The Wort Family!

Like any family, the members are quite different.

The word wort comes from the English word wyrt which means plant, herb or root. The opposite of wort is weed. Names were given to the plants because it was believed the plant would help a particular part of the body. That has been proven incorrect because many plants actually have toxic properties.

Spiderwort is the only plant blooming in the picture. It has a cluster of flowers and like a lily the flower only blooms for one day. If you have broken the stem of a spiderwort you know how sticky the sap is. It was used to treat insect bites and I can understand that usage. The stems and leaves have both been compared to spider legs. I like the plant because it does well in both sun and shade and it blooms most of the summer.

Lung wort has a leaf with white dots and in the spring it has beautiful pink and purple flowers. It likes the shade and it blooms for four to six weeks. Another plus for this plant is the deer don’t like it. It is one of the wort plants that is toxic.

Barrenwort (epimedium) is the one with the heart shaped leaves. It produces yellow flowers in late spring. It has many other names and is considered an herb by some. Apparently it has a pleasant taste and can be used as an aphrodisiac. I’ll pass. It was a lovely addition to my garden this year and it likes the shade and is deer resistant.

The fern looking plant is a master wort which is a very large category. I could not find mine online, but that was what it was labeled when I bought it. It blooms in June if the deer don’t eat the white flowers. It likes the shade and the flower reminds me of Queen Anne’s Lace. I was a day late in trying to get a picture. Those deer!

If you are a gardener, I highly recommend the wort plants. They offer long lasting beauty in the garden.

May Celebrations and Beauty

Lilacs are one of May’s flowers and irises, peonies, and poppies will soon follow.

The month of May announces that summer is on its way. The flowers are glorious and proud as they blow in the warm breezes. However, I need to show what my last April surprise was.

Deer ate all the tulips in my front yard. There were almost 150. This is the first year they enjoyed a tulip buffet. I’m used to them eating my lilies but this was a shock.

These tulips are in the back of the house and were not bothered. Deer did leave me their calling card of poop though.

May Day was yesterday so April surprises are now in the past. I remember delivering May baskets of flowers to neighbors as a little girl and even dancing around a maypole one year. The maypole was a tradition in both England and Germany. The ancient Romans celebrated the flower goddess Flora and the goddess Maia on May 1. I can’t imagine keeping track of all these different gods and goddesses and all the celebrations. This was a fertility celebration for crops and people.

The Puritans did not approve the dancing and drinking that occurred on May Day and we can assume what else occurred, so Parliament banned maypoles in 1644. It didn’t take long for the new king, Charles II, to restore the tradition. Since this was a fertility celebration, many soon changed the tradition of young men and women dancing around the maypole to having children dance instead. I wonder if that solved the problem.

Wishing you all a happy May and I hope you are blessed with blooming flowers. And…a little dancing is good for the body and the soul!

The Joy of a Blossom!

My gardenia plant has three beautiful blossoms!

Gardeners know the joy of seeing a plant bloom. Plants are similar to children in that some are more challenging than others. For me, the gardenia plant has been challenging. I have had many over the years and the longest I was able to keep one was five years. I’m hoping I’ve learned from my mistakes.

The plant that lived the longest never went outside. I made the mistake of taking the others outside in the summer. When I brought them inside for the winter, they always had insects. As I tried to kill the insects, I killed the plant. This beautiful plant did not spend the summer outside, and it sits all day in a sunny window. I also have done a better job of fertilizing it than I have in the past. If you don’t know the aroma of a gardenia, I can’t explain it because it has its own distinct scent. It smells heavenly!

Scents elicit memories and for my father-in-law it was the Philippines where he was stationed during WWII. He said gardenias grew everywhere and the air was filled with their scent. I remember I wore a gardenia corsage to my senior prom. I remember that, but I don’t remember my dress. I pressed the corsage and kept it for years.

Gardenias are evergreens, but not in Ohio. They need moisture, at least six to eight hours of light each day, and acidic fertilizer. They also like hearing how good they smell and how pretty they look. The extra pampering this plant gets is worth it.

Biting Ants!

Gardening holds surprises!

Ants may look innocent, but they can be vicious! My husband and I decided we would reclaim a weed patch by our housing development’s sign by planting flowers. We worked for a couple hours digging weeds and then decided we’d plant and mulch the area. I returned two days later with five plants and water.

The first hole I dug was the home of ants. I saw thousands of white eggs and ants, and they were not pleased with me and my shovel. I redirected the shoveling to widen the hole and maybe not disturb the ant city but this city was enormous! I decided to continue where I was because I didn’t have many options as to where the flowers could be planted.

I was wearing gloves and I carefully lowered the flower down into its new home and was immediately covered in little pissants or sugar ants. They covered my gloves and wrists and started crawling up my arms. Before I could get my gloves off I felt the bites. I tore my gloves off and began brushing the ants off me. They landed on my shirt and legs. Wearing shorts was not the best idea that day because the ants nibbled on my legs too. I eventually freed myself from their army but later discovered both wrists were covered in bites or stings. I read that ants do both.

After five days, the itching has stopped, but the red marks remain. On the bright side, the area has now been transformed to a pretty flower bed that I hope people will enjoy seeing. I thought it important to warn other gardeners of how vicious those little ants can be. I have also dug into a bee’s nest which I admit was a little terrifying. A little drama just makes gardening more exciting and is not a deterrent. I still love it!

The Great Seducer!

Plants, plants, and more plants!

Some people go crazy over shoes or purses. Not me; my obsession is with plants. One of my sons told me if I didn’t stop creating flower beds, we wouldn’t have any grass left. Funny how kids turn into adults. I recently said the same thing to him!

I do have a lot of flowers and that means a lot of perennials, but I I can’t go through the summer without annuals. There are baskets and pots and various locations where color is needed. I need color to brighten the beds all summer and that means annuals.

Plant popularity changes from decade to decade. Roses however are always valued in a garden. Gardening didn’t become a hobby until the Victorian Age. During this era,(mid to late 1800s) the Victorian fern, orchids and celery were in demand and the wealthy had time to grow them. They enjoyed the fresh air and appreciated the results of their labor. The 1920s and 30s saw potted plants for the first time which eliminated growing flowers from seeds. I appreciate not having to grow from seeds, so I can see why more people took to gardening.

The 40s and 50s saw people using their back yards for entertaining and flowers were studied and planted. Flower societies were launched such as the American Daffodil society and the American Lily Society. Houseplants became popular in the 60s and 70s and are currently popular. We all know how trends reappear.

I could write a lot more about gardening, but I won’t. My garden is my sanctuary. I thank God every day for his creations and that I am able to enjoy them in my own yard. My tulips were particularly pretty this year, so I’m sharing a picture. They survived the snow that bent them over, but once it melted, they stood. They are a lot like people I think.

Dandy Dandelions!

Dandelions are flowers that are considered weeds because of how easily they spread.

Dandelions are one of the few plants that every part can be used. It arrived in America in the mid 1600’s when settlers brought the seeds because they knew the value of the plant. Dandelions had been used for centuries for medicinal purposes and the settlers knew this. The Egyptians, Romans and Greeks all knew they improved various conditions from fevers to constipation.

As a child, I remember eating dandelion greens. I was told it would taste like spinach which I liked. I remember it being very bitter. I know it is very nutritious, but I’m not inclined to pick any leaves. I read it’s best to harvest the leaves before the flowers bloom. The internet has recipes if anyone is interested.

If you want to dig up your dandelions, consider waiting until they are finished blooming. They are a food source for bees, butterflies, moths and some birds. They are also pretty.

I was surprised to learn that dandelion wine is made from the flowers. I read a recipe for it and it sounded pretty good. Lots of sugar, but it also had lemons, oranges, and raisins. Fermentation is one to two years. Tea is made from the roots and that is what is sipped to relieve ailments. It really is a wonderful plant, but I’m a gardener, so I dig them after they bloom. In case you’re wondering, the picture is not from my yard. I only have a couple.

Hope everyone is enjoying the spring. Blossoms are every where and those with allergies are suffering. My eyes itch, but I don’t care. I can’t resist being outside in spring’s beauty.

The Happiest Faces of Spring

Pansies bring joy with their bright colors and cheerful smiles.

I can’t remember an Easter that pansies weren’t outside in pots and Easter lilies weren’t inside filling the house with fragrance. I have happily continued this tradition that my mother started.

As you know, I enjoy research and even though I knew that pansies are edible ( I wouldn’t eat them) I didn’t know that they had been used for medicinal purposes. Chinese medicine used them at one time to prevent cancerous tumors and also as a source of nutrition. The Greeks thought that anger would be reduced by munching on a pansy and the Romans believed they cured headaches and dizziness. Plants have always been used to treat ailments, so it’s not surprising.

I also learned that in Victorian England it was not proper to openly express affection, so pansy bouquets were wrapped in doilies and quietly passed to a sweetheart. Today they are considered a gift of platonic love to be given a parent or a friend. Like most flowers, the color carries a meaning. I love all the colors and this year I have orange pansies for the first time.

If you are looking for something to bring you or someone else a daily dose of happiness, fill a pot with an assortment of pansies and set it on the porch. Every day when you leave the house and return, you will be greeted with smiles!

It Looks Like a Hummingbird!

The Hummingbird Hawk Moth fools people!

The Hummingbird Hawk Moth visits my flowers every summer. It’s said to be a good omen. In fact, a swarm of them were seen crossing the English Channel on DD Day in 1944. People believed this was a sign that the allied troops would win the battle.

This large moth measures two inches which is the same size as the world’s smallest hummingbird the Bee Hummingbird. The Bee Hummingbird is native to Cuba and has a beak, is born from an egg and looks like a bird. The moth hummingbird goes through larvae stage, caterpillar, and then emerges as a moth.

I can always hear the Hummingbird Hawk Moth buzzing. It beats its wings 70 to 80 times a second, so it makes its presence known. It doesn’t have a beak, but it has a long proboscis that it uses to get nectar from the flowers. I think it’s cute, but my daughter thinks it is just creepy.

The hummingbird moths are seen all over the world, but hummingbirds are only found in the Western Hemisphere. We are so lucky! There are 340 species of hummingbirds and there are 160,000 species of moths. The United States has 11,00 moth species of moths, and I’m glad the Hummingbird Hawk Moth is one.

Batty About Bats!

These little mosquito eaters are welcome to my yard!

Every night at dusk two brown bats come to my back yard for dinner. Bats can eat 1200 insects an hour. My neighbor has a small pond, so I think that is why Bart and Bertha come to dine. Sometimes Sylvester joins them for dinner. Yes, I named the bats. Since they come every night, they deserved to be named.

I’ve learned a lot about bats. Their excrement is called guano and is a great fertilizer. Since it is high in potassium nitrate (salt peter) it was used for gun powder during the Civil War and was used up to WWI. One hundred pounds of guano was needed to make four pounds of salt peter.

Bats are important to over 500 plant species. They pollinate plants and bananas, mangoes, guava and agave depend on them. The tube-lipped bat that bananas rely on have extremely long tongues in order to reach the nectar. Their tongues are one and half times the length of the bat’s body. Amazing!

When Halloween arrives, I will hang my black bats with a lot more appreciation for them. I learned a lot about these furry, flying mammals. Perhaps Bertha and Bart should star in an educational story for children.

Lavender Deters Evil Spirits!

Lavender doesn’t just smell great!

Lavender is a favorite is my garden and it has many uses. Some people use it in baking and make a lavender sugar. When I read about cooking with lavender, I learned that it is dangerous for cats and dogs to eat. My cats don’t seem interested in it, and I just enjoy the look and smell of it.

Lavender is grown throughout Spain and Portugal and is used in celebrating holidays by spreading it on the floors of churches and homes. It is believed to cleanse the area of evil spirits and negativity. Congress might consider spreading a little lavender in order to promote harmony.

Lavender is burned in bonfires on St. John’s Day in Europe which is also called Midsummer’s Day. It is celebrated on June 24 which is John the Baptist’s birthday. Today lavender is burned in homes to cleanse the air and like with the bonfire, it carries prayers to heaven. Smudging sticks can be made with lavender to purify homes. It is said to help bring peaceful sleep when burned in the bedroom.

According to lavender folklore, a woman in childbirth should hold it in order to gain courage and strength. Growing lavender in one’s garden will bring good luck, ward off evil, and attract fairies. Since I have lavender, I invite good fortune and fairies to my garden. I also encourage it to ward off mosquitoes like it is supposed to do! Marigolds are also said to keep mosquitoes away along with allium, lemon grass and lantana. I have three of these plants, and I have mosquitoes.