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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

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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


Travelogue: Should I know Doc Martin?

I was told  I should watch Doc Martin before I traveled to Cornwall. I don’t typically watch much TV (except for my Downton Abbey fix), so it didn’t happen.

IMG_3100  Ok fine…what is all the fuss connecting this TV show with this seaside village?  I logged into Netflix  and ummm; is this what they call binge watching?  I am hooked and I love seeing all the places I walked during our visit to Port Isaac aka Portwenn.  For now, I am trying to stay away from the spoilers because season 7 is on. I am still in the episodes  where Doc and Louisa barely know each other in season 1.
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What a charming village tucked in the side of the Cornish coast. All the  buildings stacked into the hillside to face the deep blue sea. IMG_3058

IMG_2972The main part of town is hidden until you round the corner down the walking path. A respite from garden touring, it was a beautiful spot to soak up the sun, and grab a Cornish pastie from the cute little bakery (which I suspect will show up in a future episode of the TV show). We behaved very much like American tourists, almost getting plowed by cars zipping through the narrow streets as we breezed in and out of little shops that I now see on the TV show. Every turn was a photo opportunity. Now I wish I had watched a few episodes and met the grumpy ol’ Doc so I could be like others and have my picture taken knocking on the door of “his” house.

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Next travelogue: A visit to the mud maiden


Travelogue: Visiting Eden

Somewhere around the year 2000, I read about a project in England that was a bit unusual. Was it a garden or was it a sci-fi movie set? This was not one of those classic English gardens of long historic reverence.  This was a dream of Tim Smit  who spearheaded the restoration of Heligan (upcoming post of a visit with the mud maiden, stay tuned). The Eden Project was a crazy concept to create a series of Biomes banked in the crevice of a giant china clay pit that scarred the beautiful Cornish countryside. His vision was to have massive greenhouses that allow people to see “…a living laboratory showing plants we depend on, seeing them as they grow in the wild together, a living demonstration…” I followed the stories of it’s building progress and read the controversy and challenges it has gone through. Satellite photos on the internet make it look like big pieces of bubble wrap tucked in the earth. It has always made me curious.
The second bucket list check mark. IMG_2943.jpgeden sign crop.jpg

This was a treat to walk out of the visitor’s center and down into the large pit and say, I can’t believe I am seeing this for real . Yep, I am pretty simple to please! Give me a garden to visit and you’d think you’d given me a million bucks.

IMG_2496The best part of the Eden Project beyond those amazing Biomes is the education and sustainability mission. All the water used to keep the huge rainforest dome bathing in humidity and to flush the toilets is collected rainwater. Energy is generated from the huge wind turbines around Cornwall. Kids and families, were everywhere, walking through this learning lab of plants both inside and out of the domes. I want an Eden here to take my grand-babies to and share in the magic of growing plants and learning about flora from all over the world.
There is much more to say about this unique project and this post could get long, but probably best to let you catch these links later and fill this post with my photos.

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Gardens outside the Biomes–reclaiming this old china clay pit into a lush  garden

 

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Learning about Pollinators

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Inside the Rainforest Biome

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The veg garden surrounding the outdoor dining area

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Inside the Mediterranean Biome

Next Travelogue: Should I know who Doc Martin is?


Travelogue: Check mark off the bucket list: Aberglasney

What is a bucket list? A list of things, whether written out or virtual, of places to go or things to do before you die. Mine is also known as the “someday” list and includes  gardens I’d like to visit. I could walk through gardens all day, every day, but sometimes one I have read about captures my imagination. I think about what it would be like to walk in and get sensory overload just by being there. Touch, smell, feel-those things photos or the internet can never do.
Aberglasney in Wales was added to my bucket list in 2007. I attended a lecture in Seattle given by the head gardener, Graham Rankin. It was a story of a garden lost in time (a book and BBC series) and its restoration. Just the idea of how a garden and home of that magnitude dating back 500 years, could simply disappear into rubble, was fascinating. Looking at the photos, I envisioned myself walking along the upper course of the  Elizabethan cloister garden. Back then, I never thought I would get to Wales, so visiting this garden was on my list, but really almost forgotten. Fast-forward to 2015 and the planning stages of traveling with a group to the UK. I notice we will be staying in Abergavenny. My mind began to wonder, is it possible that Abergavenny is near the Aberglasney on my bucket list?  Google maps said it was just over an hour drive away. It wasn’t on our itinerary, but I couldn’t get THAT close and not go! Uber, cab, bike, hitchhike, walk…I had to figure it out. Marianne, our tour planner,  did some searching to add it to our itinerary and found out they were closed on our one free day in the area. NO! But, yes, with Marianne’s keen negotiation, Aberglasney was added for a visit on the longest day of the year with dinner included.
Misty eyed
It was late afternoon in the lovely country side of Wales. As we drove up the coach parking, I felt lost. Was this the place I had seen in photos? It just didn’t look right. We started in the restored main entry of the house, and then walked through a door at the back of the room. It opened to the Ninfarium and that was the moment I recognized it from the photos that Graham Rankin had shown; I almost started to cry. Yep, that’s me (what a nerd), I had a moment of overwhelming gratefulness that I could travel and walk through this place that I had only seen in photos.

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The Ninfarium,  the central ruins of the house covered with glass to create an atrium.

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The Cloister Garden

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All the lovely angles of ancient stone in the Cloister Garden

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A look back at the house from the Upper Walled Garden

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A walk through the Yew tunnel planted in the 18th century.

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The Kitchen Garden

It was magical for us to spend the summer solstice walking the gardens with head gardener Joseph Atkin. Dinner was cooked from food grown in the lower walled kitchen garden and served on the terrace overlooking the pool garden as the sun was setting. The perfect way to check
this one off the bucket list. And yes,  I finally got to take the walk I had only imagined, on the upper part of the cloister walls, what a view!  If your journey ever takes you into the heart of Wales, you must go visit this place.

 

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The Upper walled garden designed by Penelope Hobhouse

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Gardens by a few degrees of separation: I visited a garden in LaMalbaie, Quebec, Canada, Les Jardins de Quatre-Vent, (checked off my bucket list in 2013) that has ties to Aberglasney. Frank Cabot and family, owners of Les Quatre Vent, gave money to help with the restoration of Aberglasney. Add the gardens of Les Quatre Vent to your bucket list too!

Next Travelogue: Visiting Eden


Travelogue: June in the UK

Many have asked how my trip was and sometimes I feel speechless because I can’t put it into quick, casual conversation. And if you know me, you know I love talking about gardens.  It was many words from travel over 1700 miles on a coach zigzagging across the countryside of Wales, Cornwall and the Cotswolds.

Come along with me for an exploration of gardens of Wales and England, not in the chronological order of travel sense,  but the things that inspired me to write something along the way.

IMG_7924 heathrow lavenderMust start here…
Arrival Heathrow, UGH! You know that place where people who are grumpy from flying get pushed into the dungeon of this mega airport to get their passports checked. Emerging into daylight, the swath of English lavender blooming reminded me where I had just landed. The aromatic journey begins.

English Roses
In my gardening realm, all I hear is roses are too hard to take care of and disease”y”, aphid magnets. I tend to agree unless they are the tough ol’ Rugosas. I have moved into a new place recently and there are a few old rose bushes (not Rugosa!) that are fabulous and now after this trip I have fallen in love with growing roses again.

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casting shadows on the walls of Kiftsgate manor

The “Kiftsgate” rose at Kiftsgate Manor was not in bloom as we had hoped. It was just its rampant, huge tangle of crazy that I remember from a visit in 2005, but as we walked through gardens over the next few weeks, it seemed like every other rose in the UK was blooming! Everywhere, scrambling up walls and in the middle of mixed borders, mixing and mingling all over the place.
So this first travelogue are some photos of those heavenly fragrant English roses all over Wales and England. It does seem unfair to give you a look, but not a smell of how a rose in Britain on a warm day in June fills the air with perfume.

 

 

 

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A sweet tango with Thalictrum

 

 

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Roses and hedges, so very Sissinghurst

 

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Kiftsgate, Sissinghurst, Aberglasney, Veddw, Heligan, Eden

Join me on my blog for more photos and musings from my trip.

This trip was one of those I looked forward to and panicked as well, it is one of the busiest times of year for my landscape design business but a chance to visit and study gardens and the renovation of properties lost in the past to ruins. Two places were on my bucket list and we saw so many more that I never knew should have been on my list.

Next travelogue post: Check marks on my bucket list


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