Category Archives: Uncategorized

For the Love of Coneflower

This post is prompted by a recent comment at a workshop I gave. An attendee came up and thanked me for a remark I made during the session that the medicinal part of Echinacea is the root (dig the root, kill the plant!) and I that I would rather enjoy the flowers in my garden for all their other qualities, so I purchase Echinacea capsules to use as medicine. She said she always wondered how people grew Echinacea in their garden, yet still used it as medicine.  She was confused what part of the plant to use.

img_2686.jpgConeflower is one of the common names for Echinacea. There are some species that are more familiar to gardeners than others, so let’s take a minute to get to know more about this herb. It is multi-faceted in history, medicinal qualities and garden use.
Native Plant and Medicine
Maybe you know this plant by its familiar drooping pink petals held tight by a cone in the center. There are 9 species native to prairies and meadows of central to southeastern United States. Native Americans revered it as a strong and valuable medicine. The roots were chewed, macerated and made into tea for use as an immune system boost to heal infection, insect and snake bites, fevers, burns and other conditions that weaken the body. It has been studied widely and found to be a respected non-specific immune system stimulant. The best form of the plant to use as medicine is the root, because that is where its healing properties are most concentrated. E. purpurea has been studied the most and is the easiest to cultivate. Other species widely studied and used as medicine include E. angustifolia, E. pallida, and the endangered E. tennesseensis. Grow your own medicine, seeds for some of these rare beauties can be found here: www.rareseeds.com

Meadow MakersIMG_0766edit name
Design a meadow! The careful choice of plants that mingle and not dominate one another is the key to success. The plants must have the same cultural needs and ideally minimal care and watering so they do not have to be overly maintained and trampled through. Visual excitement is carried through the season by plant choices. Add elements for all seasons and flowering succession. Design coneflowers into meadow gardens with other family members of the Asteraceae [formerly Compositae] plant families, like Shasta daisies, Asters and black-eyed Susan for visual ribbons of blooming color through the summer.

Meadow design made simple:
Here is an easy design method to add color, repetition, and texture and create your own paint by number meadow.
-Decide on one or two groupings of three perennial varieties, add an ornamental grass variety to the mix. All the plants need to have the same cultural requirement for sun or shade and watering.
-Draw a series of triangles on a piece of paper. Place symbols for each plant in a group per triangle.
– Alternate the two groupings (or just one) and repeat the same pattern. Mix the placement of plants within each triangle to give a less structured appearance. The pattern can be repeated  as needed to fill in a space.

echinasedumlavenderminame editExamples:
a perennial mix of three:
Echinacea ‘Ruby Star’, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and Lavender ‘Twickel Purple’ (pictured)CCI09032017

or add an ornamental grass to the mix: Echinacea p. ‘Magnus’, Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’, Liatris ‘Kobold’ and Blue Oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens)

Fabulous Summer Bloomers
Echinacea purpurea cultivars are a nice garden perennial for many reasons. They are drought tolerant, deer resistant and withstand poor soil. Here are some favorite performers in the garden. Magnus, Kim’s Knee High, White Swan, Ruby Star, Lilliput and Fragrant Angel. Lately, Echinacea’s have become perennial plant breeder’s darlings, and there are many new introductions in garden centers. The plant breeding has produced varieties that have deep, rich color mixes and flat sprays of petals that don’t droop. I will be honest and say that I am not a fan of the newer varieties on the market because I find they not the tough performers that some of the tried and true varieties are. But, if you are intrigued by the latest introductions, here are a few I would take a second look at. ‘Mama Mia’, Merlot, Sunbird and Fatal attraction.

BUtterflyGbutterflyechinaceaname edit.jpgBirds, Bees and Butterflies
Coneflowers cause a stir with insect and birds in the garden. The flowers are nectar to butterflies and bees. On a hot summer day, you will find the flowers waving as butterflies’ flutter over them and on cool mornings you will find bees slow and lingering on the cones as if they have camped there overnight. I love to leave the cones on the plants after the petals have faded. The birds, especially finches, will  pick at the seed heads over the fall and winter.

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Don’t Deadhead! Let the birds enjoy picking the seeds and use for fall flower arrangements.

Cutting Garden Flower
The strong sturdy stemmed varieties with large flat rays make long-lasting flowers for fresh-cut bouquets. The center cones left behind after the petals dry are nice texture in fall arrangements. Varieties to grow for cutting gardens: Mama Mia, Merlot, Ruby Giant,

For further Echinacea exploration:

Plant Varieties: https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/purple-coneflower-echinacea-purpurea-plant

http://www.terranovanurseries.com/gardeners/echinacea-c-82_22.html

Medicine: http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/Echinacea


The Summer of Salvia

Get to know Salvia!
Salvia is a genus of plants related to the mint family (Lamiaceae). This huge plant family can be confusing because some of the relatives simply don’t look (or act)  like the others. Salvia varieties can be found as perennials, biennials and annuals. The heat of summer brings most Salvia’s into prime beauty in the garden and now is the time to get to know more about them.

This is sage
Most think of sage (Salvia) as the common herb that flavors turkey dressing for Thanksgiving dinner. As you discover this large family of plants, you will notice that there is much diversity. Culinary, medicinal, cosmetic, aromatic and useful in landscape design. Not all are edible, some are intensely fragrant, one is mind-altering when smoked, and some are just simply floriferous and nothing more.

Get to know some of the Salvia family:
Salvia officinalis: Commonly called garden sage; these are the ones you cook with and have the most desired qualities for skin care and remedies. They are shrubby, woody perennials that are hardy, drought tolerant and deer resistant.

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Lovely texture and color of Tricolor Sage

The leaf color and texture of golden sage (S. officinalis ‘Aurea’), purple sage (S. officinalis ‘Purpurea’) and Berggarten sage (S. officinalis ‘Berggarten’) also make them an attractive addition to a herb garden and landscape.

Sage is the herb of wisdom. Ancient herbalists praised it for improving brain function, and for memory and dementia. The Romans had a saying, “Cur morietur homo, cui salvia crescuit in horto?” (How can a man die who has sage growing in his garden?)  Historical usage has even made sage a synonym for the word “wise”.

The leaves are used fresh and dried. They impart a rich, earthy fragrance when the essential oils release from the plant. Highly astringent a topical wash for cleaning up oily, dirty skin. Sage is a strong disinfectant that when infused into water are a good addition to spray mists with lavender and mints. A hair rinse made with sage water or a leaf poultice will darken hair color and make hair smooth and shiny.


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Wisdom Toner and Aftershave
For this toner and aftershave, combine common garden sage with English lavender buds and allow to steep in natural witch hazel.
The witch hazel lends its cleansing and pore tightening properties to the skin renewing herbal mix. The recipe can be found on page 125 of the Herb Lover’s Spa book!


Red Sage: (Salvia miltiorrhiza) is one of the most reputable medicinally used sages. The root is used as an important tonic herb in Chinese medicine (Dan Shen). The roots are valued as a blood purifier and nerve calmative.

Sacred Sage (Salvia apiana) : A beautiful silvery, narrow-leaved sage that has a long history of use as food and medicine for native American tribes along the Pacific coast. Prized for use in smudge sticks for purification and religious ceremonies.

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Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) A annual in most climates this large sage is most noted for its brilliant red flowers that are a hummingbird magnet in the late summer. The golden variety (Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious’) will add striking foliage texture to the garden. The leaves have a fresh pineapple fragrance and can be used as a garnish or salads. Use the leaves in tea (the leaves lose their flavor when subjected to high heat, so they are best for sun tea mixes)

Salvia divinorum: I got to know more about this sage when kids in high school asked my daughter if her mom, the plant nerd, could hook them up with some Salvia. https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/salvia.   Have you seen the “Gardening on Salvia” video? (Warning if you google the YouTube version, it has been hacked up with some nasty comments, the link is a cleaner version) The “Driving on Salvia” makes me LOL when the cat jumps on the windshield…but I digress.

Perennial and other floriferous Salvias
These are cultivars for long blooming color in the garden.
Popular Purples:
Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’
Salvia nemorosa ‘East Friesland’
Salvia x sylvestris ‘May Night’
Autumn sages (Salvia greggii):

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Purple Salvia mixed with Leonotis leonurus

Tender perennials typically only hardy to USDA Zone 7. These will bloom early summer to late fall. Look for the varieties ‘Lipstick’, ‘Furman’s Red’ and Desert Blaze Texas sage (Salvia greggii ‘Variegata’)
Other cool cultivars:
Hot Lips (Salvia microphylla)
Black and Blue (Salvia guaranitica)
There are many more! Explore more here: https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/perennial-salvia-plants
http://www.fbts.com/everything-salvias/

Annuals
Salvia ‘Amistad’: deep purple flowers that are almost black in the bud stage.
Salvia ‘Blue Victoria’, ‘Dwarf Purple’ and ‘Dwarf Red’ are common annuals used for long-standing color in container gardens and annual bedding.

 

 


Seasonings from the Garden

No68AIMG_0663cPerk up salads, make your own meat rubs and sweeten up your Iced tea with herbs from your garden. These recipes from my seminar at the 2017 Northwest Flower & Garden Show are perfect to make now while there is an abundance of herbs in the garden to harvest and preserve.

seasonings gardenHerbed Lime Rub
This is one of my favorites. I love a kick of lemon and lime on many things and this has just enough zip to it that it can be used as an all-purpose sprinkle on salads. Use as a dry rub to flavor meat as you are prepping them for the grill. Just the right zest for chicken and salmon.
1/3 cup Sea salt (coarse, grind)
1 teaspoon lime zest (add more to taste)
1 teaspoon dried Garlic granules
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian flat leaf parsley
Mix all ingredients well. Keep the blend chunky for meat rubs. You can grind this blend down (in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle) to a finer mix for use as a seasoning salt.

Rosemary Smoked Salt
Aromatic salts make this the perfect mix for beef and heavy sauces using tomatoes. Nice strong herbal mix for use to season meats while grilling.
1 cup coarse smoked salt
1/4 cup dried rosemary leaves (whole)
1 tablespoon dried garlic granules
Mix all ingredients together. Crushed the mix slightly with a mortar and pestle to release the essence of the rosemary and garlic into the mix. Store in a glass spice shaker.

Lavender sel et poivre (salt and pepper)
An elegant salad seasoning. This lighter tasting mix can be used on chicken and pork to season.
1 tablespoon dried lavender buds
3 tablespoons coarse French grey sea salt
Ground peppercorns to taste (approximately a 1/2 teaspoon).
Mix all ingredients together. Grind down if you want the mix to be finer and able to sprinkle through a shaker top. Store in a glass spice shaker.

For your Sweet Tooth

Rose-Lavender-Lemon Sugar
Perfect for iced tea to add sweetness and flavor. Use in baking and to dust the tops of warm sugar cookies fresh from the oven.
1/2 cup coarse raw sugar
2 tablespoons dried rose petals
1 tablespoon dried lavender buds
1 tablespoon lemon powder
Grind all ingredients in a coffee bean grinder to mix well and create a fine textured blend. Store in a glass jar.

Mint Sugar
Use to sweeten tea or rim a cocktail glass
Mint sugar: Ratio: ground 1/3 dried mint leaves, 2/3 coarse grind sugar. Blend ingredients together in a coffee bean grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Store in a glass jar.

herb seasoning bundle editCreate your own Signature Blends
Store these dried herb mixes in tiny tins and label. Easy savory seasonings from the garden, perfectly gift-able too!

Tie small bundles of herbs together and allow them to dry. Once they are dry strip the leaves from the stems, mix in something that tingles the taste buds like salt, pepper or a citrus zest. Slightly crush together so that the essential oils from the herbs blend together in the mix.
Package the mix in small metal tins and label.

For chicken: Herbs-Lemon thyme and French tarragon. Add dried lime peel.
Pork: Sage, rosemary and French thyme. Add cracked black pepper
Beef: Oregano and Basil. Add dried garlic granules.
Seafood: Dried bronze fennel and lemon verbena. Add dried lemon peel.

Resource for bulk smoked and sea salts, peppercorns, garlic granules and jars www.mountainroseherbs.com 

Tins, bottles and packaging www.specialtybottle.com

 

 

 

 


Cool Remedies from the Garden

IMG_2854 editCool Down with these simple remedies from the garden.

Lavender Cooling Mist
This is a simple recipe using lavender flowers. Infuse the flowers in water to release all their essential oil and goodness. Add a few drops of essential oil and place the mix in a spray bottle. The light water mist touches the skin and begins to cool off the surface while the lavender essence heals and soothes. Studies show that lavender is not only calming to your mind but helps to cool down skin temperature and lower blood pressure.
Recipe:
Bring 4 ounces of purified water to boil. Remove from heat and add a generous ½ cup measure of organically grown lavender flowers to the water. Allow to cool. Pour the water through a cheesecloth to remove all the flowers. Pour lavender water into a sterilized glass mister bottle. Add 5 to 10 drops of lavender essential oil and shake well.
Shake well before each use.
• Mist on sunburned or irritated skin to bring relief and promote healing. For added benefit, refrigerate and use the mist chilled for fast cooling relief.
• Cool down bed sheets by spraying the mist onto linens to refresh them just before retiring for the night.

Super Skin Healer, Aloe Vera
Aloe vera, treated as a houseplant in most climates this relative of the Cacti family is a magical healer for skin. The clear gel inside the blades soothes and heal irritated skin.
Fresh and easy use:
Slice the Aloe Vera leaf and scrape out the clear gel. Apply to skin.No69aloesap

Cucumber Poultice
Excerpt from page 144 of The Herb Lover’s Spa Book.
The common vegetable cucumber is a super skin healer. Combined with Aloe vera it becomes an amazing treatment. Use on sunburned and irritated skin to bring cooling relief.
1 fresh Aloe vera leaf
1 cucumber, organically grown
Peel skin off cucumber, split lengthwise and remove seeds. Crush or blend until it becomes become thick and pulpy. Split the leaf of an Aloe vera and scrape the clear sap out with a spoon. Add the sap to the cucumber mush. Apply to skin and allow to remain for up to 15 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. This be used repeatedly until burning and irritation subsides.


Crochet Spa Cloths

The Herb Lover's Garden

herbloverswashcloths

Quick and easy crochet . Make them with 100% cotton yarn for a soft touch. The stitch is nice and nubby for a gentle scrub on skin. Whip up a bunch for gifting, wrap them up with a copy of the book and one of the recipes like easy herbal soap.    Crochet instructions for the spa cloth are on page 131 of The Herb Lover’s Spa Book.

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Seed Collecting

The Herb Lover's Garden

Seeds are the life givers in the garden. They carry on tradition of food, flavors and flowers from many generations past. Stories are told through the years about seeds tucked in a saddlebag on a long journey or cherished heirlooms from Europe carried for hundreds of miles to be planted in a new homestead. I have decided if I ever cease to be mesmerized by the simple act of planting a tiny seed that turns into bushels of food, I should stop gardening.

signpoppyseason Poppies, from seed to flower to seed…

Collecting seeds is not magic; it’s an easy ritual as old as civilization.  Begin by learning more about the plants you want to collect seed from. You need to know its life cycle (annual, biennial or perennial) and how long it takes the plant to grow from seed in the ground to when it produces seed again. Plants that grow from…

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Travelogue: Chelsea Physic Garden

IMG_3352 ifirst herbal book sign.jpg In the 1600’s, the engaging study of botany and plants, really depended on only 3 sources: herbals (such as Gerard’s), collections of plants (pressed, dried, glued to sheets of paper and labelled), and excursions to countries where teachers were learning from living plants. The challenge-some plants were being studied by looking at dead plants glued to a page. It just wasn’t the same as learning by growing a living plant, nor very diverse. So a group called the Apothecaries set out to find land in London just after the great fire, where they could cultivate rare plants and sow seeds and slips from plants that were being brought in from other countries.
And so begins the garden intended for study and the advancement of botany and not just a garden to grow plants used for drugs. The reputation of a garden for medicine is steeped in history. Because truly medicine men and healers became the only teachers of botany. Early descriptions of plants were written by them. Even digging deeper into history, a wonderful old book I bought at a bookshop at Hay-On-Wye, The Romance of the Apothecaries Garden at Chelsea (1928) states:  Primitive man crawled out of his cave and had to “discover that the roots and leaves of wild cabbage were wholesome, but that the plant monkshood nearby would stop his breath” …and so the cave man became, of necessity a field botanist–a better one than many a modern Londoner.”img_8824-bookjpg
Today, a walk through this 4-acre plot that is surrounded by  brick walls and iron gates to keep out the hustle and bustle of  London is still following its original intent. A place to study, learn and experience useful plants. For me, it was truly a reminder that seeing a plant, touching and smelling it are the best ways to learn about plants.img_3353chelsea

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A bust of Joseph Banks, the plant hunter who donated stone for use in the building of  the Pond Rockery Garden

bee-forage

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Sign, sign, everywhere a sign!

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In case you are tempted to pinch a plant to take a cutting home…here is your warning

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Bad Tempered Gardener?

Travelogue Wales: South of Abergavenny, just over an hour drive past Raglan Castle  was a visit to a private garden. We walked down a small gravel lane off the main highway to a gate almost hidden under a tree. A hand-written sign led into the garden of Anne Wareham author of the book, The Bad-Tempered Gardener.  Prior to our visit, I did wonder what a bad-tempered gardener’s place would look like (I had not heard of the book.)  I don’t remember being bad-tempered in any garden, even when stuff dies, explodes (yep, a hose), overtakes (horsetail, ugh!), and just flat-out defeats me after a day spent in it.
Veddw House Garden

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The artistry of hedging at Veddw

We were greeted near the small conservatory by Anne’s husband,  Charles Hawes, a talented, well-known photographer. He mentioned she wasn’t home (I won’t spend too much space here telling who I later saw sneaking out the back door, while I was alone photographing one of the back gardens.)

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A peek inside the Conservatory

Charles gave us a warm welcome and spoke about the garden before he let us explore on our own. His described it as “a garden with edges being rough and ready”, which is a good visual for the way the lush planting borders threaten to spill over and have the run of the place. I did like his description  of simply letting the plants “have it out”. As I looked around, it made me think how I’d love to pursue that garden method.

“I have seen gardens gardened within an inch of their lives. I have seen gardens so “tidy” it makes your soul cringe. The kind of garden where the lawns are “edged” with a special tool, designed to keep the grass and the plants forever apart and weeded to death. Such gardens prickle with discomfort and control.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener
Yes, the plants were let to go wild, reseed, spread and fill every inch of soil, but the intricate maze of hedges somehow made it feel less rough. It was more like walking through rooms of an art gallery with works from an abstract artist. The  hedges behaving like picture frames all around to bring it together.

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Hosta en masse

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“Florist Cardy” (Cynara cardunculus)  with a side of Heuchera

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“I have met gardeners who make the sign of the cross at the sight of Alchemilla. This is because it seeds itself so generously. Well. be grateful that there is such a beautiful essential plant that does that for us and then find a good use for it.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

After our visit to the garden, I had a lucky find-out of thousands of  used books crammed on a shelf in a little book shop at  Hay-On-Wye (a village famous for books. The streets are lined with dozens of used and antiquarian bookshops.)  IMG_8657Here area  few snippets from the book:

What do you think? Bad tempered?
“Gardening is boring. It is repetitious, repetitive and mind-blowingly boring, just like housework. All of it-sowing seeds, mowing, cutting hedges, potting up, propagating is boring and all if it requires doing over and over again. If there are enjoyable jobs they’re mostly enjoyable for the result, not the process.”   Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

Or simply telling it like it is

“The very best trick is to try things and see. Experiment; take risks, particularly if they involve less work. This way innovation rises and innovation is badly needed in the gardening world. If a job seems exasperating, expensive or boring, stop and think whether there might be an easier way. Plants want to grow; they are on your side as long as you are reasonably sensible. If they don’t like what you offer, offer them something else quickly and see if it suits better.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

 

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veddw wood edging

Next Travelogue: Going Herbal at the Physic Garden

 

 


Travelogue: In Ruins

How can one go to Wales and not see (or stay) in a castle?

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Peacocks roamed the grounds lending a romantic yet noisy atmosphere.

Our first stay was at Ruthin Castle as we made our way to the upper coast of Wales.  A hotel and spa surrounded by the shadowy remnants of a fortress dating back to the 1200’s.

Ruthin Castle and Hotel

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Scenes from Ruthin Castle

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A medieval themed wedding was taking place one of the nights we stayed at Ruthin. When I was out taking photos,  I spied a little boy dressed in a knight costume having a sword fight with an imaginary foe. He was happy to pose for me showing his knightly fierceness.

Raglan Castle
If these wall could talk, they would reveal much. A walk through the grounds of Raglan conjures the visuals you see in the movies- knights in armor and raucous candlelit meals spread out on long wooden tables. In the ruins there are just enough outlines of  windows, walls and rooms of this castle that it lets your imagination run. You can almost see heavy tapestries and ornate fixtures dripping with the wax of lit candles hanging on the walls.
Touching the stone was like a vibration of its past. It is fascinating to see ancient stone that has stood for generations, solid, yet crumbling down.
The misty rain on the day of our visit, helped to create the perfect setting to walk and be drawn away into history.  Just imagine how many generations passed through the stately entry.

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Raglan Castle

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The ruins of Raglan Castle

Powis Castle

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A panoramic view from the great lawn at Powis Castle in Wales

Powis is a fortress and country manor that remains one of the few castles in Wales kept carefully preserved throughout its 700 year history. At first glimpse the gardens around the castle grounds seem nondescript, but as you weave your way down along the elegant baroque-style balustrades and terraces, the gardens become more magnificent. Mixed plantings, massive billowing yew hedges and lush shrub borders are the immense framework  that beautifully overwhelm the huge castle grounds. Every terrace, as you work your way down, shows different design influences. They weave to Italianate style, making way to the original orangery and then stepping down to the classic Edwardian herbaceous borders. Powis castle collage.jpg

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The view from the terraces to the formal garden and croquet lawn. 

 

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The veg and fruit gardens have been renovated to be more formal and decorative than productive.

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’
This silvery leaved perennial was introduced by the head gardener of  Powis Castle in in the 1970’s. In 1993 the plant received the Royal Horticulture Society’s Award of Garden Merit. Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ is believed to be a hybrid between the Artemisia arborescens (large wormwood) and Artemisia absinthium (absinthe wormwood). The Genus is named for Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon. Hint, hint…plant this in a moon garden to illuminate the garden by the light of a full moon. IMG_1061 artemesia.jpg

Next Travelogue: The Bad-Tempered Gardener


Travelogue : Lost and Found

 Hell eee gan, not misspelled, but more an attempt to phonetically write how our charming garden docent Graham told us it was pronounced. The emphasis, to correctly say it, is on the middle syllable. I shall always remember him politely chiding us, but I will probably forever say it wrong.

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A field of Flanders poppies (Papaver rhoeas)  on the West Lawn framing a breathtaking view  to the Cornish countryside in the distance.

Welcome to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. It is another garden in restoration that makes you wonder;  how could an estate of that magnitude disappear into rubble? Money, time, loss of family traditions, a world war and a hurricane-in this case,  it was all of the above.

Then a machete wielding man started hacking away at the tangled mess. His brain started thinking restoration. So began the adventure of Sir Tim Smit. Reading stories you will find most thinking him part visionary, part insane, and actually part rock and roll.  He is as much a marketer and PR master as a passionate garden creator:  “If you truly believe in something and you can get three others to believe in it too, it will happen. If you love something, provided you’re not a freak, they’ll be millions of others that love it too. Then, the only remaining issue is a marketing one”. He has added billions to the Cornwall tourist economy by creating two gardens that visitors flock to by the thousands. Heligan was one of the first projects that brought him into the gardening limelight. Eden was the other.

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Glimpses of old stone throughout the gardens reveal its past


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The true gardens of Heligan were the productive ones. The Kitchen Garden, The Melon Yard and the Flower Garden.


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A private retreat in the Italian garden built in 1906


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An iconic shot of  one of the features of Heligan. The Mud Maiden along the path of the Woodland walk


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A turn towards New Zealand (the portion of the garden, not the country!)

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Next travelogue:
If these walls could talk: Castles in ruins and beloved restoration


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