Simple Summer Joys


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Rosa Rugosa petals


Trying to keep up with all the medicinal herbs we grow has proven to be a daily challenge, and they are still ahead of me, so far.


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Rosa Rugosa


Rosa Rugosa is a spectacular rambling rose that will take over a corner of your garden in just one season. The scent is everything a rose should be. It blooms heavily every late spring or early summer, every day for several weeks, then slows down to just the occasional, odd bloom for a little while longer. Gather the flower heads only, do not cut them. The petals dry quickly in baskets, and infused in honey, offer burn or wound care. I add them to teas, potpourri’s, or infuse them in oils used in creams or lotions. In the fall you’ll be rewarded with plump rose hips. I gathered a half gallon of (dried) petals this season!

We grow Lavender, Calendula, Echinacea, Elder, Rosa Rugosa, Oregon Grape, Yarrow, Hawthorn, Holy Basil, White Sage, Mint, Anise Hyssop, Hops, Oregano, Horehound, Arnica, and Elecampane, currently.

Our veggie garden includes Roja Garlic, Poblano, JalapeƱo and Cayenne peppers, Roma tomatoes, slicing Tomatoes, Collards, Green Beans, Green onions, Cilantro, Genovese Basil and Rainbow carrots.

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Tom built two raised beds for me this year, for strawberries and culinary herbs. Weeding them, and keeping up with them is so easy, compared to ground level. I’m not sure why we didn’t build them years ago. I highly recommend them.


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Grosso Lavender along the driveway


We lost four mature Grosso Lavender plants over the winter. We began the layering process to clone new Lavender plants last year, as we knew several of the mature plants were reaching the end of their growing life. They were at least eight years old, and they generally start deteriorating after about 5 years. We currently have eight large Grosso plants and five-gallon sized plants. That is plenty for all my Lavender projects including distillation, with extra to share.

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I love to weave Lavender wands. The first one is a little tricky, but once you get the hang of it, they are addictive. I grow Grosso Lavender because it has the longest stems, and the flowers stay on the stems better than some varieties. The first step is to cut stems as long as possible and trim them to roughly equal length.

Wands require an odd number of stems. I have tried thirteen and fifteen, but my favorite wands are those made with seventeen stems of Lavender. The photo below is the start of a thirteen stem wand.  It is easier to work with fewer stems when you are just learning.

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Tie a 30 -36″ ribbon tightly just below the flowers, leaving one long tail and one very short. Invert the cluster of stems so the stems are on top, forming a sort of umbrella cage around the flowers. The short end of the ribbon will tuck into the cage of stems and disappear. Weave the ribbon over and under the stems. After you finish a round, use a toothpick to push the woven ribbon as high as it will go. Then weave another round. The tension on the ribbon determines the shape of your wand, so I begin by snugging the ribbon tightly while weaving the top, weave more loosely around the middle, and pull snugly again towards the bottom. There are many great detailed tutorials on the web if you want to try to make one.

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Lavender wands were a popular Victorian herbal craft, and they make unique hostess gifts. I like to hang them in closets, tuck them into lingerie drawers, or put them in a bud vase. The scent of the flowers will last at least a year, and can be refreshed with a drop or two of essential oil if desired.

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Echinacea Purpurea is just plain beautiful, and the entire plant is used medicinally.


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Echinacea purpurea


To dry Echinacea, first pull off the petals. Use kitchen shears to cut the seed head into several pieces while it is still soft and fresh. Split the stems lengthwise with a sharp knife or razor blade, then snip into small pieces with scissors.

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Calendula is another herbal staple. The flowers reseed themselves every spring, so I always end up with too many plants no matter how many I give away. The flowers are abundant, resinous, and need cutting every other day. They are wonderful for wound care, skin care, in salves, soaps, creams and lotions, in teas and tinctures.


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Orange Calendula


I dry Calendula flower heads on baskets. They darken to a deep, rust orange when fully dried. Use the entire flower head for remedies, rather than just the petals. Most of the healing resin is inside.

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The memories of gathering herbs under a sweltering sun warms me on cold, gray winter days as I add them into remedies. The penetrating heat of the sun is drawn straight into the medicines I make.  Visualization, emotions, and memory are vital, magical elements in herbal healing.

What are your favorite herbs? Happy summer!