  Considering myself fortunate where I am here in Southern Ontario, as others on our west coast are experiencing terrible heat and fires.

My veggie gardens are going full tilt and I’ve been eating salads, waiting for the peas to ripen and the radish, lettuce, spinach and swiss chard have been reseeded.  I’ve cut the garlic scapes and they are waiting in the freezer for the basil to be ready and then I’ll make some pesto.  Once the garlic bulbs have been harvested in another couple of weeks, I’ll use that empty space to plant some cold weather veggies – broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts – those plants I can harvest up until the heavier frosts.  All the reading and scheming that I did over last Winter is paying off and I’m really happy with the bounty, so far.

Sometimes, being anal and uber organized is a good thing…just sayin’ 🙂

I’m out there harvesting the wild ones too.  Right now I’m drying yarrow (the wild one, not the garden variety).

An ancient plant used medicinally over the ages.  I use the dried flower heads and leaves in a tea to promote sweating and cool a fever.  Combined with Elderflowers, it is a very effective tea remedy for cold and flu season over Winter, or any time, for that matter.  I discussed Yarrow and Elderberry flowers here.  Don’t get too close – we don’t want to catch whatever that was again!

So I’ve already got my Elderberry flowers dried and in a jar in the pantry cupboard.  I like to keep some of my woo woo goodies in with all the dry goods and everything is in jars – just to freak everyone out. 🙂  I do label the jars…there are many jars…If there is ever anything I want to keep around without having it immediately consumed, I just have to put it in a jar without a label.  That usually does it.  Easy peasy…

Freaked out one:  “Um, what’s this?”
Me:  “Yarrow”
Freaked out one:  Silence

There used to be more questions, now it just gets put back in the cupboard.  It’s not like there are shrunken heads in there or anything…

Carry on.

Same as when I make a tea.  A cup of tea for me usually contains some kind of “floater”.  Even if I’m having black tea, something else gets poked into my cup.  No more questions asked, other than, when making tea, maybe “Do you want to put stuff in this?”  It’s easy for me to figure out which cup is mine…it’s the one with the green stuff floating in it. 🙂

My favourite greenie “floater” in a cup of black tea – or sometimes, all on its own?  Lemon Balm.  Actually, Lemon Balm is my favourite herb, period.  Melissa is from the mint family and has a lemony smell and flavour (duh).  Melissa is the Greek word for bee – so, you guessed it, bees like this plant.  That’s a good thing.  She is a mild sedative, so, very calming. Nice to drink before bed…unless drinking tea before bed makes you get up in the night – your call (pun intended).

Lemon Balm is for longevity.  Enough said.  She carries antioxidants in her oils and any plant that contains lemon is anti-viral.  She gets popped into my cold/flu tea as well.  Because she is from the mint family, you only have to plant once.  She is a very friendly and generous greenie and loves to spread her goodness.   I use a Lemon Balm Infusion in my face toner; it’s calming for your skin.  I also make a Lemon Balm vinegar for salads.

She is used holistically for depression.  I use her because I like the scent and the taste – and my skin likes her too.  I enjoy Lemon Balm from April, when I wait impatiently for those first little leaves to appear out of the Earth, to somewhere in September.  The leaves tend to wane as the Summer progresses, but still useable.  She doesn’t dry that well because you lose the volatile oil in her leaves.  This year I’m going to try to freeze the leaves.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  You can, of course, combine Lemon Balm with any number of other herbs in your tea.  Experiment!  Yum.  She originated from Europe many years ago, but has escaped many a garden (I did tell you that she was from the mint family, right?).  If you don’t let the plant produce seeds, you have a little control.  Many nurseries sell this plant with the herbs.  I always like an excuse to visit Richter’s Herbs (it doesn’t take much).

I’ve got lots of Monarch Butterflies dancing through the meadow and the Milkweed is just starting to bloom. Lots of Dragonflies and other Butterflies this year too.  The Swallowtails loved the Lilacs.  Magic.

The young birds are leaving the many nests I have around me.  I like to sit on the porch with my binoculars and watch a young Robin hop around under the trees.  This year I’m watching a mother Savanna Sparrow and her young one.  They will sit on a fence post together and Mom will pop down into the meadow or the garden and bring back a snack to feed her charge.  They land in the nyger seed feeder together and she was teaching the little one how to groom and take a bath in the bird bath.  I could watch them for hours. 🙂 Nature is so wondrous.

Speaking of wondrous, I have my garden club meeting tonight.  Yay!  The speaker is going to be speaking about mushrooms.  Double yay!  There is also a flower, vegetable and design show tonight and I’m thinking of entering some stuff.  One of the categories in the design show is “Past Present and Future – your interpretation”.  That sounds neat to me.  I have a number of old fashioned herbs here, some of which many wouldn’t have heard of…hmmmm…I like to keep ’em guessing. 🙂

Just past last night’s Full Moon, the Blessing Moon in Capricorn, tonight the Moon sits in Aquarius in her third quarter.  Ooo perfect for the past, present and future category and leaning more on the future and all things new. Breaking the rules. I will have to repress my smarty pants side from the judges…there is an imp trying to get out, under this Moon.

Today’s colour is ivory.  Off white.  Off colour?

Back to my favourite greenie, Lemon Balm’s astral projection is Success and she is ruled by the Sun.  I’ll take both of those with my tea, thank you.  Enjoy our fleeting Summer.  I’m going to go out and pick some greenies for my display entry. Maybe I’ll tuck a stem of Lemon Balm in there and see how that goes!

Until next time,

-Debra

How do you spell fun?

Snoopy happy dance

Hey there,

How do you spell fun?  I spell it P-L-A-N-T  A-U-C-T-I-O-N!!! Yesss – my first one.  Seriously, someone needs to put up a warning.  DANGER – CRAZY PLANT WOMAN ON THE PREMISES.  Although the good news is, there were more of “my kind” there. 🙂  That’s kind of where the danger part comes in…

My local Garden Club, of which I am a new member, holds this every year.  Yay!  Two hours of afraid-to-leave-your-seat-to-pee-in-case-you-miss-something-good, fun.  A room full of established, cheap, greenies, all waiting to be adopted and taken home.  A local auctioneer with a great sense of humour to boot.  What an evening.  Ooooo – a mere $25 and a car full of new greenies later – happy dance ala Snoopy, all the way home.  Good thing I don’t own a truck.  Pearl, my bug, wouldn’t cut it for this event (even with the top down – hers not mine).  Just sayin’.  There was no wine involved, honest.

…So that’s what I’ve been up to.  Now comes the planting.  Did I mention I’ve also joined the North American Native Plant Society – yup, I’m “movin’ on up” – I’ve got the big girl gardening trowel now.

Inside green friends are really tapping their feet to get outside.  It’s still too cold at night, though.  So we wait.

The birds are coming back in droves!  I’ve put up a second nyger seed feeder by Mrs. Beasley.  Sorry, Mrs. Beasley – just when you thought you had the summer off.  The good news?  Tree rats don’t like nyger seed. Why the second feeder?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  I’ve not only got two pair of Rose Breasted Grosbeaks for the summer, but, I’ve also got an Indigo Bunting.  So beautiful.

Rose breasted gross beak

indigo bunting

Aren’t they lovely?  This is my summer entertainment.  Cheep (get it?) and cheerful. 🙂

Who else is back?  The little House Wrens – my daughter will be so pleased to hear this.  Her room (now my office, remember?) is overlooking the meadow where the Wrens chatter up a storm, busily flitting from bird house to bird house (I have many), building “fake” nests in several houses to thwart the enemy.  They start, pretty early in the morning, especially on weekends. 🙂  It’s really comical to watch them.  There’s a cool site to click and hear them.  The Farmer’s Almanac.

house wren

Here’s what our little friends look like.

Let’s see…

Bird house 1

 

 

 

Should I build here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bird house 2

 

 

 

This one has a sturdy roof and a nice view…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bird house 3

 

 

 

 

We’ve got a winner, there’s no place like home! Right above the poppies.  I’ll post a pic when the poppies bloom – lovely!  Right where I can keep an eye on them from my computer.  Uh huh, cheep (get it?) and cheerful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there’s all the wild greenies coming out…let’s talk about Chickweed.  Called this because – you guessed it- chickens like to eat it.  Me too.

chickweed

 

Filled with Vitamins A, B and C.  A very good chance your great, great Grandmother used this little gem in an ointment to relieve itching.  Good for skin rashes, scrapes, burns and also used to “draw out” splinters.  Chickweed is there for the entire growing season, abundant now and grows in gardens (one of those “weeds”) and between sidewalk cracks everywhere.

 

 

Horse tail

 

 

 

Who’s this?  Horsetail.  This is a very ancient plant, said to be growing many ages ago.  Looks kind of prehistoric. This plant has been found in fossils!  Looks like asparagus when it first appears.  Full of silica and great for your hair and nails. Harvest very young.  When they are mature, they look like bottle brushes.

 

 

 

 

There are so many coming up right now.  Hard to spot in the meadow still, but they’re coming!  As are the weed walks!

Who are we under tonight?  Oh dear, that didn’t sound very good – I MEANT THE MOON!  Ahhh, it must be Leo!  Yup.  Bold, fiery and lovin’ the big entrance.  Are you feeling the need for some appreciation?  Needing to express yourself?  That would be Leo.  How cheeky of me.  We are also under the “half moon” tonight entering the second quarter.

Feeling lucky? (Leo)  We’re also having a Friday the 13th today.  Oooo, are you suspicious? The fear of Friday the 13th is also called friggatriskaidekaphobia.  Uh huh.  It comes from Frigg, the Norse goddess of wisdom after whom Friday is named, and the Greek words triskaideka, meaning 13, and phobia, meaning fear.  They happen three times a year – good things can come in threes, but so can bad.   Let me say that the number 13 is a woo woo number.  Here I am, almost to the end of the post and you thought I wasn’t going to mention woo woo – fooled ya!  The number 13 is a feminine number, as noted by the “goddess” above – it is associated with the “Divine Feminine” and the 13 moons.  Of course, all females are divine, aren’t they?  🙂 (Yes, dear).

Speaking of the Divine Feminine, I’m going to be a city girl for a couple of days – visiting with my daughter to do some “girl stuff” and of course to visit with Mr. G.

I’ll leave you to ponder the Divine Feminine in all her mystery.  Divine?  I would say so.

Until next time,

-Debra