Love Spells, Charms and Potions from the Garden

Invite cupid in from the Garden!

Invite cupid in from the Garden!

Express Your Love

There are many different ways to express the feeling of love.  For many people this can be expressed in the form of flowers presented to a partner.  Flowers are an age-old way for those who care about one another to communicate those feelings in a symbolic and meaningful way.   While flowers remain one of the more traditional ways to express intimate feelings between people there are a number of other plants whose uses include love spells and even potions; and let’s not forget the all important aphrodisiacs.

valentines-gift-seeds

Pick Your Love Herbs

Herbs have been a staple of the love potion consortium for centuries and remain a key player in today’s potions.  The types of herbs that can be used in love potions range from the common to the obscure but all have their uses.  Most of us are busy with the routines of daily life and therefore may not have time to shop for the various exotic herbs available.  Luckily enough there are still a wide variety of common household herbs that can be utilized.  Basil is one such herb.

Basil

An age old Love Magnet- Basil!

An age old Love Magnet- Basil!

Basil holds a special place in many Eastern religions and is a more commonly used herb for culinary purposes in the Western hemisphere.  It has been said that basil is the course to true love.  Many of the spells relating to basil has to do with the burning of the herb to invoke its magical properties.  One such spell is the Aphrodite New Moon Love Spell.  This spell can be used for attracting new lovers and is a fun way to use such common herbs as basil.  Another common herb that is utilized through burning is the Bay leaf.  The Bay Leaf Love spell is a simple spell that can bring forth the love you desire.

Aphrodisiacs

Many herbs grown in the garden have Aphrodisiac properties

Many herbs grown in the garden have Aphrodisiac properties

Ginseng

Aphrodisiacs are a popular, easy and extremely fun way to keep the excitement of a relationship moving in the right direction.  Similar to herbs, there are a number of simple aphrodisiacs available for purchase at a reasonable price.  One such aphrodisiac is ginseng.  Ginseng has long been used for its medicinal qualities in ancient China, as well as Korea, and has now seen resurgence in today’s popular culture.  Ginseng, now commonly seen in many energy drinks, can be found in two forms, the American and the Asian. Both forms of Ginseng have been found to enhance libido and increase copulatory performance, according to a recent Southern Illinois University study.

Damiana

Damiana is another amazing aphrodisiac easily available at an affordable price.  This plant has actually been around for hundreds of years and was a cherished plant of the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, who used it most commonly as an aphrodisiac in the form of a tea that was drank.  Nowadays Damiana is still used in teas as well as some Mexican liqueur, and is still regarded for its enhancement of sexual drive in both males and females.  If you’re looking for a little excitement to share with your partner give Damiana a try and see why it’s been around for hundreds of years and will remain in use for hundreds of years to come!

Saffron

If you are looking for an aphrodisiac with a little more exoticism and are willing to pay a little more, there is one of the oldest known herbs on the planet, saffronSaffron can be dated back to potions used by the ancient Sumerians as long ago as the 10th century BC.   Saffron is a marvelous aphrodisiac rumored to be used by Cleopatra.  The famed Egyptian Queen would sprinkle saffron into her bath water to enhance lovemaking.  Today saffron is the most expensive herb by weight but still holds much of the allure it did in ancient times.   Saffron holds magical properties as well, such as the enhancement of lust and is said to be most effective when used by women.  When you’ve got money to blow and are looking for a fun way to spice up your love making, turn to the age-old herb that is known all over the world, saffron!

valentines-gift-seeds

Throughout history there have been a large number of plants and herbs used to ignite the passion between lovers. In general, there are a number of amazing herbs and plants that are conveniently accessible to the everyday gardener, which can spark a fire between you and your partner.  While flowers prove to be something on the ordinary side of life, why not add a little vehement enthusiasm to the bedroom and try some of the other extraordinary things plants have to offer.

Invite cupid in from the Garden!

Invite cupid in from the Garden!

Posted on January 28th, 2012 by Dr. Greenthumb  |  2 Comments »

Grow Marshmallow Plants from Seed

Grow Marshmallow Plant from Seed

The Marshmallow plant is a unique and ancient plant that is fun and easy to grow!

What IS the Marshmallow plant?

When most people think of marshmallows their mind automatically turns to the soft, spongy candy that is delicious toasted on a campfire, munching on when watching the TV or surfing the Internet! Marshmallow’s distinctive taste is due to the use of the sap from the marshmallow plant, or Althaea officinalis . The ancient Egyptians first used in confectionery by mixing it with honey and nuts. Modern marshmallows owe much to their texture and flavor thanks to the French who had the idea of whipping up the sap and combining it with sugar. Modern marshmallow candy is extruded by machine, which gives it its distinctive cylindrical shape, but the marshmallow plant is not only good for making candy, it has other properties too. Marshmallow sap and mucilage has long been used as a treatment for all sorts of ailments, from coughs and sore throats to constipation; many herbalists still use it to this day. Marshmallow sap, seed, leaves and roots are all edible and make ideal salad items too.

The Marshmallow, a hardy but elegant-looking plant

Grow Marshmallow Plant

The Marshmallow plant is unique plant full of magic and mystery!

History and uses of the Marshmallow plant and it’s parts:

Marshmallow plants get their name from the fact that in the wild, they tend to grow in the swamps and marshlands of the mid-Atlantic. It’s an elegant looking plant with velvety, soft leaves and pale pink flowers that stay on all year round, which makes marshmallow an ideal decorative plant. Marshmallow plants are also fairly hardy and well used to wet and cold weather, which makes them easy to maintain and look after. The seeds from the marshmallow plant are also great ingredients for cooking, helping to add distinctive flavors to all sorts of dishes, both savory and sweet. The seeds can even be eaten raw!

Growing Marshmallow Plants from Seed:

Stratifying seeds:

To grow a marshmallow plant from them, you need to first stratify the seeds to begin the germination process. Stratification involves storing them in the same conditions they experience in the wild and is best done by mixing the seeds with damp sand and placing them in a plastic bag. After letting the bag stand at room temperature for 24 hours to absorb the moisture within the sand, put the bag it in the refrigerator for four to six weeks, giving it an occasional shake. Keep checking for signs of germination, which once begins, indicates the marshmallow seeds needs planting.

Planting the Seeds:

Once the seeds are showing signs of germination (by beginning to sprout), you need to start planting them immediately. They fare best in a normal garden pot, with holes in the bottom for drainage. Simply fill the pot with a good soil or potting mixture and place the seeds and sand from the bag on top. Because marshmallow plants grow in marsh and swampland, they need to be kept as moist as possible. The best way to do this is to cover the pot very loosely with a transparent plastic bag or some wrap, ensuring enough air can get to it (make holes in it if you have to). This will trap any condensation.

You should keep the pot in a sunny but cool area, preferably indoors by a window, until the seedlings begin to sprout and you can see green stems. Keep checking the moisture level, remembering the conditions they grow in the wild; sprinkle with water if necessary if the sand/soil mixture gets too dry.

Time to Transplant!

Once the seedlings are showing signs of sprouting, it’s time to transplant the marshmallow plants outside. Dig holes in the bedding about a foot apart and transfer a seedling into each hole, gently patting soil around it to ensure it is properly secured. Make sure the plants receive plenty of water during the first year, especially during the hot weather, replicating the types of conditions they grow in the wild.

Watch them Grow and Enjoy!

Marshmallow plants grow slowly at first, but after a year, it may be necessary to distance the plants a further foot apart to avoid crowding. Marshmallow plants grow to about four feet in height once matured and are easy plants to take stem cuttings or to propagate seeds. If you want to use the plants for culinary uses, you can sprinkle seeds on salads as a tasty replacement for sunflower seeds, or place in stews and other dishes. The leaves too are good to eat, either raw or as a steamed vegetables.

Marshmallow Seeds

Click imigae above to be directed to high quality Marshmallow Seed!

Posted on January 18th, 2012 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »

The Top 5 Seeds to give as a Gift – Gifts of Meaning and Beauty

The true spirit of the season is to love and protect each other and our Earth

The true spirit of the season is to love and protect each other and our Earth

This holiday season is marked by widespread economic and environmental trials. We are all being asked to look honestly at our actions and our choices. For many, this means the always difficult task of finding unique gifts for our loved ones has taken on the new depth of finding unique, meaningful and purposeful gifts!

As we are faced, both as a country at large and within our own families, with the challenge of making smarter choices, the backyard garden is finding a new home in our hearts.

Here are my Top 5 suggestions of Seeds to give as gifts this Holiday Season. I chose these seeds based both on the meanings they hold on on the usefulness and/or beauty of the plants they produce.

Enjoy!

5. Vervain

Beautiful Blue Vervain may help bring you love money and sleep!

Beautiful Blue Vervain may help bring you love money and sleep!

Give Blue Vervain Seeds as a unique way to wish your friends and family blessings of Love, Healing, Protection, Peace, Purification, Chastity,Youth, Money and Sleep. Blue Vervain has also been used for thousands of years as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments.

4. Thyme

Thyme is useful in your garden and your kitchen and may improve your Health and bring you blessings of Healing

Thyme is useful in your garden and your kitchen and may improve your Health and bring you blessings of Healing

Thyme was considered by the Greeks as a symbol of courage and sacrifice. Thyme is believed to have been in the straw bed of the Virgin Mary and the Christ child. In the Middle Ages, ladies would embroider a sprig of Thyme into scarves they gave to their errant knights. At various periods in history, Thyme has been used to treat melancholy, reproductive system ailments, and to improve digestion. In the 18th century, it was recommended as a cure for a hangover.

Give Thyme as a gift of Courage, Strength, Health, Healing, Love, and Purification.

3. Echinacea

Echinacea is frequently used to shorten the common cold or flu

Echinacea is frequently used to shorten the common cold or flu

Echinacea is one of the most well known and widely used herbs in America today. Native American are thought to have used Echinacea as a “cure-all”.

Today, people use Echinacea to shorten the duration of the common cold and flu and reduce symptoms, such as sore throat, cough, and fever. Many herbalists also recommend Echinacea to help boost the immune system and help the body fight infections

Echinacea should be given to bring wishes of Health and Strength.

2. English Lavender

Beloved worldwide for its unique Fragrance and Calming remedies

Beloved worldwide for its unique Fragrance and Calming remedies

Lavender is well known and loved for it’s beloved fragrance and calming effects. Ancient Greeks and Romans used Lavender to scent their bath water. The flowers are believed to contain a special magic- they bloom over an extended period of time and have the unique quality of retaining their scent even after drying.

Give Lavender seeds to those you wish to bless with Love, Protection, Happiness, Peace, Chastity, Purification, Sleep and Longevity.

1. Bells of Ireland

The "Luck of the Irish" is said to live in these pretty flowers!

The "Luck of the Irish" is said to live in these pretty flowers!

Bells of Ireland flowers don’t actually grow in Ireland. This flower gets its name from the luscious green color of its leaves. The lovely white-veined green bells are not flowers at all. Rather they are calyxes, which clothe the small sweet white flowers found within.

Bells of Ireland symbolize good luck in all areas of life. The flowers are said to contain the “luck of the Irish” because of their green color and whimsical shape.

Give Bells of Ireland to bestow great Luck to your loved ones!

Tips on giving seeds as a gift:

There are endless creative ways to present your gift of seeds, here are a few suggestions:

  • Fill a peat pot with seeds, decorate with bay leaves and attach a small note describing the seed and its meaning.

    A cute and creative way to present a gift of seeds

    A cute and creative way to present a gift of seeds

  • Place seed packets between the pages of a new gardening book:
    Beginner’s Guide to Gardening by Reader Digest
    The Gardening Book (for kids) by Jane Bull
  • Place packets of seeds inside a bouquet of flowers. This is romantic way to say…my love for you will continue to grow…
  • Wrap the seeds with an article or section of the paper that pertains to their meaning or significance. Tie up with a pretty, bright piece of ribbon, string or raffia. Be sure to include an explanation of the seed and the articles significance!
  • A can or jar can be used as a very creative gift wrap. Start with a clean jar or can. Paint the lids, add a “belly band”of printed paper, wrapping paper, bandana or piece of fabric around the midsection. Cover the lid with a piece of fabric or lace and tie on with ribbon or string. Fill the jar with your seed packets and add a decorative tag with a note!

    Even a very simply decorated jar makes a great way to turn seeds into a gift!

    Even a very simply decorated jar makes a great way to turn seeds into a gift!

Happy giving and happy gardening!

Santa-and-Earth

Posted on November 16th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  3 Comments »

What is Damiana? (and How to Grow it)

What is damiana?

Damiana grows wild in the subtropical regions of the Americas and Africa and is widely used in traditional medicine

What is Damiana?

Damiana is a historically well known herb in North America.  This amazing plant is native to Texas, parts of Southern California and throughout the entire country of Mexico.  Its roots can be traced back to the ancient civilization of the Mayan’s who used it for many of the same reasons it is used today, including use as an aphrodisiac and to stimulate the intestinal tract. There are a few important things to know about damiana, such as the two species of plant, its common forms and uses and the risks associated with it’s use.

Types of Damiana

There are two species of the plant both referred to as Damiana.  The first, Turnera aphrodisiaca, has long been used as an aphrodisiac as the name implies and can be traced back to use in the ancient Mexican culture of the Mayans.  The second species of the plant, Turnera diffusa, is also commonly used in herbal healing to treat symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, and mild depression.  Because many of these symptoms may be tied to sexual inadequacies both are employed as an aphrodisiac for both men and women.  The small shrub-like plant blooms in late summer and produces small but brilliant yellow flowers that are quite fragrant.  Once the plant blooms, small fruits, which have been compared to figs in flavor, appear on the plant.   The shrub itself has a very aromatic spicy odor that is comparable to chamomile.

Damiana’s Herbal Uses

Although many parts of damiana have been used in herbal remedy throughout history, today’s most common forms come through the use of its leaves.  Damiana leaves are commonly found in pill form and as a tea for consumption.  There are many different effects for damiana so it is important to consult an herbalist in order to best understand what each form is used for, the proper dosage and not to mention possible side effects.  It is also important to note that while the FDA has not approved damiana, there have been many recent studies that have confirmed the medical uses of damiana.

A large number of studies have concluded that there are clear increased sexual drives in both male and female rats (“Stimulating property of Turnera diffusa and Pfaffia paniculata extracts on the sexual behavior of male rats” Arletti, R., Benelli, A., Cavazzuti, E., Scarpetta, G., & Bertolini, A. September 1998).  Pills for use as an aphrodisiac are commonly found today and are said to stimulate the intestinal tract, bringing oxygen to the genital area, which serves to increase the users energy levels thus increasing libido and desire for a partner.  Most pills are made from the leaves of the plant.  The recommended dosage is 2-200mg tablets 3 times daily but it is highly recommended to consult an expert prior to consumption.  It is not recommended to take damiana if you take medicine to treat diabetes or to control blood sugar levels such as insulin, glipizide (Glucotrol), and many others.

Damiana Tea

Damiana is possibly better known in the form of tea brewed from the various parts of the plant.  The tea itself is quite easy to make yourself if you decide to go forward with cultivation of your own plant.  However, one must be responsible and diligent to follow your local laws, as it is illegal to cultivate damiana in the state of Louisiana (Legislature of Louisiana: Regular Session, Act No. 565; House Bill No. 173, 2010). One key to the benefits of damiana tea may come from the variety of different essential oils and minerals, including phosphorus, tannins, and flavonoids.  The combination of these oils and minerals and their effects on the central nervous system is still not completely understood.  What nutritionists and herbalists understand is that damiana tea produces calming effects for those of us who are stressed out or over worked. Drinking damiana tea has been shown to help increase general energy levels, control irritable bowel syndrome, and even improve asthma symptoms. Some of the other benefits include relief from depression and anxiety.  The recommended dosage for the tea or tonic is a 1:5 mixture of 5 mL, 3 times daily.  It is rare but some users have reported allergic reactions to damiana. If you think that damiana is something you would like to try and you enjoy tryingsomething new and exciting in your garden you can cultivate your own damiana plant!

Growing Damiana

Growing your own damiana plant is an easy and enjoyable way to add a little something special to your garden.  The basics for excellent cultivation lay in your ability to provide the plant with a well-drained environment in which to thrive.  Because the plant is indigenous to southern parts of America, Mexico and South America it does require a fair amount of sunlight.  If the temperature of the environment is consistently cooler such as coastal southern California, place your plant in direct sunlight for the majority of the time.  However, the further in-land you go, the hotter and hotter the environment becomes and therefore you will need to base your plants location around a well-balanced mixture of shade and sunshine.

Growing Damiana from a Seedling

There is a very small and simple list of ingredients needed to get you started.

  • Damiana plant
  • Large planting buckets
  • Soil and Gravel mixture

Once you have gathered all your planting materials, mix the soil and gravel into the bottom of the bucket so that the root system will have ample drainage.  Place your damiana plant in the planter and cover it with the remainder of soil and gravel mixed together.  Make sure to cover the plants root system all the way up to the stem and water.  This shrub thrives in regions with high drainage, so the mixture you have made should do the job.  All you need to do now is sit back, make sure you water daily and let the damiana plant bring all its mystery and excitement to you!

Growing Damiana from Seed

Damiana can also be started from seed. The best method for starting damiana from seed is to use a “cold stratifying” technique. Damiana seeds will germinate at about a 60-80% rate and take a lot of attention and extra TLC.

Once you have a well established seedling you can transplant and care for it as explained above.

Damiana is a popular plant for both its medicinal and landscaping qualities – enjoy!

What is damiana?

Posted on November 11th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  4 Comments »

Stingy Jack- A Memoir (or, The History of your Jack-O-Lantern)

Ireland

Once upon a time in Ireland sometime around 1750…

An Irish folk legend as retold by Jessica B

As a child, I never had many friends. One time, a boy named Patrick started to be my friend. But, when I stole his homework and demanded a weeks worth of lunch money for it’s return, our friendship abruptly ended.

I never understood or embraced the ideas of truth, honesty or love. It seemed to me they all caused me more work then if I simply rejected them all. Why would I learn to bake a pie, grow vegetables or buy a chicken when I could just steal them from someone who already had?

I glided through life, taking what I needed.

I spent my Sundays basking in the quiet while the rest of Ireland went off to church.

I always knew of God and the Devil. Throughout my life, I spoke with the Devil on numerous occasions. I never remember speaking with God though. I always assumed we could talk later, when my fun was good and done.

The first time I met the Devil, it was Halloween night. I was drunk. Well, I was always drunk but, on this particular occasion, I happened to be drunk and sitting on a stool next to the Devil.

He was drunk too.
Irish pub
I don’t know much about the Devil’s daily life but, by the looks of things, this wasn’t his first time in a pub.

I realized, even in the midst of my libation, there this was no coincidence that the Devil was seated next to me. I knew I needed a plan if I was to see November’s morning.

And so, being the fantastic trickster that I am, I came up with a plan.

“Devil, sir”, I said,
“I know you are here for my soul and I will gladly give it to you if you would please just help me out with one last drink.”

Being a man of a similar disposition to myself, The Devil laughed and quickly agreed. He transformed himself into the silver coin I needed for my “last drink”.
Silver Irish Coin

Now, at this point, you’ll have to agree that I am a very smart man.

I quickly put the Devil into my coin purse which had a very large cross embroidered on it.
I may not be a man of God but, I certainly know how to use his powers to benefit me in my time of need!
Irish Cross
The Devil’s powers of transformation were worthless in the face of the cross.

So, we began bartering for my soul and his transformation.

I demanded the Devil promise to leave my soul alone for 10 years in exchange for his release.He offered five years. We agreed on seven and, I set him free.

I spent those next seven years reveling in my own glory. Bouncing from town to town, taking whatever I needed form whoever had it.

Lying, Cheating, Stealing. After all, what did I have to fear?

On the first day of the eighth year, I assumed the Devil had forgotten me and I was off to celebrate.

As I crossed the street I saw, standing before me, the infinitely recognizable dark form.
“Hello again, Devil,” I said.
“Hello Jack,” said the Devil. “I am here to collect your soul.”

I was not yet ready to go so, pretending to comply, I asked the Devil if he would please first just climb an apple tree and get me an apple for the journey.

The Devil thought about this and decided he could see no trickery in the plan and he had nothing to loose. So, he climbed the tree.

The devil in a tree
As he was plucking my apple, I quickly pulled out my knife and carved a cross into the tree’s trunk.

The Devil was unable to come down and was, again, forced to come to an agreement with me.

This time, I demanded the Devil promise to never, ever, in all of eternity, take my soul. He agreed.

I removed the cross from the bark and the Devil was again free.

Some number of years later, as I was stealing turnips from my cousins garden, I collapsed.

Dead. No Devil. No warning. I just died.
stingy-jack grave

I stood before St. Peter and the gates to heaven, laughing. Laughing to myself at how I had outsmarted the rules of heaven and hell.

Peter closed the gates.
“You are not welcome here,” he said.
And, he sent me to Hell
devil
The devil stood before the gates to Hell.
“Hello Jack,” he said.
“I see the world is finally free of miserable you.”

The Devil, remembering his promise, closed the gates.

When I asked him where I was to go, he simply said
“back to where you came from.”

I turned and saw the way back was dark and windy. I begged the Devil to give me something to light my way.

As he turned to walk away, he tossed a burning lump of coal over the gate.

I took my stolen turnip, placed the coal in it, and used it as a lantern to light the darkness.
turnip lantern2
I am now doomed, for all of eternity, to wander the darkness, alone, with my lantern.

I am not welcome by anyone. I have no friends, no family, no comfort. Only my coal and my stolen turnip.

My name and my lantern have become synonymous with a damned soul.
stingy jack

My story prompted the people of Ireland to begin carving faces in turnips, potatoes, rutabagas or beets in order to chase me and other ghosts away.

When the Irish came to America, they brought with them the “Jack-O-Lantern” custom and beliefs. As turnips were not as readily available in America, they began using Pumpkins instead.

And, so it is.
I will wander the earth, welcomed by no one. You will continue to carve your Jack-O-Lanterns as a reminder to me that my lying, cheating and stealing got me nowhere but right back where I came from.

Alone and damned.
jack-o-lantern2

Posted on October 13th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  1 Comment »

Growing Tulips in Colorado

 

Growing Tulips in Colorful Colorado

An Abundance of Tulips Bloom on Boulder Colorado's "Pearl Street Mall"

“I guess he’d rather be in Colorado
He’d rather spend his time out where the sky looks like a pearl after a rain”

John Denver

Growing Tulips in Colorado

Tulips are part of the Tulipa genus which has over 100 species of flowers.  Tulips are perennials (many tulips are planted in late fall as annuals) and are a welcome emergence of color to your garden every spring.  Tulips thrive in climates where there are long cool springs and dry summers, making them an ideal plant for gardens in Colorado.

When and Where to Plant

For tulip growers in Colorado, the best results are typically achieved by planting the bulbs in late September through October and even as late as December depending on when and where you want them to bloom.   Even though tulips grow well in both sun and shade, you will want to avoid planting tulips in a southerly exposure too early in the year, in order to avoid premature blooming.

If you plant your bulbs too early in the year, at a shallow depth, the heat from a south exposure can make the bulbs bloom in the early heat only to be killed off by an inevitable freeze.  Conversely, if you are late to plant your bulbs you can make up the time by planting your bulbs in a southerly exposure and at a more shallow depth thus allowing the bulbs a better chance of warming up and blooming.  An average depth of 4 to 8 inches should do the trick.  The best rule of thumb for the proper depth is to plant the bulb at a depth three times as deep as the height of the bulb.  For example, if the bulb is one and ½ inches tall, dig a hole 4 and ½ inches deep and place the bulb at the bottom with 3 inches of soil on top of the bulb.   You can group the bulbs together according to a similar guideline.  Spacing the bulbs at a width two times the width of the bulb allows for close grouping and spectacular blooming in the spring.  If the bulb is one inch wide space the bulb two inches from the next bulb and proceed accordingly.

For all of the procrastinators out there don’t worry, if you miss the time window of fall you can still plant late in the year.   To achieve the proper blooming schedule, plant the bulbs at a slightly more shallow depth than normal and pick a space in your yard where the sun will assure warmth throughout the proceeding season.

Planting Tulip Bulbs

Spacing and location are important factors to consider when planting your bulbs

Picking the Best Tulip Bulbs

An all important step to great tulips is picking the best Tulip bulbs.  You want to pick the biggest, firmest, fullest bulbs available.  In the case of bulb picking size does matter, and bigger is definitely better.  You do not want bulbs that are soft to the touch as they may contain mold and thus might lead to bulb rot.

Buying Tulip Bulbs

When choosing your bulbs, select bulbs that are firm and blemish free

Preparing the Soil

Once you have picked the biggest and best bulbs it is time to prepare the soil in which you have decided to plant.  The soil should be quick draining and well aerated as this is where tulips will thrive.  Dig your holes and then begin placing your bulbs.  The bulbs need to be planted with the point up and the flat part of the bulb sitting at the bottom of you hole.  You will only need to water if you feel the ground is particularly dry.

If you follow these simple steps to planting Tulips, you can expect an amazing burst of color come spring and you can enjoy your Tulips for many years!

Growing Tulips

Posted on September 9th, 2011 by Dr. Greenthumb  |  3 Comments »

Tulipomania and the History of the Tulip Bulb

Tulipomania- The Story

Tulipomania (n.) A violent passion for the acquisition or cultivation of tulips

The History of Tulips

The Tulip has a long, exciting and unique history that has led to the great variety of myths, folklore and symbolism that have come to be associated with this beautiful flower.

History

Today, we associate Tulips (and most bulb flowers) with Holland however, Holland is, in fact, no bulb’s ancestral home! Tulips are from Central Asia, Daffodils are from Spain and Portugal, Dahlias come from Mexico, Amaryllis is native to South America, Freesias and Callas come from South Africa, and most of the species of “wild” lilies are from China, Japan, and North America. The wild forms of these bulb flowers have been developed by Dutch flower hybridizers to produce the amazing variety of flowers we are now familiar with and seek for our home gardens. Most of the true “wild” forms of these bulbs are still available, but with all the glamor of the hybrids, the wild ones are more difficult to find.

There are about 150 species of “wild tulips” that originate from the Pamir Alai and Tien-Shan Mountain Ranges (near modern day Russian/Chinese border), and  east into China and West into France and Spain, with the majority coming from Central Asia.

Three famous wild forms of Tulips:

“Lilac Wonder”, Tulipa bakeri

The “Lilac Wonder”, Tulipa bakeri is a 6-8” tall wild tulip, native to the Greek Island of Crete.

Wild "Lilac Wonder", Tulipa bakeri

One of the more difficult to find "wild" forms of tulips

“Peppermint Stick, Tulipa clusiana

The “Peppermint Stick, Tulipa clusiana is a 13” tall wild tulip native to the mountains of Afghanistan and Iran

"Peppermint Sick" Tulipa clusiana

Fun red and white botanical Tulips

“Tarda”, Tulipa tarda

The “Tarda”, Tulipa tarda is a small 5-6” tall wild tulip from Central Asia. This valuable native tulip used extensively in hybridizing

Tulipa Tarda

A valuable native tulip used extensively in hybridizing

Tulips in Turkey

The glorification of the Tulip probably started in Ottoman Empire of Turkey as early as 1,000 AD.  During this time, the Sultans celebrated the Tulip flower and came to believe it could help bring wealth and power.  Today the tulip is still the national flower of Turkey.

Famous Turkish Tulip Legend

One famous Turkish lore tells of a very handsome prince named Farhad who fell deeply in love with a fair maiden named Shirin. One day, news spread to the prince that Shirin had been killed. In his grief, the prince mounted his horse and rode it over a cliff to his death. According to the legend, each droplet of his blood caused a scarlet colored tulip to spring up, making the tulip a historic symbol of “perfect” love.

Red Emperor Tulips

The deep red color of the "Red Emperor" reminds us of the price's blood

Europe is introduced to the Tulip

During the 1500’s European botanists began recording their findings in beautiful drawings. Many of these early tulip renderings began appearing in Europe. The flowers depicted were so beautiful and unique that they gained wide notice. One of the most famous of these early botanic drawings, called “Tulipa bononiesnsis”, become very famous and helped spark a great interest in these flowers.  Paintings depicting these “new flowers” were very exotic to Europeans and helped fuel the fire for what was soon to become the great tulip craze!

Tulipa bononiesnsis

The famous Tulipa bononiensis which looks a lot like our “Red Emperor” tulips today

In the late 16th century a botonist named Carolus Clusius was the head botanist (called the “Hortulanus”) at the University of Leiden. During Clusius’ earlier work in Vienna, he had met a man named DeBusbecq. DeBusbecq was the ambassador to the court of the Sultan in Constantinople, the seat of the Ottoman Empire. As a gift, DeBusbecq gave Clusius some tulip bulbs from Central Asia. Clusias brought these bulbs with him to Holland and began studying the unique flowers, probably in hopes of finding medicinal uses for the bulbs. Since the people of Holland had seen the beautiful botanical drawing circulating throughout Europe, many investors became interested in the flowers as “money-makers” in the developing floral trade market.

Clusias contributed the desirability of the tulip bulbs by being very secretive and protective of the bulbs. The public became so fascinated with the mysterious flowers that some were even stolen from his gardens. This was the beginning of what has come to be known as the famous “Tulipomania”.

Tulipomania

During the 17th century, when the tulip bulbs got beyond the protective grasp of Clusias, the great rise and fall of the “great tulip craze” began. The bulbs were considered very precious rarities and their price quickly began to rise. Through the early 1600’s the prices skyrocketed as an actual trading market for Tulip Bulbs developed. As the hybrids became more and more glamorous, the limited supply of certain bulbs became highly prized by the rich who, ultimately, were willing to pay almost any price. By 1624, one tulip type, with only 12 bulbs available, was selling for 3000 guilders per bulb, the equivalent of about $1500 today! This bulb was similar to today’s “Rembrandt Tulips” which sell for about $0.50 a bulb! During the peak of the tulip craze, one famous sale is recorded for a single bulb going for the equivalent of $2250 plus a horse and carriage!

During the 1630s, the frenzy continued as notarized bills of sale were being issued for bulbs, fraud and speculation were rampant, and the incredible tulip bubble was about to burst. The crash came in 1637. Many rich traders became paupers overnight, and the prices finally settled at a much more practical level.

The settling of “Tulipomania” did not reduce the real demand and the love of the sheer beauty of the tulip flowers.  The tulip market has been maintained and the Dutch have built one of the best organized production and export businesses in the world. Today, over nine billion flower bulbs are produced each year in Holland, and about 7 billion of them are exported, for an export value of three quarters of a billion dollars. The USA is the biggest importer of Dutch bulbs importing around $130,000,000 worth of Dutch bulbs (at wholesale) every year!

Tulip Bulbs in Holland

Over nine billion flower bulbs are produced each year in Holland, and about 7 billion of them are exported

 

Posted on September 8th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  2 Comments »

Tulip Symbolism by Color

Tulip Flowers and their Symbolism

The Color of Specific Tulips Hold Intimate and Historic Meaning

“The tulip and the butterfly
Appear in gayer coats than I:
Let me be dressed fine as I will,
Flies, worms, and flowers
exceed me still.

~ Isaac Watts

Tulip Symbolism

The name of the “Tulip” flower comes from the headdress, known as the turban or taliban, worn by many people in the Middle East. The Latin translation of the turban is “tulipa”.

The great history of the Tulip, which reaches to the far corners of the world, has given it many strong symbolic associations.  As a group, Tulips represent fame, wealth and perfect love.

Perhaps because they bloom in the spring, following the darkness of the winter months, the Tulip has come to symbolize eternal life.

Tulip Symbolism by Color

The symbolic meaning of the tulip flower changes with the color of the flower.

Red:

Red tulips are a declaration of love and mean, “believe me”.

Red Oscar Tulip Bulbs

Red Oscar Tulips

Yellow:

Yellow tulips mean, “there’s sunshine in your smile”.

"Strong Gold" Yellow Tulip Bulbs

"Strong Gold" Yellow Tulips

Cream:

Cream colored tulips mean , “I will love you forever”.

Maureen Tulip Bulbs

Creamy "Maureen" Tulips

White:

White tulips symbolize heaven, newness and purity.

Inzell Tulip Bulbs

Pure white, "Inzell" Tulips

Purple:

Purple tulips symbolize royalty and wealth.

Purple Prince Tulip Bulbs

Deep purple, "Purple Prince" Tulips

Pink:

Pink tulips symbolize affection and caring

Upstar Tulip Bulbs

Pink, "Upstar" Tulips

Orange:

Orange tulips symbolize energy, enthusiasm, desire and passion

Princess Irene Tulip Bulbs

Ornage colored "Princess Irene" Tulips

Variegated:

Variegated tulips mean, “you have beautiful eyes”

Mickey Mouse Tulip Bulbs

Multi-colored, or variegated, "Mickey Mouse" tulips

Tulips are a long time favorite of the spring garden and the meaning of a garden can be encoded in the color choice of the flowers. For example, a white tulip garden would symbolize “heaven on earth”, while a cream and red tulip garden would be symbolic of a deep and everlasting love. Planting tulips can be a very rewarding way to add symbolic meaning and beauty to your spring gardens.

Tulip Flowers

 

Posted on August 31st, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  5 Comments »

Thoughts on Extending your Garden for Fall

Fall harvest!

Enjoy planting your Fall garden as you continue to enjoy your Summer harvest!

Summer’s lease hath all to short a date.

-   William Shakespeare

With the dog days of summer in full swing, it may be hard to imagine fall as being right around the corner. In fact, late July through September is the best  time to extend your home garden’ s growing season by planting a fall garden. If you have been enjoying the fruits of your labor in your garden through the spring and summer you’re in for a double treat with your fall garden. Fall gardens take less time and work because the soil has already been worked up in the spring.

Many vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower actually do better when grown during the late summer and early fall months and some such as beets, kale and swiss chard develop an improved taste after being exposed to a light frost.

To prepare your garden for a fall harvest

  • Remove any residue or debris from previous crops
  • As in spring, spade or loosen the soil
  • Add high quality organic fertilizer to replenish the nutrients used by your spring/summer crops
  • Plant seeds according to their recommendations
  • Keep the soil moist until your seeds germinate (this is especially important because you will be planting at the end of summer when soil tends to dry out quickly)

As summer comes to a close and fall approaches, frost presents a threat to many garden vegetables. However, there are many crops that are not effected by frost, or even moderate freezes and will continue to produce harvests well into the late fall moths. Some of the best fall producers are :

Other, more sensitive crops such as beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash will, if protected, continue to produce crops into the fall. Some recommended and effective way of protecting these plants in your garden are to cover them with boxes, tarps, plastic or blankets. Covering the plants allows them to stay warm and decreases the chance of an early or light frost killing them.

Here are a few recipes to encourage your appreciation of your fall garden!

Sautéed Swiss Chard Ribs with Cream and Pasta Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb swiss chard, yielding 2 cups of chopped ribs
  • 1/4 cup (half a stick) butter
  • 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
  • Enough dry pasta to make about one quart of cooked pasta (use rice pasta if gluten-free is required)
  • Salt and pepper

Method

1 Separate the ribs from the greens. Cut the ribs into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces. Blanch the ribs in lightly salted boiling water for 3 minutes.

Cooking with Swiss Chard swiss-chard-stalks-2.jpg

2 Melt butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the drained, blanched ribs and simmer for 4 minutes. Add heavy cream and cook until cream reduces by two-thirds.

3 While the cream is reducing, cook up your pasta according to the pasta’s package directions.

4 Mix creamed chard with pasta. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Arugula Salad with Beets and Goat Cheese Recipe

Ingredients

Salad Ingredients:

  • Beets – (boiled until a fork easily goes in it, about an hour), peeled, sliced into strips
  • Fresh arugula – rinsed, patted dry with a paper towel
  • Goat cheese – chevre
  • Walnuts – chopped

Dressing ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Lemon
  • Dry powdered mustard
  • Sugar
  • Salt and pepper

Method

The amount of ingredients depends on how many people you are serving and how much salad you intend to serve them. The important thing is that this is a good blend of flavors.

The dressing for three servings of salad is 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/2 lemon, 1/4 teaspoon of powdered mustard, 3/4 teaspoon of sugar, salt and pepper to taste. *Adjust to taste

Assemble the salad according to preference. A handful of arugula leaves, a few beet juliennes, some crumbled goat cheese, garnish with chopped walnuts. Dress and enjoy!

Happy Gardening!

Posted on August 8th, 2011 by admin  |  No Comments »

Seed Germinating Times and Tips

Germinating seed

Germinating seeds can vary from easy to difficult

“Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas.” Elizabeth Murray

The Art of the Garden

As any seasoned gardener will tell you, gardening is an art and a true labor of love. The art of the garden begins with learning about the needs of each seed. Germinating seeds is not a black and white “by the book” process. Each seed type is different and desires different conditions and levels of patience. Some, like the Radish and many Lettuces, only ask for a little water and a few days. Others, like the Hot Peppers and some Perennial flowers, need specific temperature and humidity and MONTHS to germinate!

In this post we will give you some basic tips for successful germination, information of the various seed “types” followed by a chart detailing expected germination times of specific seed varieties.

The “Must Know”s for Successful Seed Germinating

Sowing the seed

Germinating Seeds

All seeds need water and oxygen to germinate. The best soil choice (in almost all situations) is a light, loose soil that will not compact, get soggy, or crust over. Successful germination demand a continuous supply of  water and air. Cover seed with 2 – 4 times their thickness of soil, unless they require light to germinate. Sow shallowly in cold wet spring, more deeply in warm dry summer. Large seeds can be soaked overnight and planted singly. Barely cover small seeds, and sprinkle fine seed on the surface and water by misting. Plant flat seed edgewise and winged seed with wing uppermost or broken off. Sowing too thickly wastes seed and weakens the crowded seedlings, but some kinds of seed sprout best if crowded. Lightly tamp soil to insure good contact with the seed, unless heavy. Keep soil moist, not soggy, and do not allow it to dry out!
Common causes of failure of germination are:

  • Soil too heavy, wet or cold, or allowed to dry out
  • Impatience with slow seeds (some seeds need MONTHS not days to germinate!)- See germination chart below for guidance in germination times
  • Pests eating the seeds or seedlings,
  • Not giving dormant seeds the proper pretreatment

Careful attention to any growing instructions on the internet, in the catalog and on the seed packet will help insure optimal results results. Remember that seed “germination rates” also vary by seed variety. Some varieties bost 90-100% germination rates while some, more difficult varieties will only give a 20% germination rate.

Temperature

Germinating Seeds

Most seeds germinate best at warm (70°F) temperatures. Plants from temperate regions, the arctic, high mountains and high deserts often germinate best at cool temperatures. Plants from winter-rain areas like California, the Mediterranean, Chile, S. Africa and parts of Australia also like cool temperatures. Warm temperatures will often speed germination of these seeds, but lower vigor, survival and germination rates. Warm desert plants and tropical seeds like warmth. Please refer to the germination chart below for guidance on germination temperatures for specific seed varieties.

Seed Types and General Germination Tips

Germinating Seeds

HARDY ANNUALS (HA)

Grow Foxglove from Seed!

An annual plant is a plant that usually germinates, flowers, and dies in a year or season. “True annuals” will only live longer than a year if they are prevented from setting seed.

Hardy annual seeds can handle being frozen in the soil and are often planted in fall or early spring. Most self-seeding annuals would be considered hardy annual seeds. These seeds can be sown direct to the garden as early as the ground can be worked (generally, March to June). The soil should be prepared until a smooth, fine surface is obtained. An attractive annual border can be had by planting annuals in large, irregular drifts.

Examples of Hardy Annuals include: Alyssum, Dianthus, Calendula, Cornflower, Foxglove, Larkspur, Pansy, many Dianthus cultivars and Viola.

HALF HARDY ANNUALS (HHA)

Grow Baby's Breathe from Seed

Half Hardy Annuals are killed by frost and should be sown in late spring after danger of frost. For early bloom, start early indoors & plant out after danger of frost.

Examples of Half Hardy Annuals include: Comsos, Gazania, Baby’s breath, Bells of Ireland, Blue sage, Candytuft, Celome, Forget-me-nots, Love-in-a-mist, Snow-on-the-mountain, Strawflower and Petunias

TENDER ANNUALS (TA)

Grow Flowering Tobacco, a tender annual

Tender Annuals need warmth and shelter and, as their name implies, are the most sensitive of the annual varieties. Tender Annuals are best started in pots or flats and planted out in favored spots after the soil has warmed. Most Tender Annuals can’t handle anything colder than about 55 degrees F

Examples of Tender Annuals include: Ageratum, Balsam, Begonia, Celosia, Coleus, Amaranth, Impatiens, Marigold, Morning glory, Nasturtium, Nicotiana, Petunia, Scarlet sage, Verbena, Vinca,  and Zinnia

BIENNIALS and WINTER ANNUALS

Grow Black Hollyhock from Seed

The life cycle of biennial plants is completed over two growing seasons. During the first season they produce only leaves—usually in a rosette. Following a winter cold period, they flower in the second growing season, produce seeds, and then die. Biennials are sown like half hardy annuals or perennials in spring or fall and planted out in September and October. Biennials present the obvious disadvantage of producing only foliage the first year. One solution is to sow biennial seeds in mid-summer so that the plants will develop during the summer and fall. After exposure to the winter cold, they will develop flowers in the spring.

Examples of Biennials include: Foxglove, Hollyhock, Stocks, and Sweet williams.

Winter annuals germinate in autumn or winter, live through the winter, then bloom in winter or spring. Winter annuals such as some Californian and desert plants may be grown in summer, but are at their best sown in fall, even if grown in the greenhouse in cold winter areas. These plants grow and bloom during the cool season when most other plants are dormant or other annuals are in seed form waiting for warmer weather to germinate. Winter annuals die after flowering and setting seed. The seeds germinate in the fall or winter when the soil temperature is cool.

Winter annuals typically grow low to the ground, where they are usually sheltered from the coldest nights by snow cover, and make use of warm periods in winter for growth when the snow melts.

Examples of Winter Annuals include: Henbit, Deadnettle, Chickweed, and Winter cress.

PERENNIALS (HP), HARDY PERENNIALS (HP) and HERBACEOUS PERENNIALS

Grow Beautiful Echinacea White Swan from Seed

Generally speaking, Perennial Plants are plants that live for two or more years. Hardy Perennials are perennial plants that are capable of surviving the coldest temperatures of a given area and Herbaceous Perennials are non-woody plants that lives for two or more years; These perennial plants can either be deciduous or evergreen.

Many  Perennials germinate readily at warm temperatures, and can be sown direct to the garden or early in the greenhouse or cold frame. If started early, they often bloom the first year. Other Perennials germinate best at cool or cold temperatures and the seedlings need cool temperatures. Many have various dormancies & need specific pretreatments.

Perennial plants can be short-lived (only a few years) or they can be long-lived, as are some woody plants like trees which can live for over 4,000 years

Examples of Perennial Plants include: Many Herbs (Some Basils, Chives, Dill , Mint etc), Asters, Echinacea, Dianthus, Raspberry, Strawberry, Apple Tree, Globe Artichoke, Hognut, Sorrel and Watercress

Germination Time

Germinating Seeds

For most seed, average germination time is given in a range of weeks.  A seed that takes 2 – 3 weeks will usually come up fairly evenly. On the other hand, one that takes 1 – 12 weeks will tend to straggle in irregularly. Time varies with temperature, so expect considerable variation. Don’t give up too soon—many who have given up and sown another seed in the pot end up with two types of plants in the same pot!

Below you will find a chart of specific germination times for many popular garden seeds:

For detailed information on HOW to germinate Pepper Seeds, click HERE

Set yourself up for success!

Other important factors in seed germination are the Soil mix and pH, Pre-treatment of seeds, optimal hours of light, and various seed germinating techniques. We will be addressing these issues in upcoming posts so stay tuned!

Knowing what to expect from your specific seeds and how to best care for them will help set you up for successful germination and save you the concern of wondering “when will my seeds germinate?!”

“All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.” Swedish Proverb

Germinating seed

Happy Germinating!

Posted on July 6th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  3 Comments »

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