Tips for Growing Bilberries from Seed

Grow Bilberries from Seed

What IS a Bilberry?

Bilberry is also known as Blaeberry, Whortleberry, Whinberry, Winberry, Wimberry, Myrtle blueberry, Black hearts and Fraughan. Bilberries are DIFFERENT from Blueberries but closely related. Both the berries and the leaves of this interesting plant are used in herbal medicines.

Bilberry leaves have been used to control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Bilberry extract can also help protect the stomach against ulcers. It stimulates production of stomach mucus, which protects against digestive acids. And because it relaxes muscles, it can help relieve menstrual cramps.

In folk medicine, Bilberry leaves were used to treat gastrointestinal ailments, applied topically, or made into infusions. Bilberry leaves are also used as a tonic to prevent some infections and skin diseases. The berries contain compounds called anthocyanosides, which are known to strengthen blood vessels and improve circulation, and can be useful in treating eye disorders, such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma, and circulation disorders, such as varicose veins and hemorrhoids. These same compounds also strengthen the retina, the part of the eye that controls night vision and helps the eye adapt to light changes. Bilberries are often said to help night vision and, it is said, that during World War II, British fighter pilots ate Bilberries before going on nightly bombing raids because their night vision improved as a result.

Dried Bilberries have been used for many years to treat diarrhea. The dried berry is high in tannin, which helps control and reduce the intestinal inflammation that can cause diarrhea.

Tips for Growing Bilberry from Seed:

  • Soak berries

    Soak the berries in water overnight. The easiest way to do this is to put the berries in a jar, pour water over them, let them sit over night.

  • Smash berries

    In the morning pour the soaked berries through a sieve, smash the berries inside the sieve, then put the mashed berries in a bowl or small bucket of water, stir them around in the water, at which point the flesh will float and the seeds will sink.

  • Separate Seeds

    Pour off the majority of the water and the flesh of the berries. Finally, pour the water and the seeds into a sieve that is lined with a paper towel. Allow this to drain, and you will now have the seeds on the paper towel, and you can proceed to scoop them up and plant them!

  • Plant Seeds

    Sow your Bilberry seeds in fall or very early spring (expect germination in the spring). You may also mix the seeds in moist medium in a sealed plastic bag or jar in the refrigerator (not the freezer) for 90 days, then remove from fridge and sow. The best conditions for germination are cool, moist shade. Sow seeds in acid loam medium. Grow out in a shaded place in pots for a year before transplanting to final location. Bilberries prefer to grow in acidic loam soil.

  • Enjoy!

Interested in purchasing Organic Bilberry Seeds? Click the link below to be directed:

Purchase Bilberry Seeds Here.

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Posted on February 24th, 2014 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »

5 Unusual Herbs to Plant This Spring

Unique-Herbs-Banner

Add Some Color, Flavor and Worldy Variety to your Herb Garden this Year!

“However many years she lived, Mary always felt that ‘she should never forget that first morning when her garden began to grow’.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

After you get your standard sweet basil, dill, oregano, parsley, cilantro and mint going do you find yourself wanting to embark on a little bit of an herb garden adventure, maybe kick it up a notch,  but don’t know where to start? I definitely understand your dilemma. When faced with literally hundred of herb type, flavor and varieties, how do you choose what to plant in the little space you have left for your herb adventure garden!?

You’ve mastered the basics of starting herbs from seed and you want to grow some herbs with exotic flavor and international intrigue. Here are five herbs that will rock your herb garden world. These are temperate-climate herbs that are suitable to grow in North America, although transplanting times and growing seasons vary by region. Are you ready to grow an even more fragrant garden? Are you excited to introduce new flavors to your cooking? Here we go!

Epazote Seeds for sale

Epazote

Epazote: Epazote is difficult to find in American supermarkets, but it is a dominant herb in Mexican cooking. Epazote, also known as Chenopodium ambrosioides, Mexican Tea, Wormseed, Jesuit’s Tea, or Herba Sancti Maria, is native to Central America, South America, and southern Mexico.

Epazote is a leafy vegetable and herb that is used for its pungent flavor. Raw, the smell is similar to anise, fennel, or tarragon, but much stronger. Epazote’s fragrance is strong, but difficult to describe. It has been compared to citrus, petroleum, savory, mint and camphor. Though it is delicious, it is an invasive plant that should be planted in containers away from other plants. It grows with minimal maintenance in hot, dry climates. At once peppery and minty, epazote will add a delicious and authentically Mexican flavor to beans and stews. Medicinally, it is said to reduce flatulence.

Click for Epazote Seeds

French SorrelFrench Sorrel

French Sorrel is an easy to grow richly lemon flavored green herb. This mildly acidic herb, has long been praised throughout Europe, especially in France where it enjoys its greatest popularity.Sorrel is a very ancient herb, its name is derived from the Teutonic word for “sour”. Ancient species of sorrel were extensively used in pharaonic Egypt and garden sorrel, is still frequently found in modern Egyptian cooking. The ancient Greeks and Romans respected the herb for its role in promoting digestion and considered it a good complement to rich, fatty meals.

Sorrel leaves are rich in potassium and vitamins C and A. In cooking, sorrel is generally pureed and can be a perfect base for sauces that accompany poached eggs and fish. This herb is used in mixed green salads, sandwiches, omelets, and with soft cheeses, veal, pork, and fish. Be careful to cut it only with stainless steel knives and refrain from cooking it in metal pots, because the high acidity of sorrel causes them to discolor.

Click for French Sorrel Seeds

Cinnamon Basil Seeds

Cinnamon Basil

The spicy-sweet flavor and showy purple color of Cinnamon basil make it one of the most popular basils.
Cinnamon basil has a strong cinnamon scent and sweet flavor. This basil pairs nicely with other fruity flavored herbs. You can add Cinnamon basil to your apple pie fillings, and it tastes great added to an apple sauce or raisin sauce for pork or ham. It is also great for a refreshing summer tea.

The leaves of this basil can be used fresh in cooking or dried in tomato dishes, pasta sauces, vegetables and soups. You can also put them in bottles of olive oil to make cinnamon-flavored oil. This oil is a fovorite for frying apples or bananas.

As with all basils, you can also use this basil in the garden as a natural insecticide to repel aphids, mites, and tomato horn worms.

Click for Cinnamon Basil Seeds

Lemon Balm Seeds

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm is native of southern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. It’s botanical name Melissa, comes from the Greek name for Bee and refers to the great attraction the plant holds for the Bee.

Lemon Balm is in the mint family and as the name implies, the herb smells like lemon. The scent of this easy to grow herb is strongest when you rub the leaves, but the scent will be lost after being stored for several months.
Lemon Balm is said to raise the spirit and comfort the heart. In ancient times Lemon Balm was planted by ones front door to drive away evil spirits. It was also used to draw bees to the hive.

Uses for Lemon Balm include: Fresh leaves can be chopped and added to green salads, fruits salads, marinated vegetables, poultry stuffing, and fish marinades and sauces. It goes well with broccoli, asparagus, lamb, fish, and shellfish.. Dried Lemon Balm is popular for use in potpourris and sachets.

Click for Lemon Balm Seeds

Horehound Seeds

Horehound

Horehound or hoarhound is a genus of about 40 species of flowering plant in the family Lamiaceae, native to temperate regions of Europe and Asia. Three of the more sought after varieties of Horehound are:

White Horehound: Used as a cough remedy from the time of the Egyptians to the present day. This horehound herb is still included in the Austrian and Hungarian pharmacopoeias as an expectorant, and remains popular in folk medicine.

Wooly Horehound: Silvery white wooly leaves of this variety of horehound make this a great addition to the moon garden or for contrasting texture and color in the perennial garden. Produces an abundance of flower spikes.

Pleated Horehound: An unusual variety of horehound with soft deeply pleated lime-green leaves and small red-violet flowers. Attractive ornamental.

Click for Horehound Seeds

I hope you are feeling inspired to branch out and try something new and exciting in your herb garden this year!

Happy Growing…

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Posted on February 12th, 2014 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »

Vojito! the Best thing to Happen to Summertime Since the Mojito!

How to Make a Vojito

A delicious recipe for Vojito, with vodka, lime, mint, fresh strawberries and mix.

Welcome to Strawberry Vojito Summer Heaven

“Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable.”
~Gilbert K. Chesterton

Here we are, enjoying another beautiful summer in Colorado. The beginning of summer brings with it many pleasures; baby animals, flowering trees, green grass, and the always enjoyable, bountiful gardens! As many know, along with this pleasures come a fair amount of work. Keeping up with the yard, controlling weeds, up keeping the garden, and attempting to keep those cute little animals from enjoying all our hard work in the garden!

After a day of weeding, mowing the yard, chasing after the beautiful joys that are our children, and caring for our surrogate child, our garden, we look forward to our adult time on the deck to take in the oasis we have created. I believe we can all attest to the joy we get from sitting on a deck or patio, looking over the beauty we have helped mold while enjoying a delicious adult beverage that looks, tastes and feels of summer. For us at Sunshine and Rain, we have found that our favorite drinks this year have been able to use things from our garden to make the recipe even more enjoyable. Today’s drink is what we call a Strawberry Vojito. Yes you read that correctly, Vojito, not Mojito. We call it a Vojito because we have replaced the rum with vodka.

In hopes of others finding creative ways to utilize herbs and fruits from their garden, we decided to share this recipe with you!

To make this drink you will need the following ingredients:

  • 10 Fresh Mint Leaves – We have used both peppermint and spearmint and both have been wonderful! We don’t even prefer one over the other…whatever is FRESH is best!
  • 1-2 Fresh Lime Wedges
  • Mojito Mix
  • Lemonade (Fresh is always best)
  • Soda Water
  • Absolute Citron Vodka
Directions:
  • Take the mint leaves place them in a shaker and muddle them.
  • Once all the leaves have turned a dark green color from muddling, add two sliced strawberries and muddle them in with the leaves.
  • Once the strawberries have basically liquified, cut the lime to get one lime wedge. Squeeze the lime wedge and then place it in the muddled mixture.
  • Add one shot of Mojito Mix, two shots of Absolute Citron Vodka, and roughly four ounces of Lemonade.
  • Add about one cup of ice and shake the mixture for 10 seconds.
  • Open the shaker and add two shots of Soda Water and pour the mixture into a glass.
  • For presentation purposes, add one sliced strawberry to the top of the ice, another lime wedge to the side of the glass and garnish with a good sized mint leave.
  • Enjoy your summer in a glass!
Voilà! Summer in a glass!

Voilà! Summer in a glass!

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Posted on July 12th, 2013 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »

What is “Maca” and why do you want it?

What is maca?

The Maca plant has been cultivated by the Bolivian people living in the high Andes for thousands of years. The root of the Maca plant is often used to balance hormones and naturally enhance libido function.

The Legends and History of the Maca Root

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men”

~John F Kennedy

The Incan Imperial Warriors were fierce fighters and legend has it that Maca was their secret weapon. For about 2,000 years Maca has been used as a medicinal plant, and is considered a potent form of aphrodisiac promoting enhanced sexual function and more. The Incan Warriors are said to have gorged themselves on Maca prior to battle. They learned that Maca contains potent energy producing properties, promoting strength and endurance. The warriors would assault another village charged with the power Maca brought them. After these warriors conquered a city, the women of that city were often ravaged by these “empowered” men.

Although this is not the most pleasant of stories, it brings us to the modern day fascination with this historic root!

Now, we fast forward to present times…why is everyone asking about Maca?!

The Maca plant is native to the high Andes in Peru and Bolivia. The Maca root has therapeutic properties and its many health benefits are continuing to be discovered and validated!
Maca has been shown to contain the chemical p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate, and, this is the chemical that is primarily responsible for its sexual enhancement properties and its ability to boost libido in both men and women. The Maca root has 55 naturally occurring beneficial phytochemicals. It has been shown to reduce enlarged prostate glands in scientific studies on animals. It has been used to regulate hormonal imbalances, menstrual irregularities, healthy estrogen levels, and even temporary depression in women. It is said that Maca stimulates each sex to respond in gender appropriate manners. One Doctor referring to his personal experience with Maca called it, “Nature’s Viagra“.

Growing Maca

Maca is a hardy perennial plant cultivated high in the Andean Mountain at altitudes from 11,000-14,500 feet. The area where Maca is found high in the Andes is an inhospitable region of intense sunlight, violent winds and below freezing weather. With its extreme temperatures and poor rocky soil, the area rates among the world’s worst farmland, yet over the centuries, Maca learned to flourish under these conditions. Maca was domesticated about 2000 years ago by the Inca Indians and primitive cultivars of Maca have been found in archaeological sites dating as far back as 1600 B.C.
Maca has a low-growing, mat-like stem system which at times goes almost unnoticed. Its scalloped leaves lie close to the ground and it produces self-fertile small off-white flowers. The part used is the tuberous root which is pear shaped, up to 8 cm/3 inches in diameter and ranging from off-white to golden in color usually, with the occasional purple one.
Although it is a perennial, it is grown as an annual, and 7-9 months from planting are required to produce the harvested roots..
Growing Maca from seed is a fairly new practice in the US and there is not a lot of written guidelines or information available. If you find a process that works, please share it with us so we can help educate others!
  • Locate a growing area with full sun and well-draining soil. Maca plants prefer cool average temperatures between 30 degrees and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, though they can withstand vast temperature ranges.
  • Prepare the soil by removing stones and breaking up large clumps of dirt. Pull weeds in or near the growing area.
  • Mix manure or compost into soil.
  • Check the pH of your soil. Maca plants do best in alkaline soil with a pH of 5 and heavy mineral content.
  • Bury the seeds ¼ inch below the surface level of the soil. Seeds will take four days to germinate in soil at a temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Water seeds lightly immediately after planting. Without fully saturating, keep the soil moist until seedlings reach 6 inches in height. Once seedlings mature, fully soak the ground with water one to two times per week.
  • Add another layer of compost or manure half way into the growing cycle as this will maintain growth and add needed nutrients.
  • Harvest Maca roots after about seven months in the ground. Partially dig away the soil on one side of the plant to see the size of the root. Edible roots are typically 2 to 5 centimeters in size.

Buy Maca products

Maca can be grown or purchased in a variety of forms (click images to be taken directly to these maca products):

  • You can try growing your own Maca Root form Maca Seeds:
Grow Maca root from seed

Grow your own Maca from seed

  • You can purchase Maca Root Powder to be used in shakes and other Maca recipes:
buy Maca powder

Maca powder

  • You can purchase edible bars and products that use Maca as a beneficial ingredient:
Green hornet Bee Bar with maca

Green hornet bee bar with maca

Bee Sexy Bee bar with Maca

Bee Sexy Bee bar with Maca

 

Kilham, investigating maca in Peru on one of his frequent “Medicine Hunter” expeditions, asked a number of people why they used maca. “One woman stands out in my mind,” he says. “She smiled at my question and replied, ‘Well, for the sex, of course.’”

- Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S., The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth about What Treatments Work and Why

What is maca?

 

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Posted on June 4th, 2013 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »

Growing Lavender from Seed

Lavender

The Appeal of the Lovely Lavender Plant

“There’s a few things I’ve learned in life: always throw salt over your left shoulder, keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for good luck, and fall in love whenever you can.”

~Lavender and Alice Hoffman
(Practical Magic )

The lavender plant (species Lavandula) is a popular and unique plant that is an interesting seed-to-plant choice.  To grow lavender from seed takes commitment, it takes patience and, above all, it takes time.

The lavender plant is a member of the mint family.  The distinct smells and aroma of lavender can evoke a wide range of emotions.  It has exceptional colors and smells, which make it a superb landscaping accent in many gardens.  Because of its incredible versatility you can use the lavender plant to plug holes in your landscaping as well as add it in small hard to fill spots such as entryways and paths. Lavendar is a low maintenance plant that, once planted, is easy to care for and build around. All types of lavender plants are attractive to bees and butterflies making them great in butterfly garden or as host plants for encouraging pollination.

Lavender is grown both for its pleasant colors and incredible smells and for its homeopathic properties.  In the language of flowers, lavender flowers denote purity, silence, devotion and caution.

One of the most common notes of interest for growing lavender from seed is the variations that are inherent to growth from seeds.  The lavender plant will vary from plant to plant in a number of ways; gradations between slightly paler and deeper shades of color as well as occasional differences in height or flower shape, and flower per spear are certain to occur.

Choosing your Lavender Varieties

There are 20 or more different species of Lavandula plant. In addition, there are countless numbers of hybrid varieties that have been created through crossing the different species! This vast variety means many, many different colors, shapes sizes and even scents for you to choose from. When lavender is started by seed, some of the offspring may very in appearance from their parent plant- bringing an even greater potential for variety to every garden in which they are planted.

Here  are some of my favorite lavender plants. Click on the image to be directed to sources for purchasing specific seeds:

  • Spanish Lavender

    Spanish-Lavender

    Spanish Lavenders have tissue paper-like feather bracts protruding from the ends

  • Wooly Lavender

    Wooly-Lavender

    The silver-white foliage has made the wooly lavender very popular for use in "moon gardens".

  • Spike Lavender

    Spike-Lavender

    Spike Lavender is a highly productive oil producing making it popular for use in soaps.

  • Yellow Lavender

    Yellow-Lavender

    Light green foliage with greenish-yellow flowers and highly aromatic!

 

Growing your own Lavender from Seed

Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram;
The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ th’ sun,
And with him rises weeping; these are flow’rs
Of middle summer, and I think they are given
To men of middle age.

 Shakespeare
(Winter’s Tale, iv. 4)

  • Seeds!

    To begin you will need high quality plant seeds.  Pick seeds that are designed for how and most importantly where you intend to use them.  Some regions, such as Colorado, may require that you pot these plants so that you can bring them in out of the cold.  As far as pot and soil are concerned, choose pots that are easy to out-plant because you will eventually be moving them into your garden and you don’t want to disturb the root system too much.  Soil can be simple potting mixtures of your choice, but remember that drainage is always important to avoid over watering as well as under watering.

  • Plant!

    Choose a number of seeds for each pot and place them in your moistened potting mixture.  Be sure to pick a number of seeds that will allow for a few deaths and any unwanted colors that you may want to remove later.  Do not cover the seeds with too much dirt because the lavender seeds are extremely small. Keep these newly placed seeds and pots in a warm spot indoors as the seeds will require a temperature of 70 degrees to germinate.  Be watchful of your seeds during this process, you do not want them to dry out.  Be mindful not to over water the tiny seeds as this will overwhelm them.

  • Germinate and Sun!

    Once you have some seeds that are germinated you can begin the time consuming process of introducing them to the outdoors.  This will require the greatest amount of patience so be committed.  Start by placing your newly germinated seeds in very sunny spot indoors as they are incredible sun lovers and will eventually be exposed to full sun as adults.  Let the plants grow and grow in this sunny spot until they are near their full size.  Once they are near full-grown you can start to acclimate them to the outdoors.

  • Transplant and Grow!

    Place your potted lavender outside for an hour a day in a shaded area, such as a porch.  Day by day, increase the time the plants spend in this shaded area. Once you have had them outdoors for a few weeks you can start to move them into direct sunlight.  If you start to get burnt plants make sure you allow a little more time in the shaded areas before going for more direct sunlight.   Give them about 2 to 3 weeks in the direct sun, and be sure not to over water, which may rot the root system. If you make it all the way through this process you can easily out pot the lavender to wherever you need their great colors and smells.

Good luck and have fun!

Lavendar

Lavender

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Posted on July 24th, 2012 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »

Loving and Growing the Tea Plant!

Grow Tea Plant

Tea Plants are Beautiful and Ancient!

What is the Tea Plant?

The Tea plant is a plant that we see and use  every day and probably don’t acknowledge all of its various uses.  In order to get all that we can out of the Tea plant it is important to know about the diverse characteristics of the plant.   While there are many different products that may be considered “tea”, such as fusion teas, as well as drinks infused with other plants, we are going to look at the species known as “Camellia sinensis” which is used to make black tea, oolong tea, green tea, and white tea.

While Camellia sinensis is native to countries like China or India, it is now being cultivated across the globe in many tropical and sub-tropical environments.  Tea remains one of the most historically recorded plants still in use today.  In fact, the medicinal uses of tea date back to 4700 years ago by the great emperor Shennong in The Divine Farmer’s Herb-Root Classic, in which tea and a collection of plants were outlined for their medicinal uses.  Tea has been known for its stimulant effects, amazing anti-oxidant properties, and even for help with simple things like stomach aches and bladder problems.  We can break down some of these health benefits further in order to better understand how to use the tea plant.

  • Caffeine

Did you know that Tea contains caffeine?  It is really no surprise that the various teas, black and green especially, contain the stimulant known as caffeine.  In fact, about 3% of their dry weight is caffeine! .  Teas percentage of caffeine in relation to its dry weight is actually more than coffee. When you are feeling a little sluggish or just don’t have that pep in your step, but don’t feel like brewing a pot of coffee, try switching it up and making some tea.   It is important to be aware however, that caffeine is a natural diuretic, which is also beneficial for a number of reasons, including lowering high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver, and hypertension.  Maintaining your hydration is the only downside of diuretics so be sure that if you are drinking a lot of tea that you take measures to properly re-hydrate yourself as well.

  • Anti-Oxidants

Tea has also been known to have anti-oxidant properties.  Anti-oxidants have been the focus of numerous studies and while there are many mixed opinions about the benefits of anti-oxidants, many studies conclude that they do help in reducing the risk of heart disease.  In addition, those who work out with regularity are at risk for oxidative stress, accompanied by inflammatory responses, which can be relieved by drinking tea regularly.

Grow Your Own Tea Plant from Seeds!

Tea Plant

The Beautiful Tea Plant

So if you think that you may want to start drinking tea on a regular basis than what would be better than growing your own tea plant and reaping the benefits?

  • Time and Commitment

Growing tea plants from seed is a great project however, growing your own tea is for advanced gardeners with a willingness to commit for a couple of years!  If you think you fit this description then the next most important thing to consider is the climate in which you will be trying to grow a tea plant.

  • Climate

The tea plant is a naturally tropical or sub-tropical plant, which should be grown in a climate Zone of 8.  This would include parts of the mid-west but more specifically the southern region of the United States.  If you don’t live in one of these areas you would have to consider growing the plant in a greenhouse or pot that you can easily move indoors.

  • Growing your Plant

  1. Seeds:First, you will need seeds.  Check out eGardenSeeds.com’sTea Plant Seeds to accommodate your needs.
  2. Soil: Once you’ve got your seeds you will need to pick a soil mixture that is just right for your plant.  .  A key to a good plant will be a soil mixture that is sandy and quick to drain.  Other growers suggest a soil that is slightly on the acidic side, but a well-drained mixture is paramount to a good plant.  Another tip is to add some sphagnum moss to your potting mixture.  This will be extremely beneficial as this moss will be vital in providing your sand soil mixture with the capacity to hold water and nutrients.
  3. Pot: The tea plant is a small shrub, that can grow up to 3 feet if you don’t prune it, so pick an appropriate sized pot if that’s is where you will be growing it.
  4. Grow! Tea plant seeds germinate erratically and over a long period of time. These seeds can germinate at any time from a month and up to a year after being planted- patience is key!!! Once your plant is growing, expect it to blossom in the fall, with small aromatic flowers, that are quite pleasant.   You will need to wait 2-3 years before attempting to harvest your plant, but the wait will be worth it!!

Enjoy!

Grow Tea Plant

Now You Can Grow Tea Plants from Seed!

 

 

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Posted on April 12th, 2012 by Dr. Greenthumb  |  No Comments »

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!

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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!

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Posted on January 18th, 2012 by Ms. Sunshine  |  8 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

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Posted on November 16th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  5 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?

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Posted on November 11th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  9 Comments »