Tag Archives: flowers

A day for celebrations!

When I woke up this morning, I was pleased to see that it had dawned bright and sunny with a brisk breeze.  It is absolutely gorgeous out in the garden.  A perfect laundry drying day, which is just as well, as I have two loads out there flapping around getting dry.  I also just noticed that it is the first of May.

laundry on the line

May Day is traditionally a day for much celebration. Not just because Spring has definitely sprung, but actually the date is associated with celebrations for many thousands of years.  The Romans honoured their flower and fertility Goddess, Flora, at the end of April and beginning of May. They would celebrate with dances, processions, games and sundry merriment.  They also used to make sacrifices to the Earth Goddess Maia.  Not much is known about this, other than the sacrifices were made in the name of Vulcan, the God of Volcanoes, and apparently Maia’s significant other.  I do find it intriguing that Maia is the reason we have the month of May – she gave the month her name.

maypole

Celtic Druids has the feast of of Beltane, also on the 1st of May.  They lit bonfires to honour the sun, leading animals between the bonfires, as well as people who were suffering a spate of bad luck.  The Maypole tradition probably started with the druids as well, the pole allegedly being a phallic symbol for fecundity.  In England, the Morris Dancing season starts on May Day as well.  If you have never seen Morris Dancing, google a video or two.  I think it is probably a reason for the English to be considered charmingly eccentric around the world!

morris dancing

The first of May is, in the Catholic Church, the beginning of one of the Marian Months.  Often, Catholic Churches will have crowning ceremonies of their statues of Our Lady, and will have Marian hymns at Masses through the month as well.  In addition, today, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of St Joseph the Worker.

I have a great devotion to St Joseph.  What a guy.  It is not everyone who could take on the job of being the Adopted Dad of the Creator… and he did it with such aplomb.  It really doesn’t get bigger than that, does it?  The major thing I like is that although he was from the line of King David, he was a working man.  A hard working labourer, working with his hands.  He was deemed worthy of teaching and raising the incarnation of the Divine, not some fat cat financial whizz, or a highly qualified professional of some sort.  I love that.

workers day

So, it is quite appropriate that May Day is also the International Workers Day.  I remember seeing the military parades in Red Square with all the rocket launchers and tanks and soldiers, when I was a youngster, watching the news with my Dad, but I never really understood the link to the workers of the world.  Obviously now I realise that the Soviet Union was supposed to be the workers paradise if the paradigm of Communism actually worked in practice, but unfortunately the reality didn’t match the theory.

And finally, the last thing to mention about May Day, is how it is connected to a call for help.  Well, that is about the corruption of language.  May Day as a call for help, is a corruption of the French “Venez m’aider” which means come and help me.

So, today, I am going to be working in the garden to cultivate my floral tributes to Flora and Our Lady, helping people when and where I can, and doing hard laborious work to mark the day.  Have a great weekend, and public holiday, if you are lucky enough to get one!

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Using the essence of flowers

Many people who are interested in herbal medicine have already discovered flower essences.  They are a fascinating branch of herbal remedies, and I am certainly a fan of them.  So, it turns out, is Rosemary Gladstar, in her book “Herbal Remedies for Vibrant Health”.

Bach flower remedies

Most Flower Essence users will use the ones produced via the teachings of Dr Edward Bach.  Dr Bach was around in the early 20th century, and having become rather disenchanted with conventional methods of healing, he decided to go back to basics and look at plants in a new light.  Using a remarkably simple system of healing, he treated all manner of illnesses using the flower essences.  The most amazing part of this healing method is that it doesn’t treat the illness, but rather the emotions behind the problem.  I know some of my readers will be a little sceptical about how flowers can sort out emotions, or even how emotions can cause illness, but I am a devotee of the treatments.  I have seen a hysterically crying child, with more shock than anything actually wrong with him (he had fallen off a trampoline) be calmed immediately by using three drops of the world famous Rescue Remedy.  That same remedy basically kept me on my feet when we moved house.  I also use Rescue Remedy Night to help me get a decent night’s sleep.  And somewhere I have a Bach Flower Essence Emotional Eating toolkit, though I will confess to not having used that so much.  I think perhaps I should.

Bach kits

There are lots of different flower remedies out there, and more are being discovered all the time.  Ms Gladstar thinks that finding flower essences which are local to your area or continent is probably a good idea and might be more efficacious than relying on just the Bach flower remedies.  I am happy enough to stick with Dr Bach and his expertise I think, but then, his remedies are European, so that is fairly local for me!

So, what sort of flower essences are there?  You have to remember that the essence treats the emotions behind an illness, rather than the illness itself.  For example, if you are fearful of the unknown, have vague anxiety and apprehension, hidden fears and nightmares, then you need to use Aspen flower essence.  If you are impatient, irritable, tense and intolerant, then you need Impatiens flower essence.  Olive is apparently excellent for complete exhaustion after a long struggle.  If you have been trying too hard to achieve something are suffering nervous exhaustion, then you need the Vervain flower essence.  You can get them from any good health shop, and I would suggest you have a go with them.

health shop

Let me know if they help you at all.

It is conkers season!!

I am not sure if my North American correspondents are aware of what conkers are?  In case you are scratching your collective heads,  conkers are the nut of the Horse Chestnut tree, Aesculus hippocastanum.

horse chestnut

According to my current favourite herby planty lore book, a recent purchase when we were on holiday in Canada, it is an introduced ornamental tree.  But luckily the parts of it have lots of healing properties.  In fact it is used in 2 Bach Flower Remedies.

The tree itself can grow up to 130 feet tall, and has palmate leaves and huge white candelabras of frothy white-pink flowers in the spring.  The conkers, an auburn coloured nut, form and fall in the autumn, and generations of schoolchildren have played a school yard game using them strung on a piece of string to see whose conker was strongest.  Sadly Health & Safety rules have got in the way of them these days, which is a shame because my husband has many happy memories of playing conkers.

Horse chestnut tree

So what can horse chestnut trees be used for?  Their good looks mean they have been a municipal tree of choice for planting on streets and avenues, and apparently their bark makes an emergency quinine substitute.  The flower buds can be used to flavour beer, and conkers produce a good soapy lather for shampoo and to clean clothes, and into the bargain they stop mould and repel moths. If you have been plagued by those enormous garden spiders that are around this autumn, then putting conkers by the door and hung up in corners can help dissuade them from taking up residence in the first place.

 

In this year of First World War commemorations, it was interesting to find out that conkers were also used for explosives.  Apparently they are a source of acetone and it was that chemical required for the explosives.  Schoolchildren collected over 3000 tons of conkers which all went to the war effort.

conkers

So, medicinally, what can this anti-mould, anti-creepy crawly, potentially explosive stuff do for your health?  It is a leading herbal treatment for weakened veins, including varicose veins, haemorrhoids, and acne rosacea.  It might also be an alternative to Botox as it tightens the skin and reduces fluid retention and Oedema.

 

My little book provides a couple of recipes for using conkers to make tinctures, oils and even a lotion for the treatment of varicose veins, thread veins and fragile capillaries.  I don’t think I am going to provide them in this blog post though… I might bring it back as a topic another time.

Hellebores… what are they good for?

I received my recently ordered hellebores this morning.  Cue much excitement.  They are lovely little plants, and need to be grown on a bit before I put them where they are actually going to live in the garden.

double ellen picotee

A couple of Fridays ago I received an email which gave me an excellent deal on these lovely, lovely plants.  After due consultation with the husband, I ordered 9 lovely baby hellebores.  There are three plants of three different sorts of Double Ellen varieties – Pictoee, Pink and White Spotted.  They are going to go in the front garden in an area I have named the Helleborium.  I am hoping to find and relocate another couple of hellebores I think might be lurking in the back garden as well, so there should be some rather lovely colours over in that forgotten corner of the garden come spring 2 years from now.

Anyway… it got me thinking… are hellebores good herbal plants?  Quite often in the past, I have found that the plants I really like are actually really useful medicinally.  So I thought i would do a bit of research and find out.

poison

After my research, my take away lesson is that Hellebores (both the white and the black varieties) are really poisonous and should not be messed around with in terms of self treatment.  So… no, they are not really good herbal plants.  I have also filed away the fact that historically white hellebore was used to create a poison in ancient Rome and other cultures have used it as an arrow tip poison.  Useful information for potential mystery novel plots, or if my neighbours really wind me up.  (That last bit is a joke.  Honest.)

Apparently even though hellebore is really, really poisonous, people do still use it.  White Hellebore is used for cholera, gout and high blood pressure and black hellebore is used for nausea, worms, kidney infections, colds and constipation.  Black hellebore can also help to regulate menstrual periods.  Still.  I am not going to suggest anyone plays around with it, and I am certainly going to steer well clear of it.

double hellebores

I shall keep hellebores in the garden as flowers where they belong.  It will add a burst of colour to the front patch and will make me smile when I look up from my desk.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

An unexpected herbal treat from the garden…

This morning dawned bright, blue skied and beautiful, so I would have been crazy not to take full advantage.  I pulled on my brightest pair of summer capri pants (they are cerise pink… I think you might be able to see them from space!), a white T-shirt and headed out into the garden.  The plan was to weed, plant out, deadhead, replant and relocate.  I managed to do everything I wanted to in under 2 hours and have just come in grinning broadly.

I love gardening

Gardening always makes me smile (and sometimes wince… actually, quite often wince!) but another reason for the happiness is that I found a plant that I didn’t know we had.  Honeysuckle.  Now, I love honeysuckle.  I friend of ours gave us a honeysuckle when we got married, and along with cowslips, it rather took over our old garden.  The honeysuckle did not make the cut for coming to this house, but the cowslips have been replanted already.  However… I love the honeysuckle.  It is a fabulous climber, so it can disguise some less than pretty walls and fences, and the fragrance is absolutely gorgeous.  So, the fact that it is out by the back of our garage, competing with a wild rose and a rambling rose was a delightful surprise.

 

Even more, it was a bit of synchronicity, because yesterday evening I spent a good few hours musing about what I was going to write about today.  I would love to be able to tell you that all these posts of mine were easy to put together and that I have a list of them that I am slowly ticking off.  It is rarely the case that they are easy to produce, so yesterday evening, I got out one of my favourite herb books (Jekka’s Completer Herb Book – fabulous reference and fascinating reading) and leafed through it.  To my surprise, there was a page all about Honeysuckle!

honeysuckle

Apparently it is also known as Woodbine, Beerbind, Evening pride, Fairy trumpets, Irish Vine and Sweet suckle.  Alfred Lord Tennyson referenced it in his poetry, and Shakespeare mentioned it in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Honeysuckle was among the plants that averted evil powers on May Day and took care of milk, the butter and the cows in the Scottish Highlands.  It was also thought that if the flowers were brought indoors, it presaged a wedding, or if placed in a girls bedroom, the girl would dream of love.

 

You can, according to Jekka, who is a Herbal oracle of the highest order, you can pick and dry the flowers for pot pourris just as they open.  They maybe at their palest of their colour, but their fragrance is at its height.  You can also use the flowers in salads. The best flavour is before the nectar has been collected, again, when it is at it’s palest.

honeysuckle tea

In terms of medicinal uses, an infusion of the heavily perfumed flowers can be taken as a substitute for tea.  It is also apparently useful for treating coughs, catarrh and asthma.  If you use a decoction of the flowers in a cream it is good for skin infections.  There is also recent research to suggest that honeysuckle has an outstanding curative action in cases of colitis.

 

I have only ever seen it as a useful climber!  But I now have a new-found delight in the plant!

 

Right… the shower is over, so I am back out into the garden again!  See you again on Wednesday