Enhance Your Dream Life with the Energetics of Fragrant Herbs

 “Plants, especially those that are used in their whole form,
are infused with life force energy or qi.”

Fragrance is one of the ways plants communicate with their environment.  For humans, fragrance is processed in the brain’s limbic system, an area closely associated with memory and emotion. Even a subtle fragrance can evoke powerful feelings and memories. Since our dreams are driven by emotion and can hold important information for our conscious minds, programming and remembering our dreams with intention can be very healing.  Dream pillows can assist us, as the energetic properties of the herbs and flowers reach into our unconscious minds while we slumber.

Making dream pillows from your fragrant herbs is quite easy and pleasant!  Here are some guidelines and helpful hints that can  make the whole process go more smoothly.

Harvest your fragrant herbs before they get too woody.  Mints can become kind of tough if left to grow for too long.  Even if you’ve been busy and the herbs are pretty far along, just strip the leaves from the stems for faster drying time.  Also, who wants stems in their dream pillow?  Or in their tea?  There are some exceptions, but I usually disgard stems for the most part and dry just the flowers and leaves.

For this dream pillow project, I’m using a dehydrator to process many of the flowers and herbs.  This way, the herbs dry very nicely and rather quickly – within 24 hours – so that I can get my dream pillows ready to list on my ETSY site and sell at a local artists’ cooperative.  Dehydrating herbs quickly often improves their potency and fragrance.  Fragile herbs, like Lemon Balm, are much more fragrant and tasty when dehydrated quickly.  So even in our somewhat dry climate, I still use a dehydrator.  I also have drying racks and baskets for larger quantities of herbs that just won’t fit into a dehydrator, like passiflora, which produces huge quantities of plant material.  It’s a 15′ vine, after all.

So, for this project, bring your flowers, herbs and dehydrator trays to your work space, and strip the leaves off the stems onto the dehydrator tray…

Eau de Cologne Mint on
a dehydrator tray

Interestingly, this is all the same herb – Eau de Cologne mint.  The larger leaves came from plants that were growing in full shade, while the smaller leaves came from plants that are growing in full sun.  The fragrance is different, as well as the appearance and texture.  The shade-grown mint has softer foliage and stems and a more soothing, lavender-like fragrance, while the full sun foliage is more durable, concentrated and “medicinal” smelling.  I love both!

Collect Roses and other fragrant flowers in the morning when they are just waking up and not stressed by the hot sun.  Most roses are at their best in the morning between 8:00 and 9:00 am.  At least that’s when MY roses are the most fragrant.

Roses and Rose Geranium leaves
ready for the dehydrator

Soooooooo fragrant!!!  Lyda Rose, Rose de Rescht, Autumn Sunset, Hansa, Westerland, and the first two Souvenir du Dr Jamain roses of the season make up this small batch, which I will add to dried roses from last fall and some roses I dried earlier this season.  The roses are really just getting started.

Rose Geranium leaves dry best in a dehydrator.  They are wonderfully fragrant and retain their lovely essence for months or years.

I have two blends that I have formulated for my dream pillows:

 Good Night, Moon was the first blend I tried, and it has been very popular at the artists’ cooperative.  It’s a very fragrant blend with the lavender-minty overtones of Eau de Cologne mint.  I’m delivering more of these to the shop tomorrow!  Whenever you make an herbal product, it’s always good to include an “action formula” letting people know what each herb is doing in the formula you create.  That way you learn more about the herbs each time you include them in a formula.  Often doing a search for “medicinal properties of” will bring you the information you are looking for.  Or in this case “dream herbs and their meanings” is a good search.

My second blend, A Reverie of Roses, was formulated because I love drifting off to sleep accompanied by the fragrance of roses.   I often spray my pillow with rose hydrosol before bedtime, and I use rose hydrosol almost every day as a complexion mist.  Not only is the fragrance heavenly, but rose is incredibly healing for all skin types when used topically and can be very supportive for emotional healing.

Mugwort is the “premier dream herb,” so I always add that to any dream pillow blend – usually only a leaf or two per pillow – because Mugwort is powerful!  I added Rose Geranium to this formulation because it enhances the “rose” part of this fragrance formula and is relaxing, balancing and adaptogenic.  Small amounts of Lemon Balm and Passiflora round out the energetic properties of this blend.  Rose and Rose Geranium are the featured fragrances, so are used more generously.

Here we see roses making up the majority of the blend, with handfuls of Passiflora, Lemon Balm (dried and crushed) and Rose Geranium.  After mixing these herbs together, I add an equal amount of buckwheat hulls and mix well.  The Mugwort gets added in separately as I assemble and fill the dream pillows.  It’s an odd herb, and when run through a food processor, becomes almost wooly in texture.  Now I simply add a leaf or two to each dream pillow.

I like to use natural fibers for all my fabric products, and for these I chose a pure linen.  It’s porous enough to allow the fragrance to escape each time the pillow is compressed, but tightly woven so that no bits of herbs escape.  Silk doesn’t always allow for air to move through the herbs and out into the air.

Here, I have filled the linen pillow forms with the Rose dream blend:

Then I hand stitch the opening:

And add the labels:


Making dream pillows is just one way to enjoy and engage the energy of the fragrant herbs and flowers from your gardens.  Get in the habit of harvesting when the herbs are at their peak.  If you’re not ready to make a floral or herbal honey, tincture, vinegar, oil or elixir with the fresh herbs, then dry your plant material and store it in jars.  Think ahead and plan some herbal projects you might like to make and then go for it!  Or just have some tea!

And always, always grow organically!

Blessings to you and your gardens,



Posted in Empowering Yourself Back to Health, Herbal Magic, Plants & Gardens, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Surround yourself with plants that nourish mind, body and soul

Why not surround yourself with beautiful and highly energetic plants that can contribute to your health and well being by offering nutrients, fruit, or medicine?  Even in small spaces, on patios or inside the house, plants are good companions when their needs are met.

What about supporting bees and other pollinators by planting thyme, prunella, bitterroot, violets, alpine strawberries, california poppies or other low growing, flowering and/or fruiting plants instead of a lawn?  Grass lawns are a waste of water, space and sunlight when there are much more beautiful, aromatic, vigorous and pollinator-friendly plants to be found.  And many of these herbs are xeric.

Following are some of my favorite sources for organic, interesting, and beautiful perennials, herb plants, fruiting plants and organic seeds.  Even if you don’t order from these companies, they have a lot of information to offer and many amazing plants to dream about!  I like to read up on any plants I’m considering if I don’t already know all about them.  Especially larger plants, like roses – it’s always good to research via garden blogs and discussion groups to find out what other gardeners think.  Pinterest is another great source of information for gardeners, artists, beekeepers, and more.  And what about your local Botanic Garden?  Lots to learn there.

A great source for growing information about a wide range of herbs is:

RICHTERS – herb plants & seeds, unusual, fragrant herbs

I’m planning on ordering thyme from Richters to plant a lawn or patio and make some borders along my sunny gardens.   I adore the smell of thyme, I use it in cooking and green blends,  and always have it in my garden because bees and other pollinators adore thyme flowers  Richter’s has an awesome selection of herb plants (28 Thyme varieties, 39 types of Lavender!) that are not always easy to find locally.  Shipping is quite reasonable.

You can order a single plant, a plug tray of 12 plants, or an entire tray of 120 plants of one herb, in case you want to plant a lawn or patio with thyme, or you just want to grow a lot of a favorite plant.

Here is my wish list from Richter’s:

Rose Petal Thyme – A special thyme only available from Richter’s.  I like to experiment with different kinds of herbs.  I probably have 10 different types of Thyme in various locations.  I’m very curious about a thyme that emits a rose geranium-like fragrance.

English Thyme – The most vigorous. For any patio, walkway or even driveway!

Lemon Verbena – Plug Pack – OK, maybe I won’t get 12 plants.  But I adore the fragrance and flavor of Lemon Verbena.  Elixirs, infused honey, and even Lemon Verbena Coconut Ice Cream.  Also heavenly when stuffed into dream pillows.  Add some dried leaves to your morning Twig tea.  Delicious!  The leaves and stems maintain their lovely, uplifting fragrance for years.  In the garden, the fragrance of Lemon Verbena wafts in the breeze, so plant it somewhere close to a path or next to your garden bench.  Gets 4-5′ tall when happy.  Full sun.

Rose Geranium Plants – One of my “must have” herbs as it is so amazing for skin care when distilled into a hydrosol.  Also fabulous in dream pillows.  One of the most pleasantly fragrant of the scented geraniums – quite dreamy, actually.  Repels moths from closets and the essential oil repels ticks and fleas, all the while having a lovely floral fragrance.  Put a couple drops on your dog’s collar when you are walking in or near the woods.  Make a spray: 8 oz water, 10 drops of Rose Geranium essential oil.  Shake before spraying yourself and/or your dog.

Echinacea Fragrant Angel – When Echinacea is fragrant, it’s really fragrant.  I might try one plant to see how it likes Colorado growing conditions.

Echinacea Flame Thrower – A beautiful orange-flowering plant.  Echinacea is very easy to grow when provided with it’s own space.  I might try one of these plants to see how large it gets in one summer.  Most Echinacea are generous herbs that grow well in full or almost full sun and receive regular watering.  The flowers and stems are medicinal, so you don’t have to dig up the plant to make a very potent medicinal honey or tincture.

Codonopsis Seeds – The root has medicinal properties similar to ginseng.  Useful as a pain remedy when made into a tincture.  Fun to grow, as it vines and blooms prolifically with adorable bell shaped purplish-green flowers.  I got a tiny seedling from a friend one year that grew vigorously to 5 feet high and 3 feet wide in one season, so I think it must be relatively easy to start from seed.  It’s a perennial in zones 5-8.  Just dig up one third or half the plant each year.

Richter’s also carries dried herbs and books related to herb gardening.  Fun to look around on their site, even if you don’t place an order.

BRUSHWOOD NURSERY -the most amazing Clematis collection!

Brushwood Nursery – so many clematis, you could go cross-eyed looking at all of them.  While you may not order from them, there is a lot to learn from this web site, and such an amazing variety of beauties!

HIGH COUNTRY GARDENS – great info about growing plants in the hot western climates, large selection, garden plans

Lots of interesting plants here, and complete growing instructions.  They offer a variety of pre-planned gardens, including xeric, pollinator-friendly and hummingbird gardens.

Even if you don’t buy their plants, you can learn about how they design the garden and which plants they include.  Think about what kind of environment you have to work with and go from there.  There are desirable and lovely plants for every environment, without exception.  Most on-line plant catalogs have search options for sun or shade.  Many have even more refined search functions – color, height, zone, fragrance and more.

This “inferno strip” garden looks good, but is out of stock at the time  of this writing.  You can look for the plants locally!

HORIZON HERBS – organically grown plants and seeds, the most medicinal herbs, hard to find plants, lots of info

I adore Horizon Herbs for organic herb plants and seeds.  Be advised that some seeds germinate very readily, like Chamomile, St. John’s Wort and Calendula – all of which I have grown from seed.  Other herbs, especially perennials like Lavender, can take weeks to sprout.   I most often order plants from Horizon. They grow the plants until they are ready to ship, then give you a call when they send them out.  They also carry Mycorrhizal inoculant which I have mentioned in earlier blogs.  Get some!!!

I have ordered Tulsi (Holy Basil) plants, a Schisandra vine, Angelica, Ashwagandha, Gotu Kola and other plants from Horizon.  Their plants are sometimes quite small, but never fail to grow into generously sized plants the first year.

HONEYBERRY USA – Honey Berry, Goji Berry and other fruiting shrubs.  Super helpful on the phone.

Yes there is a website called HoneyberryUSA!  I ordered my honey berry bushes from them because I felt more secure with their descriptions and recommendations about which ones to plant together for cross-pollination purposes.  These are zone 2 plants – they grow in Canada.  Just be sure the variety you choose won’t bloom too early, as pollinators have to be available and active at that time.

We now have three Honeyberries, all of which bloomed in early April when there were no honeybees out and about!  Something did pollinate them, though, as there are tiny berries forming!  These are some hardy shrubs, and adaptable, as they are now in 5 gallon pots, after having been in the ground for a season.  We dug them up early this Spring since we will be taking them with us to our new location.

This company sells a lot of other fruiting plants, and if you call for info, they are very helpful.  We bought goji berry plants from them as well as honey berries.  All are vigorous and very healthy looking plants.

ONE GREEN WORLD – berry plants, fruiting trees, flowering and fruiting vines

If you want to explore different types of berries or fruiting or flowering vines, I have had good luck ordering from One Green World.

I ordered my Passiflora from this company, and it arrived on a trellis and in bloom.  Turns out this  Passiflora incarnata is actually zone 5, because, here in Colorado (zone 5) it returns every late Spring or early Summer and, from the ground, covers an entire 15’ x 15’ trellis by mid to late summer.  It is often called “Maypop” because it has a tendency to pop up everywhere!!  Easy to pull up, but you do have to keep an eye on it.  Harvest the aerial parts (leaf, stem and flower) when in full bloom and make a wonderful nervine sleep aid.  Excellent herb to have on hand for stressful situations that are ongoing.  Beautiful, oddly fragrant flowers that bees adore.

 Heirloom Roses – Own-root roses, old roses, English roses

One of my favorite websites is Heirloom Roses where all the roses are hand propagated on their own roots – creating a much more durable plant.  That said, I lost two grafted roses and one English own-root rose this season – the first time I’ve lost any rose, ever.  I think the early arctic blast shocked them into dormancy prematurely.  Even some of the large roses that have never had any problems during the winter had to be cut back by half or more.

Some roses did very well.  My hardiest roses, which came from various sources, are as follows.  Even though some of these didn’t come from Heirloom, they probably carry them.

Lyda Rose – ordered from Heirloom Roses. LOVE!!!

Lyda Rose – a single, almost continuous blooming rose that I adore.  The bees also love it.  The fragrance has an amazing effect on my nervous system.  Delightful.  Blooms in clusters.  A rose that offers much in the way of sheer numbers of flowers.  I visit this rose daily when in bloom to gather some blossoms and watch the bees come and go.  Deadheading will bring on new blooms.  Luckily I planted two of these, so am taking one with me to the new location.

Rose de Rescht – purchased at Harlequin’s Gardens in Boulder.

Rose de Rescht – a super productive, hardy little rose.  The shrub can reach 4 – 5′ tall and 3 feet wide.  Continual bloom all summer when roses are harvested daily.  So fragrant, so pretty, very vibrant plant.  Perfect for infused honey or rose elixir.  They dry perfectly into adorable, perfect small purple roses and retain their fragrance for many months.

Bowl of Rose de Rescht
& Apothecary Roses 

Souvenir du Dr Jamain – hasn’t bloomed for me yet, but has grown steadily and looks very healthy.  I moved it from a mostly shady location to a strong eastern exposure with shade after 2:00 p.m.   The fact that it looks so excellent this year attests to it’s hardy nature.  It’s growing in a great exposure that gets full sun starting first thing in the morning.  This is a very fragrant, deep purple rose that needs protection from hot afternoon sun.  Got this one from Heirloom Roses.

Morden’s Sunrise purchased locally.

Morden’s Sunrise – A beautiful yellow-apricot blend that blooms prolifically in early June, and when properly deadheaded immediately after finishing, will repeat.  This plant is on the south facing side of the house, and always comes back strong each year.  My husband’s favorite.  It’s blooming now, but not as strongly as in years past.  This is a photo from last June. Discovered this rose at the Denver Botanic Garden and purchased it in Boulder from an organic nursery.

Apothecary Rose – very strong grower.  One of the oldest roses, dating back to the 14th century.  Historically this rose was often found growing in front of the town’s apothecary – thus the name.  This plant forms a shrub that is 3-4′ tall, and 4-5′ wide. Blooms once, quite prolifically.  Don’t deadhead if you want rose hips.  You can harvest the flower petals for infusions, however.  A beautiful old rose that is planted in the south facing front garden next to the house in partial shade.

Rosa glauca loves partial shade

Rosa Glauca – a lovely single rose that enjoys some shade and produces small rose hips.  The foliage is a blue-green, beautifully off-setting the bright lavender and white roses.  Forms a tall, arching shrub, which can grow very large over time – almost into a tree sized rose.  Plant it where it can have it’s beautiful arching shape.  Very pretty, and mine has come back strong this year – it’s best year yet.  Faces south right in front of the house, in partial shade.

Francesca is a VERY fragrant apricot-orange rose.  I ordered this one from Heirloom.  It didn’t like the shady location where I first planted it, so I moved it to a strong eastern exposure where it came up quite nicely this Spring.  It’s not particularly happy in a pot right now, but I’m quite sure it will recover.  Orange roses have the most beautiful fragrance.

There you have it.  Some of my favorite sources for roses, herbs and other delightful perennials.  Don’t forget to add some glacial rock dust,  Age Old Grow organic fertilizer and Mycorrhizal Fungi to your gardens and potted plants – available at PlanetNaturals.com.

Blessings to you and your gardens,


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Beautiful color combinations for your gardens

I love combining colors in the garden!  Sometimes it happens by accident, but mostly I think carefully about which plants I want growing together.  I consider bloom time, how aggressively the plants grow, what exposure they thrive in, and what kind of environment I have to offer.  These are some combinations I have recently come up with:


Pulsatilla after a frost.
It continued to bloom for several weeks after this.

For spring, a really stunning and unusual combination: Pulsatilla and the early-blooming white Anemone.  Pulsatilla usually starts first in my current garden, in early April when it’s still quite chilly, and blooms for a little more than a month.  Especially if deadheaded, it will bloom for a long time.  Both plants are in bloom at the same time, quite assertive in the garden, both enjoy a sunny exposure and both can tolerate some shade.  Such a charming pair of spring flowers!  Add in some species tulips and a few types of early blooming allium, and you have a stunning and unusual spring garden.  Adding the Veronica (below), and lime green Norton’s Gold Oregano creates a fabulous color combination.  All four of these – Pulsatilla, Anemone, Oregano and Veronica – would be happy in a variety of climates and conditions.  I can imagine these growing in Ohio or Iowa, or in a shaded, well mulched and amended garden in New Mexico.

This beautiful, early blooming ground cover is Veronica Waterperry Blue, which I have mentioned in earlier blogs.  There are several kinds of Veronica, but the tiny and perfect bright lavender flowers of this particular Veronica are just beautiful in any garden.  Veronicas of all types like a sunny location, but this one can adjust to some shade.  It twines gently between rocks and plants and holds it’s own when planted with Cat Mint and Alyssum.

Phlox, Veronica, Cat Mint and Basket of Gold
along with Mugwort and Iris

The Lily of the Valley is just budding.

Here, Lily of the Valley is budding, accompanied by the first Violet flowers. Quite lovely together, and must be the perfect environment for both.  This is the first time I’ve successfully grown Lily of the Valley.  It’s a well-amended garden spot located right next to a downspout.  While Violets are flexible, going from wet conditions to dry or from full sun to 1/2 day or more of shade with no problems, Lily of the Valley needs cool temperatures, moisture and shade.
Below is one of my favorite gardens.  It’s at the front entrance, and is probably the most amended and moisture-retentive garden on our property.  It gets watered by rain, and the runoff from the downspout.  I love to mix lavenders and purples with apricots, oranges and yellows, so planting the purple clematis as a backdrop to an apricot rose was all my idea, and it is beautiful!  See photos below of the clematis and rose.

From the front, Wood Betony, Norton’s Gold Oregano, Morden’s Sunrise rose, with a lovely geranium beginning to bloom to the right of the rose.  Behind those are Alchemilla, Ligularia, and some Penstemons.  Coral Bells are blooming in the far background.  The Lily of the Valley and Violets are mixed in, along with several geraniums.    It looks very shady in this photo, but this garden does get full afternoon sun starting in June, and all summer long.

Here are some photos of the rose and the clematis from last summer:

Morden’s Sunrise

I highly recommend Morden’s Sunrise rose for it’s beauty and repeat bloom when pruned immediately after blooming.  It comes back strong every year, and creates a beautiful scenario right by the front gate.  Somewhat fragrant, this is one rose that I grow for it’s amazing color, vigor and repeat bloom.  I’m leaving this one here, but will definitely have another in my new location, as it’s my husband’s favorite.  Reaches about 4′ tall and 3′ wide.  Charming!  Gets a lot of compliments.  Planted with a blue balloon flower, a bright pink Wood Betony and lime green Norton’s Gold oregano – all backdropped by a beautiful purple clematis, Venosa Violacea, shown below.



Clematis Venosa Violacea is one of my all time favorites.  This fence faces south, so it receives plenty of direct sun, and covers the entire trellis each spring and summer.  Quite impressive!

Clematis Venosa Violacea has a long bloom cycle in mid to late summer. 

Now the Geraniums have started blooming, some a little earlier than others.  Bloom time will also depend somewhat on how much sun the plant gets during these early months of spring.  How wet is it?  How dry?  Which type of Geranium is it?  There are many, and all are quite wonderful and, usually, quite vigorous.  This plant had been located in full sun in well drained soil, and did not do well at all. In this moist, somewhat shady environment,  it is much happier!

Here is another geranium that I adore!!  Sorry I don’t have the names of each one!

I have one of these geraniums in the front, partially shaded moist garden, and one in the back yard in full sun and well-drained soil.  Both are doing very well, and in fact I had to dig up part of the “full sun” geranuim, as it was crowding out a lovely Electric Blue Penstemon (pictures later).

Here’s one more lovely combination of tough, yet beautiful plants that will grow in a variety of conditions:  Iris, Norton’s Gold Oregano and Catmint

I always look forward to what comes next in the garden.  Anticipating Orange poppies, purple allium, white feverfew, penstemons, yarrows, sages, meadowsweet, roses and more!  Always a beautiful adventure!




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Roses as Medicine for Body and Soul

“Won’t you come into the garden?
I would like my roses to see you.
                                           Richard B Sheridan 1751-1816

How and Where Rosa Grows

Rosa canina

“A rose must remain with the sun and the rain
or its lovely promise won’t come true”
                                    Ray Evans (b. 1915), U.S. songwriter

More than 150 distinct species of roses flourish in their respective environments in locations around the world, from China and Japan, through parts of India, Europe and North Africa, and across North America from Canada to New Mexico.

Some species thrive in moist environments, while others grow in rocky, dry soil.   Some roses survive in shade, whereas many require a sunny location.   Species of the genus Rosa have been identified almost everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, as far north as Alaska and Norway and as far south as North Africa and Mexico. Fossilized plants over 30 million years old can be linked to modern rose species.

All other roses are descended from these 150 wild species roses. Two different roses can combine very easily to produce a rose that has some of the characteristics of both parents but an identity of its own. Hybridization frequently happens in nature, with bees and other insects being the carriers of the pollen, but the process has been developed to an intricate art by modem hybridizers. Because of their efforts, there are now more than one thousand different kinds of roses.

The Chinese were probably the first to cultivate roses 

Roses had been under cultivation in China for over 2,000 years before they were introduced to the European market in the late eighteenth century.   We have the Chinese to thank for all of the perpetually blooming roses that exist today.   The West was introduced to roses from China in 1752, and thus began the hybridization and cultivation of almost every modern-day rose.



The ancient Persians established a flourishing trade in precious attar of roses, a fragrant oil distilled from rose petals – considered so valuable that rose oil and rose products were used as currency.




In 1796, Empress Josephine of France created a garden at the Chateau Malmaison that contained plants from all over the world, including an extensive rose collection.   So beloved were her roses, that she employed a botanical illustrator, Pierre-Joseph Redoute, to record the detail and beauty of her most favored flowers.



Reine des Violettes (France 1860)

The Old Roses – those having been identified or hybridized before 1867 – are the roses that I now prefer to grow in my gardens.   These roses, being closer to the species, are much more durable, adaptable and vigorous than tea roses, and much more fragrant, as well.  The deep colors offer nutrients and healing constituents along with the spiritual and emotional effects of their pervasive fragrances and energetics.

Rose Medicine in Contemporary Herbalism

Rosa is considered a relaxing nervine and nerve strengthener, liver relaxant, pelvic decongestant, digestive tonic, hormonal balancer and an anti-inflammatory and anodyne for muscles and uterine cramps.   It is considered cooling and astringent, very useful for sunburns, bug bites or other skin inflammation.   Rosa is renowned for strengthening the entire reproductive system:

Rose de Rescht (Persia, 1800’s)

Hormonal Balancing Remedy

Harvest leaf and flower buds just before they open.
Preserve with honey, or 1 part glycerin + 2 parts water
Infuse for 4-6 weeks
Dosage is 1 teaspoonful three times a day

Relaxant to the liver, Rose moves stuck energy and relieves tension.   As a heart-settling nervine, it is gentle enough for a baby.   The fragrance of organic Roses significantly decreases overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system.   Rose, taken internally as a tea, elixir or hydrosol, can also balance hyperimmune disorders and enhance immune function, making it useful for colds or flu type illnesses.   Rose is also strengthening and healing to the heart and circulatory system, as well as to the emotional heart.   Matthew Wood believes that Rosa turns down excitement in the limbic centers, and Kiva Rose considers it an emotional modulator, balancing both intense feelings and intense apathy.

Hansa Rose (Holland 1905)

Rose petals are high in nutrients, especially polyphenols, an important antioxidant.   All aerial parts of the rose can be harvested and used: buds, petals, leaves, twigs and hips.   Rose petals can be applied as bandages on wounds, as they are antiseptic, antibacterial and antiviral.  The flowers contain essential oil which includes citronellol, geraniol, nerol, eugenol, linalool, L-p-menthene, cyanin, gallic acid, and beta carotene.   The petals are considered  antibacterial, astringent and tonic.  Rose is considered a blood-mover, so is contraindicated during pregnancy.

Studies show that the leaves of Roses contain the same anti-inflammatory and vasculature strengthening antioxidants as the flowers/fruit.   Recognized as a primary medicine in Ayurveda, Rosa has been found to significantly contribute to the “good ” bacteria in our digestive tracts.

Kiva Rose, herbalist extraordinaire, is one of the the strongest advocates for the medicinal use of roses.   Her description: “It has an innate intelligence that gives it the ability to adjust the flow of the body’s varying energies and substances. It can calm heart palpitations, eliminate liver pains, reduce nervous tension or lessen menstrual cramps all depending on what the body needs. Traditional Western Herbalism and Ayurveda generally see the Rose as cooling while Traditional Chinese Medicine usually describes it as warming, and I think this has much to do with what properties the varying traditions ascribe to hot or cold. The reduction in inflammation is certainly part of the reason it is thought of as cooling, and the moving properties have to do with the warming aspect.”

Darlow’s Enigma reaching for the sky

Rose can be used in a myriad of ways, including:

wound healing
as a liver relaxant
pelvic decongestant
for hyper-immunity (allergies are an example)
as a relaxing nervine and nerve strengthener
for cardiovascular and emotional support
for digestive complaints
muscle pain and uterine cramps
sunburns, bug bites, rashes

Last summer, I made a liver support formula:

3 oz Dandelion
1 oz Schisandra berries
¼ oz White Peony Root
¼ oz Rose Petals
4 Tbs Rosemary powder

This formula proved effective for increasing energy, supporting digestion and resolving symptoms of overindulgence such as too much caffein or overeating.

Falling into my “Favorite Formulations” category is Rose Elixir.  Combining rose petals, honey and brandy, infusion time was about 8 weeks.  This remedy supports digestion, hormonal balance and offers emotional support.  Delicious.

Floral bath tea is something I experimented with last fall with my dried flower harvest:

2 oz rose petals
1 oz lavender flowers
1 oz calendula flowers
1 oz elder flowers
½ oz chamomile flowers

I used 2 oz dried blend steeped in a quart of hot water for at least 2 hours, sometimes all day.   I then strained the infusion into my bathwater.     Results were way more satisfying and noticeable than I had imagined.   Not only was the blend quite fragrant, but I felt the effects on and through my skin.   Floral baths are quite wonderful and have a lot of healing potential.  This blend is calming and makes skin soft!

The organic Rose essential oil from Alteya Organics, which is pure Rose Otto, is very fragrant and intense by itself.  To get a full-body effect, I formulated an after shower moisturizer as follows:

2 oz organic virgin olive oil
2 oz jojoba oil
1 oz rose-infused olive oil
1 oz calendula infused olive oil
6 drops Vetiver essential oil
9 drops Rose Otto essential oil

This formulation is quite heavenly, very fragrant, and a small amount goes a long way.   Very nourishing and moisturizing.   Therapeutically, Rose essential oil “clears heat and inflammation and helps restore the body’s yin energy.”  Emotionally, “Rose oil calms and yet supports the Heart, helping to nourish the Heart-yin and restore a sense of well-being.”   “. . .rose oil can touch the deepest despair, restoring the trust that makes it possible to love again.”

Lyda Rose and friends

 “Rose flowers were, and are still, much used for the emotional aspects of heart, they are particularly good for people who feel unloved or who have been abused.  Regular use of rose tincture alters the whole feeling of the body.”
                                                Christopher Hedley, UK Herbalist

Distilling roses into a hydrosol is one of the simplest ways to transform your fragrant rose petals into a very fragrant and healing flower water.  I usually infuse some of the rose petals for several hours prior to distillation.  For daily use as a toning complexion spray, it is rehydrating, balancing and fabulously fragrant.  Spray onto your hair or clothing as a gentle, organic perfume.  When my german shepherd was 14, he started having some problems with his eyes not producing enough moisture.  After trying it in my own eyes first, I felt very comfortable using undiluted rose hydrosol as his eye wash on a daily basis, and it kept his eyes clear and comfortable during his last years of life.

I’m sold out of Rose Hydrosol right now, but will be distilling more this summer.

Roses that I grow and recommend:

Darlow’s Enigma – very large rambler, single white very fragrant, blooms spring til frost
Rose de Rescht – small but dense and very fragrant roses, constantly in bloom
Hansa Rose – large, fragrant purple roses, reblooms, very hardy
Rosa Rugosa Rubra – super hardy, very fragrant, rose hips, 6′ wide x 6′ tall
Apothecary Rose – fragrance, rose hips, historical significance, some shade
Lyda Rose – single rose with intense fragrance, everblooming
Souvenir du Dr Jamain – fragrance and deep purple color
Rosa Moschata – fragrance, vigor and rose hips, white single roses, blooms Aug-Oct
Angel Face – one of the few hybrid roses I grow.  Lavender color and amazing fragrance
Rosa Glauca – beautiful bluish foliage, single roses, rose hips, arching  form, shade
Crown Princess Margareta – climber, very fragrant, re-blooms all summer

Crown Princess Margareta blooming in October

If you are considering any of these roses, I recommend looking them up on a garden blog to find out what other gardeners have experienced.  A great place to order all of these roses (and many others) is Heirloom Roses – all plants are on their own roots, which makes for a much more durable and healthy rose bush.  Lots of info at this site about each rose and about growing roses in general.  If you live in a zone where you have cold winters, order roses that are zoned for 1 or 2 zones lower than yours for added durability and strong return each spring.

Angel Face after a rain

Don’t forget to feed your roses.  Compost, manure, Age Old Grow, Mycorrhizal fungi and Glacial Rock Dust are all super helpful for roses.  Feed several times throughout the season. I often apply Mile Hi Rose Food during the spring and summer.  This is a blend of blood meal, bone meal, fish meal, kelp and other ingredients that roses thrive on.  Roses also love Epsom Salts!  Put 1/4 cup around the base of the plants in early spring and again later in the summer.

I’m heading out to the garden!

Blessings to you and your roses,

Rosa rugosa rubra


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  34. Rose, Kiva. “Rose Vinegar: My Favorite Sunburn Soother.” Plant Healer Magazine. Plant Healer Magazine, 6 July 2008. Web. 09 Jan. 2012.
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Growing Herbs and Perennials in Pots

There is always something to look forward to in a well established, planned out garden.  Each season has it’s own charm, especially if you look ahead, and plant your garden with bloom time in mind. It is possible to have color, interest and bee food from early Spring into Fall.  And if you make the right plant choices, you can have an almost unending supply of healing foods and medicine from early spring until Fall and beyond.  Deadheading can extend the bloom of almost any flower or herb, except maybe violets, which bloom generously, but only once no matter how frequently you pick the flowers.

St John’s Wort just getting started

St. John’s Wort, for example, will re-bloom with abandon if the first and second crops of flowers are harvested promptly.  This is a great plant to have on hand, and fairly easy to start from seed.  Very pretty foliage and flower.  Incredibly healing when made into an infused oil for topical pain relief, or as an antiviral tincture.  Should not be taken internally with any prescription drug, however.  This plant is good to start in a pot, but grows much more generously (maybe too vigorously sometimes) in the garden.  Be prepared – it looks quite innocent the first season, but comes back much larger the second year.

Chocolate Mint loves growing in full sun in a clay pot.

I highly recommend that everyone invest in a peppermint or chocolate mint plant.  Yes, mints can grow wildly in the garden, so look for a location that is outside your organized garden and give it some room to spread out.  It’s also very easy to grow in a pot.  This particular chocolate mint started out as a 2″ pot in May or June, and this photo was taken in early August.  In some ways, it’s easier to harvest mint from a pot.  A great strategy is to harvest the top 3″ when it reaches 4″ tall.  Cutting mint back only encourages more new lush growth, so harvest early, and continue all summer long!  Eventually, mints will become root bound, sometimes the first season.  I have had them grow out the bottom of the pot and into the ground, or send a runner down the side of the pot and into adjacent pots or into the garden.  Be observant!  Chocolate mint elixir is my favorite digestive aid.  Mix 1 cup honey and 1 cup brandy in a jar.  Fill a second jar 2/3 full of fresh, chopped mint leaves and cover with the honey/brandy mixture.  Make sure to completely cover the herb with some room to spare.  Cap tightly and let steep for 14-28 days, strain, and keep on hand for any stomach ache or even as a digestive aid before a meal.  Take a dropperful for stomach upsets, or 10-20 drops before a meal.  It’s very healing and so comforting to an aching stomach.   Dry some chocolate mint and use it as a delicious tea during the Fall and Winter.   Or I often powder the dried leaves and mix with other greens and carob powder to make a super nourishing chocolate mint smoothie mix.

Another invaluable herb is Lemon Balm.  It also falls into the “somewhat aggressive plant” category, although it grows outward from the center, making a larger single plant each season instead of spreading out via underground runners in all directions the way mint often does.  This is another elixir that I always keep on hand.  It’s delicious to sip a tiny amount (1 Tbs) about an hour before bedtime.  And at the first sign of any viral infection, start taking 5-10 drops 3x a day until symptoms disappear and stay away for one week.  It’s a versatile herb.  Last fall, I infused it in olive oil, and then made it into a lip balm to banish or prevent cold sores.

The wildly medicinal Spilanthes loves growing in a pot

An easy way to use Lemon Balm and other herbs is by including the young leaves in all of your Spring salads. You can do this with almost any herb, including Prunella and Spilanthes, which are strong antibiotic herbs.  Eating the early leaves of these plants will give you a great energy boost, and later, combining these herbs with Echinacea flowers in a tincture makes an amazing, intense mouthwash that is very helpful for receding gums and sore throats.  Use daily as a mouthwash.  Take 5-10 drops 3x a day for bacterial or viral infections.  Spilanthes grows very well in a pot – actually seems to prefer it to my garden.  I have found this plant at Lowe’s being sold as an ornamental.  As long as it has the tag from Desert Canyon Farms, I know it has been organically grown.  Chewing on one of the flowers is a very interesting experience – tingly and numbing at the same time!

Valerian and a perennial marjoram growing happily in a deep pot

Many herbs are perfectly happy growing all summer in a large pot (16″ – 20″).  I’ve had great success with Chamomile, Mints, Spilanthes, Violets, Valerian, and Thyme.  Chamomile is so pretty in a pot, and grows nicely upright for easy harvest.  It does reseed, so be careful where you plant it, even in a pot.  I grew it in a pot on our raised patio, and now I have chamomile seedlings coming up all over the yard below the patio.  And that was after harvesting the flowers every day or every other day once it started blooming. It’s a very productive plant!  Honey infused with fresh chamomile flowers is so delightful to taste, and makes an excellent complexion cleanser.  Also makes an excellent canine remedy for the anxious dog.  Dried chamomile flowers that you harvest daily are infinitely more beautiful, more fragrant and much more flavorful than the chamomile tea you buy in the store.

I even have Honeyberry shrubs and a Schisandra vine growing in pots – looking perfectly happy and healthy!  All the herbs and berries I grow in pots are destined for our gardens, with the exception of Valerian – whose root I harvest in the Fall to make a fresh valerian tincture that is one of my favorite sleep aids.  It’s not obvious in the above photo, but that pot is at least 24″ deep.  It’s an urn-shaped resin pot that someone gave me.  Perfect for the deep roots of Valerian.  Fresh valerian tincture is infinitely more medicinal and effective than one made with the dried root.  And even though bad things have been said about the smell of valerian root, I find the fragrance of a freshly dug root to be quite wonderful and intoxicating.

Cherry Skullcap potted up with a Species Iris

Sometimes if I don’t have the garden space quite ready, but I know I want to grow a certain herb or  perennial, I buy the desired plant in a 2” pot and simply bump it up, often with other perennials that I am going to group together in the garden.  This is a great way to get to know the plant’s growth habits, enjoy it’s bloom cycle up close, and allow it to develop a nice healthy root system just in time for a fall planting.  I usually stick with larger pots, usually 14″ or larger, depending on the plant.  I used to plant a few annual pots, but knowing how toxic they can be to our pollinators, I am only planting perennials from organic mail order sources such as Horizon Herbs, or from my local organic nursery, Harlequin’s Gardens in Boulder, Colorado.  The below photo is from a couple years ago.

Ornamental Kale and Lobelia. Won’t be planting any annuals this year.

The type of soil I use is usually the organic potting mix from Lowe’s.  To that, I usually add some horse manure (from some friends who have horses), mushroom compost (from a local mushroom greenhouse), and a couple tablespoons of glacial rock dust per 16″ pot.  The plants are then watered in with some Age Old Grow organic fertilizer and some Mycorrhizal Fungi, all of which you can get at PlanetNaturals.com  For plants that love a well-drained soil, such as bee balm, lavender or onoethera, I will make the soil mix about 1/4 sand, and then mulch the surface with small rocks.

So there you have some of my best recommendations for successful growing and medicine making.  Many plants enjoy growing in pots, at least for a season, provided the soil provides all the necessary nutrients.  Feed with Age Old Grow throughout the growing season, don’t be afraid to harvest often, and make yourself some wonderful herbal medicine. Dry some mints, chamomile, lemon balm and marjoram for later use – you’ll be glad you did!

Blessings to you and your gardens,


Recommended reading:

Hartung, Tammi. Growing 101 Herbs That Heal: Gardening Techniques, Recipes, and Remedies. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2000. Print.

Hensel, Julius. Bread from Stones. A New and Rational System of Land Fertilization and Physical Regeneration. Philadelphia, PA: A.J. Tafel, 1894. Print.

“How Chemical Fertilizers Are Destroying Your Body, The Soil, and Your Food.” How Chemical Fertilizers Are Destroying Your Body, The Soil, and Your Food. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

Lisle, Harvey. The Enlivened Rock Powders. Metairie, LA: Acres U.S.A., 1994. Print.

Western Garden Book. Menlo Park, CA: Lane Pub., 1976. Print.

“Why We Don’t Sell Miracle-Gro – Organica: Garden Supply & Hydroponics.” Organica Garden Supply Hydroponics. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

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The deliciousness of early spring herbs, greens and flowers

Early spring herbs, weeds, greens and flowers are some of the most prolific in the garden or in the wild.  To make the best use of these delicious plants, I offer two words of advice “BE READY.”  Once you see the green leaves sprouting in early April, it seems like it’s only a matter of days until the violets are in full bloom, the nettle is fully leafing, and the chickweed is lush and ready to harvest.  All three are going wild in my gardens after a few good steady rains, and now we are inundated with a bumper crop of chickweed and a goodly amount of violets.  The nettle leafed a few weeks ago (here at the end of April) and has now grown past it’s early spring stage, so is no longer good to harvest as a tender cooked green, but will still be fine to harvest and dry for later use as tea or to crumble into pesto or soups.

Nutritive properties:

Chickweed: beneficial for circulatory, respiratory, urinary, and digestive systems; high in Calcium, Cobalt, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Protein, Vitamin A and Zinc

Nettle: supports and heals the urinary and respiratory systems; high in Calcium, Chromium, Cobalt, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Riboflavin, Thiamine, Vitamins A, C and Zinc

Violet: Vitamins A and C, restorative, healing to entire digestive tract, cleansing

Here are some great ideas about how to best consume and take advantage of these delicious, plentiful and nourishing spring greens and flowers.

First of all, eat lots of salads and include violet leaves and chickweed whenever possible.  Throw in some dandelion greens, too.

CHICKWEED (Stellaria media)

Chickweed (Stellaria media) grows everywhere, all over the world.  It’s such a common plant, easily overlooked.  Euell Gibbons says of Chickweed, “It is also eminently edible by human beings, and it could restore health to millions of malnourished people throughout the world if they would only use it.”

Susan Weed has dreamed of eating her way across a field of chickweed.  Her comments:

“Chickweed is readily available and
delicious optimum nutrition.”

Chickweed contains constituents known as saponins, which act as cleansing agents within the body, on a cellular level.  Susan’s commentary:

“Saponins are soap-like; they emulsify and increase the permeability of all membranes.  Chickweed saponins increase the absorption of nutrients, especially minerals, from the digestive system. These saponins also gently dissolve thickened lung and throat membranes, emulsify and thus neutralize toxins, and weaken bacterial cell walls …”

So now you know!  Chickweed is nourishing, healing, supports joint health and acts as an herbal diet pill.  The humble Chickweed has long been used as a cooked vegetable.  It cooks almost immediately, so add it last to dishes with other greens.  Euell Gibbons uses 2 parts chickweed to 1 part stronger greens.  Put the stronger greens, say nettles and kale or chard, in the pan and cover with boiling water.  Cook for 10 minutes, then add the chickweed and cook 2 more minutes.  Chop the greens in the pan with kitchen shears, season with salt, butter or coconut oil, or olive oil, chopped raw onion and garlic, and be sure to consume the juice as it contains many of the important nutrients!

Here are some other recipe ideas:

Chickweed Guacamole

3 avocados
1/2 c lemon juice
pinch sea salt
large handful of Chickweed, finely chopped
1 Tbs dried seaweed or dried Nettle
3 shakes of cayenne

mash avocados, lemon juice, salt and seaweed, toss in the chickweed and cayenne.  Soooooo tasty and super nutritious.

Stellaria  Thai Green Soup

1-2 avocados
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch chickweed
handful of violet leaves
16 oz coconut juice
1-2 tbs thai curry paste
juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tbs miso

Blend and serve with chopped cucumbers or violet flowers

This is incredibly delicious and healing!

VIOLETS (Viola spp.)

We’ve already mentioned that violet leaves and flowers provide amazing nutrition – Vitamins A and C in particular – and can be added generously to raw salads.  Violets come on quickly in Spring, so plan ahead for recipes such as violet syrup and jam.  They only bloom once, and you need to be there when they do!

Euell Gibbons’ Violet Jam recipe is one of my favorites, as the violets are uncooked, preserving the nutrients and beautiful color

1 packed cup of violet blossoms
3/4 cup water
juice of 1 lemon

blend these ingredients to a smooth, violet colored paste

slowly add 2 1/2 cups of sugar and blend until dissolved

On the stove,

1 package of powdered pectin dissolved in
3/4 cup water

bring to boil, and boil hard for 1 minute

Pour this hot mixture into the blender with the violet paste and sugar, blend for 1 minute and pour into sterilized jars and seal.

This will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks.  Freeze some for later use.


Fill a jar with violet blossoms, green parts removed

Cover with boiling water, and let sit overnight

Strain, then to each cup of violet infusion add

juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cups of sugar

Bring to a boil and pour into sterilized bottles


add two tablespoons of the above syrup to a glass of carbonated water

STINGING NETTLE (Urtica doica)

Nettle needs to be steamed, sautéed or dehydrated prior to ingestion to remove the stinging quality.   For the best eating experience, harvest very early, just as the leaves sprout.  If you harvest them at this early stage, you may get a second harvest of new leaves that will be good for eating.  Once this plant sprouts and the days become warmer, the plant really takes off.  In my garden, the nettles are now past the point of tender goodness, so I will harvest the entire plant, cutting it way back, and will lay it out to dry in large baskets.  It’s fabulous to use in tea, green blends, soups, and even in pesto once dried.  I wear rubber gloves – the kind you wear when washing dishes – and long sleeves to harvest Nettle.


1/2 pound nettles
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast

Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer for the nettles. Add the nettles directly from their bag and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes. (This denatures their sting.) Dump into a colander to drain. When the nettles are cool enough to handle, wrap them in a clean dishtowel and wring out as much moisture as possible, like you would for spinach. You’ll have about a cup of cooked, squished nettles.

In a food processor, whirl the garlic, pine nuts, salt, and pepper to taste until finely chopped. Add the nettles, breaking them up as you drop them in, and the lemon juice and whirl until finely chopped. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, and process until smooth. Add the cheese or nutritional yeast, pulse briefly, and season to taste with additional salt, pepper, or lemon juice.


1 large bunch basil
1/2 cup of dried nettle
4 garlic cloves
juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 c olive oil
nutritional yeast or Parmesan cheese
3/4 c raw walnuts

Process all in a food processor.  Delicious!

Sauteed Nettles with Green Garlic & Olive Oil

1 ¼ pound freshly harvested Nettles, rinsed
3T Green Garlic (Chopped)
1/2 cup Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper (To Taste)

First preheat a large sauté pan on medium high heat, (one large enough to accommodate the nettles, you can even use a large pot as well). Second pour ¼ cup of the olive oil into the preheated pan. Then put all of the green garlic into the pan sauté briefly for about 30 seconds, just enough time for the green garlic to release its essential oils, being sure not to brown or burn the green garlic. Place the nettles into the pan and give it a good stir, let sit for just a second and then continue the stirring process. Once the nettles are completely wilted place them on a plate, drizzle with the rest of the olive oil and place a couple of lemon wedges for garnish.

Potato Nettle Soup

2 cups Nettle Leaves (young shoots)
1 Onion
6 small Potatoes
8 cups Water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. Parsley
3 cloves Garlic OR 3 stalks green garlic

Puree onion, garlic, and nettles with 1 cup of water. Cut potatoes into small pieces. Simmer pureed mixture with potatoes and remaining water for 45 minutes or until tender. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes making the soup thick and creamy

And then I found this recipe in Stalking the Healthful Herbs by Euell Gibbons:

Euell Gibbons’ Nettle Beer Recipe

4 quarts freshly harvested Nettle tops
2 gallons of water
2 lemons thinly sliced, including rind
2 oz crushed dried ginger root

simmer all of the above gently for 40 minutes,

strain and stir in 2 cups brown sugar

When cooled to lukewarm, dissolve a cake of yeast in a cup of the liquid and stir it into the brew, bottle immediately and cap tightly.  It will be ready in a few days.

Refrigerate and ONLY OPEN WHEN COMPLETELY CHILLED.  Per Euell Gibbons,

“…this is a lively drink and will foam wildly if opened while warm.”

Cheers!  Enjoy the bounty of these wonderful herbs and flowers!

 Recommended Reading

Gibbons, Euell. Stalking the Healthful Herbs. New York: D. McKay, 1966. Print.

Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 Teas, Tonics, Oils, Salves, Tinctures, and Other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., 2008. Print.

Green, James. The Herbal Medicine-makers’ Handbook: A Home Manual. Freedom, CA: Crossing, 2000. Print.

Hartung, Tammi. Growing 101 Herbs That Heal: Gardening Techniques, Recipes, and Remedies. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2000. Print.

“Hedgerow To Kitchen.” The Herb Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2014.

“Herbal Honeys & Pastes for Blood Building, Burn Dressings & More.” The Medicine Womans Roots. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2014.

“How to Make Herbal Oxymels « The Mountain Rose Blog.” The Mountain Rose Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2014.

Kidd, Randy. Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Cat Care. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2000. Print.

Kidd, Randy. Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Dog Care. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2000. Print.

“The Medicine Woman’s Roots.” The Medicine Womans Roots. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2014.

Pedersen, Mark. Nutritional Herbology: A Reference Guide to Herbs. Warsaw, IN: Wendell W. Whitman, 1998. Print.

Shababy, Doreen. The Wild & Weedy Apothecary: An A to Z Book of Herbal Concoctions, Recipes & Remedies Practical Know-how and Food for the Soul. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2010. Print.

“Sweet Medicine: Healing with the Wild Heart of Rose.” The Medicine Womans Roots. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2015.

Tilford, Gregory L., Mary Wulff-Tilford, and Mary Wulff-Tilford. Herbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet’s Life. Laguna Hills, CA: BowTie, 2009. Print.

Weed, Susun S. Wise Woman Herbal Healing Wise. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Pub., 1989. Print.







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Developing and Enjoying Ecosystems in your Gardens

I think one reason my gardens are so successful is because I simply adore the plants that grow here in Colorado!   I know them well –  and have become very familiar with what they like and where they like to grow. A good friend of mine once said, “You think like a plant.”   What a compliment!  I do think about what each plant would enjoy and spend quite a bit of time studying my various garden ecosystems in regard to my plant choices.

We have done a lot of work amending the soil in our gardens and yard.  When we moved in 15 years ago, the existing garden beds were planted with junipers and the soil was covered with black plastic weighed down with river rock  They had probably been there for 30 years.  We were ambitious back then, and shoveled and hauled away the rock, pulled out the junipers with a tow chain and our truck and proceeded to add soil, manure and plants that we actually liked.  Over the years,we continued to improve the growing conditions, and our most recent and significant additions have been glacial rock dust, mycorrhizal fungi, mushroom compost and goat manure from an organic dairy in town.  These have been fundamental in creating successful gardens.

The front of the house has a southern exposure, and the front yard has two large trees, so the south and east gardens receive some shade and some sun each day, with a very bright indirect exposure all day.  We have pruned one tree to allow some direct sun to reach the shade-loving roses I planted in the eastern-most front garden, which we will talk about next week.  All in all, the front gardens have developed into ecosystems that support shade loving plants that can also enjoy or tolerate some direct sun as the summer progresses.

My front garden is quite beautiful in the Spring – It has developed into a moist and shady ecosystem.  It’s mid-April, and I have violets, Geum Prairie Smoke, Veronica, and Sweet Woodruff beginning to bloom.  Coming soon will be many more of my favorites – species iris, campanula, Lily of the Valley, Norton’s Gold Oregano, Lady’s Mantel, Meadowsweet, and the lovely and unusual Ligularia.

What do these plants have in common?  All are durable, moisture-loving, adaptable, partial shade plants.  The plants in the very front border of this garden are the most adaptable, and can take some hot sun, which reaches this garden in the afternoon, once the sun gets higher in the sky.  This garden has a thick layer of mulch on it all winter – made up of compost, wood mulch, and leaves raked from the two large trees in our front yard.  After years of adding the leaf mulch to these beds, the soil is quite rich.  I pull back and re-arrange some of the mulch once things start growing in the Spring, but leave a generous amount around the moisture-loving plants, and I leave about 4  inches of mulch all over this particular garden all season long. This creates a rich and fairly moisture retentive ecosystem perfect for the plants that grow here.

Herb Garden, back yard, full sun

Contrast this to my gardens in the back yard that receive full sun, are planted in raised beds or above rock walls in well-drained soil.  These gardens are filled with summer-blooming sun-loving herbs, roses and flowers that enjoy the well-drained, hot ecosystem that makes up about 2/3 of my back yard.  Many of these areas are mulched with gravel instead of leaf mulch because the plants simply like it that way!  The hotter the better!  Gravel mulch reflects heat and allows for good drainage while still holding in moisture.  Larger rocks in the garden hold moisture in the soil and provide stability for root systems.

Back to the front garden:

Geum triflorum

Geum Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) is a stunning and long-blooming prairie perennial.  Once it finishes blooming, seeds begin to form, and the styles elongate to create the “smoke,” or feathery seedpods, which gives this plant its common name of prairie smoke.  Pretty in all seasons.  While this Geum would thrive happily in a hotter, more well-drained ecosystem, Geums in general are quite vigorous, and I placed it in a location where it will receive considerably more direct sunlight than some of the other plants in this garden.

Galium odoratum

Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum) is an extremely attractive and durable ground cover for shaded areas. It also does well in the crevices of walks or as an edging plant.  It does spread pretty aggressively when happy, is quite adaptable, and very pretty both in and out of bloom.  Can happily co-habitate with violets, geraniums, oreganos and other durable ground covers.  Strongly scented when dried, it’s very nice in potpourri, dream pillows, or as a relaxing tea.  In a hot, well-drained ecosystem, this plant would seek shade and shelter from taller plants and would probably shrink or fail completely during the hot summer months.

Convallaria majalis

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) is one of my all time favorites in the fragrance and beauty categories.  In the past, I tried to grow it in other gardens and locations, but with no success.  This front garden is the winning ecosystem for this particular plant, due to consistent moisture levels (especially in the Spring), the perfect amount of sun/shade, and I’m sure enhancing the soil with organic goat manure and mycorrhizal fungi had an encouraging effect on it’s willingness to thrive here.  I can’t wait to gather some of the flowers to make a tiny bouquet!  So fragrant!!

Viola spp.

Violets (Viola spp.) are just charming.  They do reseed like crazy in some gardens, but are easy to pull up if they get out of control.  Once you know how delicious and nutritious the leaves and flowers are, you’ll be glad to have an abundance of these lovely, yet durable, plants.  Just be ready to harvest the flowers and leaves when they bloom in early spring.  Add to all your spring salads!  I have yet to make violet syrup, but I’m sure I’ll get around to it next year.  I also have violets in the back yard, growing in full sun. They don’t look nearly as lush and beautiful as those in the moist and shady front garden.  Luckily for the ones in the back, the roses will soon be coming up to provide shade for them during the hotter summer months.

Veronica Waterperry Blue

Veronica Waterperry Blue is one of my favorite ground covers.  It’s so adaptable, and seems happy whether in full sun or partial shade.  I have it growing very successfully on south-facing rock walls in the back yard.  Having seen it growing in a number of different ecosystems, I knew it was adaptable, and added it last year to the partial-shade front garden.  I know it will be happy here, twining amongst the iris, geraniums and around the Penstemons, which will begin blooming in a month or so.  Such a charming flower!  This is another plant that I placed in one of the sunniest locations in this particular ecosystem.  While it will not receive full sun, it does receive a few hours of late afternoon sun, and lots of bright, indirect light, thus making this moist ecosystem more than acceptable for this lovely ground cover.

Origanum vulgare

Norton’s Gold Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is, well, an oregano.  It’s durable, pretty vigorous and aromatic.  I love this particular oregano because of it’s beautiful lime green foliage in spring and the adorable pink flower sprays that show up later in the summer.  Contrary to most oregano varieties, this one prefers partial shade.  I planted it on the east side of a rose bush so that it gets afternoon shade from the rose once summer sets in.  It’s a steadily growing ground cover that brightens up any shady part of the garden.  Does not demand constantly moist soil, but enjoys it, and is adaptable to a fairly wide variety of sun/moisture conditions, although I don’t recommend it in full sun.

Ligularia stenocephala

Ligularia is one of those plants that probably doesn’t truly belong in the western garden.  To me, it almost falls into the same category with Hostas and Azaleas which like to grow back east where it rains frequently.  However, I have seen it do well in a very moist Colorado garden, the flowers are spectacular and fragrant, and since I was determined to have it bloom in my garden, I planted it right next to the drain pipe in the shadiest part of this ecosystem.  The environment in my front garden, with it’s heavy layer of mulch and organic soil amendments (glacial rock dust, goat manure and mycorrhizal fungi) is going to be the best location for this rather obscure plant. Sources:  Glacial Rock DustMycoGrow.

Here is what it looks like in full bloom, so you can see why I wanted to find the most desirable location for it.  Honestly, I tried it in another location, but it remained small and barely bloomed.  Then I dug it up and grew it in a deep pot the following year.  That got me more flowers and a generally happier plant, but this variety can get enormous, so I want to give it every chance to be all it can be in my garden. Hopefully the location next to the drain pipe will be the perfect place.  Fingers crossed!  I may put a large potted plant next to it to supply even more moisture as the summer goes on – this plant really likes to be moist at all times.


Penstemon digitalis

A few Penstemons like partial shade and a consistent level of moisture.  One of those happens to be the Husker Red Penstemon, which has red-tinged foliage, and sends up a beautiful display of long-lasting white flowers.  This particular plant has been in this location for about 6 years.  It’s so happy and beautiful in this location that I recently added a second one.  This plant will bloom in a month or two, and is one of my very favorite Penstemons.  This particular plant had a much redder foliage when it was young, but has reverted to a mostly green color.  The flower stems are often tinged in red.  Beautiful!

Penstemon Husker Red in full bloom last summer

Penstemons that are NOT happy in moist, shady ecosystems are the tall native Rocky Mountain blue Penstemon strictus, the stately, beautiful pale pink Penstemon palmeri, the short evergreen red, orange or yellow Penstemon pinnifolius, and one of my favorites, Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Electric Blue.’  These varieties demand very well drained soil and full sun.  They will not thrive in moist or partial shade gardens – I know because I’ve tried.  If in doubt, google the name of the plant.  You can learn a lot from websites like highcountrygardens.com and heirloom roses.com.  There is also a lot to be learned from garden blogs and discussion groups, as these are folks who have been there, done that!  If all else fails. read the tag!

Geranium cantabrigiense

Geraniums, the true perennial geraniums, come in many shapes, sizes and colors.  It seems that the blue and magenta trailing ones most enjoy full sun and well drained ecosystems while the pastel pink, white, and the ones that grow more vertically (above) enjoy more shade and moisture.  They are all quite adaptable and vigorous and one of my favorite plants.  The above geranium is planted in the shadier part of my front garden, while another variety is planted in the very front by the sidewalk where it gets quite hot in the afternoon.  Both are perfectly happy and vigorous!  I had originally located this particular Geranium cantabrigiense in a south-facing well-drained garden, and it was not thriving.  Now it’s happy!  One of my hardier sun-loving geraniums is planted in a partial shade garden.  It reseeded into the neighbor’s gravel driveway, and is much happier there than in  my garden, even though it is still shaded for much of the day.  Go figure.

Gardening is somewhat of an ongoing experiment.  My strategy is to discover and learn about plants by reading, going to botanical gardens, visiting online gardening discussion groups and generally talking to people about their gardens.  Over time, you begin to recognize which plants thrive in the environments and ecosystems you have to offer.  There are amazing plants for every situation, even if growing plants in pots is your best option.  So garden on!  And always garden organically!




Recommended Reading:

Hartung, Tammi. Growing 101 Herbs That Heal: Gardening Techniques, Recipes, and Remedies. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2000. Print.

Hensel, Julius. Bread from Stones. A New and Rational System of Land Fertilization and Physical Regeneration. Philadelphia, PA: A.J. Tafel, 1894. Print.

“How Chemical Fertilizers Are Destroying Your Body, The Soil, and Your Food.” How Chemical Fertilizers Are Destroying Your Body, The Soil, and Your Food. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

Lisle, Harvey. The Enlivened Rock Powders. Metairie, LA: Acres U.S.A., 1994. Print.

Western Garden Book. Menlo Park, CA: Lane Pub., 1976. Print.

“Why We Don’t Sell Miracle-Gro – Organica: Garden Supply & Hydroponics.” Organica Garden Supply Hydroponics. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

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Creating an Early Springtime Perennial Garden

Tulips and hyacinths are lovely and wonderful signs of spring.  There are also many other beautiful and charming early-blooming perennials that can create a very intriguing sight while attracting bees to your garden at the same time.  If you are growing early-blooming berry plants, like Honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea) that require cross-pollination, it’s a good idea to become familiar with these early blooming flowers and make them available in your gardens as beautiful and enticing bee magnets.  Find honey berry bushes here.

Basket of Gold, a perennial alyssum, blooming in April.

Following are some of my favorite early blooming perennials that are not only beautiful and slightly unusual, but all will return and expand across your garden year after year, providing a source for bees to return to each Spring.  All are beautiful, some are edible and medicinal.

Pulsatilla is an amazing Spring perennial. It is a native wildflower here in Colorado, and this particular variety is blooming happily in my garden.  It can withstand frost and sudden drops in temperature, which are common in Colorado during the early Spring.  Pulsatilla blooms for weeks, especially if deadheaded in a timely fashion.  The beautiful ferny foliage looks delicate and fragile, but quite the opposite is true.

Pulsatilla in my garden in early April. 

Pulsatilla with dew droplets as the frost melts

I wondered if these flowers would revive after a cold snap.  They were bending down, covered in frost, which began to melt in the sunlight, and soon the flowers were standing and blooming as if nothing had ever happened.  Beautiful!

Pulsatilla in the wild.

Such a pleasure to discover Pulsatilla in the wild.   Used in tincture form for pain and relaxation, Pulsatilla was historically used in two-drop doses to treat asthmatic and other respiratory conditions.   A medicinal herb of olden days, employed for “nerve exhaustion” and recommended “for fair, blue-eyed women.”

Species tulips are smaller and daintier than their hybrid cousins, and are a little more enthusiastic about naturalizing.  They are considered “wild” or “botanical” tulips and can thrive in dry and difficult locations in the garden.  Love these adorable flowers!  You can find an assortment of species tulips here.

Species Tulips!

Violas of all kinds like to bloom early.  All of the flowers are considered edible and nutritious.  Here we see species tulips growing alongside Corsican Violets, which are pretty, yet somewhat unreliable as a perennial.  Corsican Violet is not nearly as prolific or delectable as the traditional blue woodland violet, which is a great addition to salads.

Species Tulips & Corsican Violets 

Woodland Violets in the garden

OK, Violets of the woodland type (Viola spp.) can be invasive, but in a good way.  The leaves and flowers of these lovely spring plants are very nourishing.  Euell Gibbons refers to them as “Nature’s Vitamin Pill.”  Add generously to salads, make violet syrup from the flowers, and enjoy!  One half cup of violet leaves yields more Vitamin C than four oranges, as well as Vitamin A.  The purple flowers do not produce seed, so pick as many as you like!  Seed comes along later in an unobtrusive, well-hidden second flowering.

Veronica & Iberis 

This adorable lavender Veronica (Veronica Waterperry Blue), growing here with Iberis, is a Zone 4 perennial, so has no problem blooming early in our Zone 5 south facing garden.  It loves to creep and twine amongst the rocks and other plants.  Keeps the weeds down, too, once it gets established.  One of my all time favorite perennial ground covers.

Each tiny flower is exquisite!  Quite hardy and will grow in a variety of soil types, from sandy to rich garden soil.  Even in dry areas with partial shade, it will establish and provide early spring color to accompany tulips, violets, daffodils, and other early spring flowers.   Shear back after blooming (which lasts for weeks) to get a re-bloom later in the season.

Closeup of the lovely Veronica Waterperry Blue.

Catmint just getting started. Bees love these flowers!

Catmint (Nepeta cataria) is a major bee flower, blooming early and continuing to repeat until Fall if given a haircut after the first, second and third blooms.  It’s a vigorous plant, so feel free to cut it back.  It really wants to reseed, and will definitely do so!  If you don’t want it all over the place, just dig up the tiny plants as they come up in early spring.  I grow this beautiful blue-flowering bee plant along the front of my hottest and driest garden where it reseeded between the garden and the sidewalk.  Guess what – no weeds!!  If an occasional bindweed shows up, it’s easy to pull.  The stunning blue color of Catmint is beautiful in combination with all of the later perennials, as well as with those early spring blossoms.  Grow it in a pot as a lovely ornamental!  Medicinal properties: antibiotic and sedating.  Make a tea from the flowering tops.  Not really good for cats.

Close up of the humble, delicious chickweed

The humble chickweed (Stellaria media), while not highly ornamental, is blooming in our cold frame and in the vegetable garden, and has been for a few weeks now.  It produces delicious and nourishing greens almost year round, but early Spring is when it grows and blooms profusely and seems to be the most delectable.  We add it to salads, juice it with carrots, lemons and apples, and may also be adding it to steamed greens, just to keep up with it.  High in Vitamin C, it cooks very quickly, so add it during the last 2 minutes of cooking time to other more durable greens. Save the cooking water and drink it down!  Euell Gibbons says “..could restore health to millions of malnourished people all over the world if they would only use it.”   Birds and chickens love this delicious plant, thus the common name.

I’m planning to locate most, if not all, of these plants around or near my honey berry bushes, which started blooming here in Zone 5 at the end of March and are just now finishing their flowering cycle.  These bushes are still in pots and quite small, so I’m not too concerned about whether they got pollinated or not this season, but next year I will definitely want some bees to visit these shrubs.

Enjoy your Spring gardens!  Organic gardens are good for you, for our pollinators, and for the earth.




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Infused Honeys and Elixirs – Potent and Delicious!

Infused Honeys and Elixirs make delicious and potent herbal preparations.  I was skeptical about all this, but after spending last summer experimenting with honey and honey/alcohol blends as the infusing medium, I am all about making more of these wonderful and delicious herbal remedies.  What a joy to take medicinal herbs in such a pleasing form.  And so effective!

Fresh herbs far outshine dried herbs in both taste and potency.  You will feel the effects of a well-made herbal honey or elixir, even if it is incredibly delicious.

Common herbs that infuse well with honey are: chamomile, lemon balm, lemon verbena, rose petals, rose hips,  violets, valerian flowers, mullein flowers, mints, sages, thyme, oregano, echinacea, yerba mansa, lavender, and holy basil to name a few.    I also infuse garlic in honey – mostly for my little dog, who eats it right off the spoon.  Gives her a noticeable energy boost!   Use garlic intermittently with dogs – 5 days on, 2 days off when treating for any type of infection, and then several times a week when your dog is feeling good, just for good measure.  This garlic honey is delicious as an ingredient in salad dressing.

Most of these herbs are very easy to grow.

When making an infused honey, fill a jar about 2/3 of the way with the herbs/flowers and cover completely with honey.  Even fresh herbs can expand during the infusion process, so leave about 1 inch of space above the herbs.  If the flowers or herbs float, that’s ok.  If they get a good coating of honey to begin with, and you turn or shake the jar every day or so, your infusion should progress with no spoilage or problems.  Remember to label your honey with the herbs and the date, and then let the tightly closed jar sit in the sun for 5-10 days, preferably in a location where you will see them on a daily basis, like on the garden fence.   Decant immediately when smelling and tasting deems they are finished, straining and pressing the honey from the herbs through a strainer while the honey is still warm from the sun.  Some herbalists leave the herbs in the honey and consume it like floral or herbal jam.  Herbal honey is great for children and also for dogs, who often don’t like the taste of alcohol.  Instead of a sun infusion, you can also do a warm water bath infusion in a crockpot or yogurt maker.  Ideally, the temperature should never go above 114 degrees to preserve the enzymes in the honey.

An elixir consists of fresh flowers or leaves infused in a solution of 1/2 brandy and 1/2 honey (or 1/3 honey, 2/3 alcohol).  You can also use Everclear, Vodka, or Rum.   Because you are using alcohol, you do not have to apply heat at all, but, again, you do need to completely cover the herbs with the solution you are using.  I usually premix the honey and alcohol in a separate container and then pour over the herbs.  Let sit in a dark cabinet for 10-14 days for delicate flowers, 14-28 days for tougher leaves or stems.  Chop larger leaves, stems and flowers into fairly small pieces to expose as much of the plant material to the honey or honey/alcohol mixture as possible.

St. John’s Wort is a potent anti-viral herb.

Lemon Balm is highly anti-viral, so an infused honey or an elixir is a valuable medicine to keep on hand.  Lemon Balm is a pleasantly vigorous plant.  If grown in the garden, allow some space for it to spread out from year to year.  I’m sure it would grow well in a large pot.  It’s a very relaxing herb, so is especially good to take at night.  Delicious in either honey or elixir form.  An infused oil of lemon balm with some St. John’s Wort tincture added makes an amazing lip balm for those who want to prevent or treat cold sores.  Or add some St. John’s Wort tincture to any anti-viral elixir to boost it’s efficacy.  Really works!  Cautionary note: St. John’s Wort should not be combined with any prescription drugs.

 Elderberry syrup or elixir is delicious and potent – always good to have on hand for viral infections.  If taken at the first sign of a sore throat, it can knock a virus right out of commission.  I have always used dried elderberries to make a syrup, which includes soaking the berries in water overnight, cooking for a few hours, then straining, cooling and adding honey (or sugar, or glycerine).  Tastes amazing, and can be used as a preventative all season long.  Add 15% alcohol to make the honey into an elixir and extend shelf life.

For children over the age of 2, using honey as the extraction solution is a wonderful and safe way to administer medicinal herbs.  For the flu season, I chop up a variety of herbs and flowers and infuse all of them together in a quart jar.  Favorite herbs to use for this purpose are: echinacea flowers, leaves and stems, elecampane root, yerba mansa leaf and root, thyme and oregano leaves, bee balm flowers and leaves, ginger root, and a little cayenne pepper.  This honey isn’t delicious in the same way as the infusions of rose, lemon verbena, lemon balm or chocolate mint, but has it’s own culinary qualities and is incredibly effective and healing for those flu like illnesses that are bacterial.  Addresses pretty much all the symptoms of any cold or flu – sore throat, coughing and general malaise.  Strengthens the immune system.

Echinacea Tenneseensis So charming!
Grows vigorously here in Colorado.


By the way, Cannabis is not the only plant that contains cannabinoids.  Echinacea stems have a very high cannabinoid content, which could explain why Echinacea is such a powerful healing agent.  The medicinal properties of the endangered Echinacea tennesseensis become very apparent as you harvest the leaf, stem and flowers, as the entire plant emits a potent and earthy medicinal fragrance.




Rosa rugosa

Rose petals infused in honey are incredibly delicious,  balancing to hormones, and excellent used externally for burns, abrasions and other inflammations.  Rose infused honey is also very beneficial for complexion care – as a cleanser and a facial.  Even though I made a couple quarts of rose-infused honey last summer, I started using it in my twig tea every morning, in a couple of natural cosmetic formulations, and also used it as a facial once a week, so I ran out.  Will hope to make more this coming season.

Other favorites:

Chamomile honey for sleep, calming, and digestive support.  This is great for children and dogs.  Also excellent as a facial cleanser.  Add alcohol and other flowers, such as Valerian, Rose and Mullein to make a very calming, relaxing elixir.


Chocolate mint elixir – so amazingly healing for digestive complaints, and incredibly delicious.  This is one remedy I will never be without.  Super easy to grow in a pot.  In the garden, it’s good to give mints their own space, as they do spread by root runner.  This particular mint is so delicious and helpful, I give it a space outside my more organized garden, and often grow it in a pot as well.


Roses, Prunella and Lemon Verbena

Lemon Verbena elixir has an amazing flavor.  This plant has an affinity for the mouth and throat, so this elixir or honey comes in handy for inflamed gums or a sore throat.  Lemon Verbena is one of my all time favorite plants.  I grew it for years just for the intoxicating fragrance, and would often stuff pillows with the dried leaves, as it retains it’s fragrance for years.  Now I know it’s flavor matches it’s fragrance!  A delicious addition to any tea blend.  I grow at least four of these plants every summer.  They like full sun and evenly moist, rich soil.  Each plant will grow  4-5′ tall, and 3′ wide, so give it room.  You will have to find it at a nursery in early summer.  You can grow it in a large pot, but it gets much larger in the garden.

Of course, none of this would be possible without bees.

Please be sure your yard and gardens are all organic.  If you live in a city where pesticides and herbicides are used in public spaces, call or write to your city council and ask them to stop the madness!  Go to town hall meetings, start a petition or write a letter to your local newspaper.  In my town, at least two apiaries lost 80% of their bees last year.  This simply cannot continue, or we will all become extinct.

I will be sending this t-shirt as a “gift” to Longmont City Council
along with a letter voicing my opinions about bee safety.


I’ve been to city council meetings, emailed and written letters to city council and the local paper, and have sent out extensive info to all of my social media contacts.  Finally, I resorted to designing this t-shirt which will be sent to Longmont City Council with a letter and other info.  On the back it says, “Why not larvicide?  Safe for gardens, bees and other pollinators.”  I hope they get the message.  Before it’s too late.





Blessings to you, your gardens,
and all of our beloved pollinators,


Find images for pollinator houses here.



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Herbs for Canine Digestive Support

Adding specific herbs to your dog’s daily food intake can support the digestive tract and resolve imbalances quite efficiently. Be consistent and give the formulation a good 10 – 14 day trial.  You should notice improvement during that time.

Lily loves her greens, and it shows!

Herbs and nutritional supplements have a much more rapid and noticeable effect when served with a digestible, species-appropriate whole food diet of meat, greens and vegetables.  The burden created by feeding heat-processed dry or canned food will definitely slow your dog’s ability to heal, recover, rebuild and thrive.

First, the nutritive greens

These Corgis maintain ideal body weight with
whole foods and greens! Cuties!

Start with some basic green powders.  I’m using Barley Grass, Wheat Grass, Spirulina, and Nettle. This green blend makes up about 50% of the entire  formulation (by weight). Greens are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  Chlorophyll is an excellent blood builder.  All nutrients support organ function along with the amazing chemical reactions that occur in the body to allow detoxification and repair.

To the greens, I add a combination of herbs that are highly nutritive, and that support digestive as well as other organ systems.

The next five ingredients compose approximately 30% of the formula.

Beet Root for Liver Support

Beet Root is liver supportive, nutritive, and offers much in the way of cellular protection. Considered to be anti-cancer due to it’s ability to lower homocysteine levels, beet root is high in potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; and folic acid.

Calendula – Gently Healing

Calendula is easy to grow in full sun.
Throw some seeds in your garden!


Calendula is often used topically to treat skin irritations. It has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, astringent, antifungal, antiviral, and immunostimulant properties. I often add a large pinch of Calendula petals to blends for dogs with impaired digestion. For dogs with a history of bacterial infections, it’s a very gentle and effective herb that supports a cleaner digestive tract.



Rose Hips – Highly Nutritive & Toning

Rose Hips are incredibly high in Vitamin C, and rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, Niacin, Bioflavanoids, K, and E as well as Selenium and pectin. Rose hips help balance the friendly bacteria in the gut, and tone the intestinal tract. I include rose hip powder in my dog’s formula pretty consistently. A single cup of rose hips contains more Vitamin C than several dozen oranges, according to Euell Gibbons.

Last summer, I harvested rose hips from my garden for the first time, and made some rose hip jam using the recipe from Euell Gibbons’ book, Stalking the Healthful Herbs. It’s an awesome recipe that uses raw rose hips, so you get to experience the full flavor and nutritional benefit. Rose hip jam is incredibly delicious – pure joy. Species roses are very robust and hearty growers, so grow some roses and harvest the rose hips!  Cleaning the rose hips (removing seeds and pith) is a little labor intensive, but worth every moment. And think of how deliciously well nourished you will be!  I’m adding this to my personal gut-healing smoothie formula.  Recipe on next week’s blog!

 Slippery Elm Strengthens & Protects Digestive Organs

Slippery Elm is demulcent, nutritive, and highly beneficial to the digestive system, and is considered one of the most valuable remedies in herbal practice. The mucilage strengthens the digestive organs and provides healing protection for the intestinal lining. Excellent for any irritations of stomach or intestines. Slippery elm also has strong a strong affinity for the respiratory system, as well,and is often used in formulas for bronchitis and pleurisy.

Slippery Elm can also be used as a poultice for wounds, boils, burns – any inflammation. This is a good herb to learn about and keep on hand, if only for this particular use.  And really, when you think about it, almost everyone could use digestive healing and support, so figure out some ways to add this herb to your food!  It’s one of the ingredients in a new gut healing smoothie recipe that I have recently formulated for people.  That recipe and a few other delicious healing food recipes will appear in my next blog.

Elecampane Root – Richest Source of Inulin

The root of Elecampane, or Inula helenium, is the very richest source of inulin, a constituent that provides food for friendly bacteria in the gut. Elecampane root is considered an alterative, increasing the body’s ability to eliminate while simultaneously increasing the absorption of nutrients. It is also antiseptic and toning to the entire digestive tract, and has dramatically helped my little dog with her anal gland issues. Pliny suggested  “Let no day pass without eating some of the roots to help digestion, and to expel melancholy.””

Elecampane is  very well known for treating respiratory imbalances and can be taken as a preventative for those who have a tendency to get bronchitis. It’s a very aromatic herb, very warming to the lungs. Clears congestion.

Such a vital and beautiful plant.

I’ve been growing this herb for a couple years, and I will never be without it in my gardens. I love everything about it. Quite ornamental and very high energy. The aroma of the freshly dug roots is intoxicating.

Organic Coconut, Nutritional Yeast and Lecithin Granules

The last three ingredients in this digestive support formula are Organic grated Coconut, Nutritional Yeast and Lecithin granules. These make up the last 20% by weight of the digestive support formula. Coconut provides fiber, good fat, is naturally antibiotic and can be super helpful for dogs with anal gland issues.  Nutritional yeast provides all of the B vitamins and some amazing good energy!  Lecithin helps the body process fats of all kinds and contributes to a healthy coat.

So there you have it.  By using just a few of the many digestive herbs in combination with nutritive greens and a few other ingredients, we can offer some serious digestive support to our four legged friends.

My basic green formula for dogs is available here.  You can order any of the above herbs at the Mountain Rose Herbs link below.





Recommended Reading

Gibbons, Euell. Stalking the Healthful Herbs. New York: D. McKay, 1966. Print.

Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 Teas, Tonics, Oils, Salves, Tinctures, and Other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., 2008. Print.

Green, James. The Herbal Medicine-makers’ Handbook: A Home Manual. Freedom, CA: Crossing, 2000. Print.

Hartung, Tammi. Growing 101 Herbs That Heal: Gardening Techniques, Recipes, and Remedies. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2000. Print.

“Hedgerow To Kitchen.” The Herb Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2014

“Herbal Honeys & Pastes for Blood Building, Burn Dressings & More.” The Medicine Womans Roots. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2014.

Kidd, Randy. Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Dog Care. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2000. Print.

“The Medicine Woman’s Roots.” The Medicine Womans Roots. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2014.

Pedersen, Mark. Nutritional Herbology: A Reference Guide to Herbs. Warsaw, IN: Wendell W. Whitman, 1998. Print.

Shababy, Doreen. The Wild & Weedy Apothecary: An A to Z Book of Herbal Concoctions, Recipes & Remedies Practical Know-how and Food for the Soul. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2010. Print.

“Sweet Medicine: Healing with the Wild Heart of Rose.” The Medicine Womans Roots. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2015.

Tilford, Gregory L., Mary Wulff-Tilford, and Mary Wulff-Tilford. Herbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet’s Life. Laguna Hills, CA: BowTie, 2009. Print.

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c

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