When the amaryllis, Hippeastrum striatum, flowers are blooming it’s time to be a bee. #FridayFlower

Being a bee today! Happily, it’s amaryllis season again, so I’ve been pollinating the flowers of this bulb by hand.

I look forward to this favourite horticultural activity every year! 🙂

Also looking forward to harvesting the seeds they’ll produce in a few weeks time, and then sowing those offspring in order to grow more amaryllis babies.

The cycle continues!

More on this amaryllis: Its botanical name is Hippeastrum striatum.  It’s believed to be one of the first hybrid amaryllis, with a modern botanical history dating back to the late 1700’s.

Sometimes called a ‘Barbados lily’, this flowering herbaceous perennial bulb plant hails from the Amaryllidaceae family, and it’s native to the southern and eastern regions of Brazil.

It was originally brought to the UK upon its discovery back in 1759, and first listed in the Library at Kew in 1789.

Discovering more history on this amaryllis is very exciting!

I only wish I could share this information with my late great Uncle Allan from whom I inherited the plant. He always wanted to know more about the amaryllis because it originated from his grandmother, who incidentally was my Great-great Grandmother.

But, that’s not going to happen now, so I’m just grateful to be its current caretaker, and happy to continue, (in some small way), to propagate and promote the heritage and lineage of this lovely plant.

For tips on how to propagate your amaryllis, or if you’re seeking some information on how to keep an Amaryllis healthy and happy from year to year, I’ve written a more in-depth blog post here.

Happy Flowering Friday, everyone!

The flower power of Nasturtiums – More than just a pretty face! Edible flower gardening

Nasturtium – A real power flower!

Did you know? Edible flowers contain many vitamins and minerals. They’re rich in nectar and pollen, too.

When I was a little girl, I remember quite clearly a time when my Mom grabbed a daffodil away from my hand (that I’d just picked from her garden), and was about to shove in my mouth to eat.  I have two points to make about this little flashback.

1) NEVER eat anything from the garden unless you know it’s okay! (Daffodils are NOT okay, and your Mom will agree).

2) For some reason, I’ve always looked at flowers in a way that some people look at a big juicy steak!

Years later, now with a garden of my own, (and a bit of knowledge thankfully), I grow flowers that not only attract pollinators, but some I can eat, and so can you!

Rose hips & Lavender

For the rose connoisseur, rose hips are particularly high in vitamin C and may contain up to 50 times more of this vitamin than you’d find in an orange. In this post however, I’d like to talk about Nasturtiums.

I’ve grown these pretty, eye-catching flowers for many years so they’ll trail along the front of my garden border. But the best part is that this plant is edible.

It’s fairly well known that the flower can be used in salads and stir fry’s. With a slight peppery flavour, it reminds me of watercress. More than just tasty, nasturtium flowers are high in vitamin C., (about the same amount you’d find in parsley), and in addition, they contain the highest amount of lutein found in any edible plant.

Lutein is a natural carotenoid found in orange-yellow fruits/flowers, leafy vegetables like kale, (carrots of course), and egg yolk. (A flamingo’s diet is rich in carotenoids which gives them the pink plumage that makes them so beautiful!)

In our eyes, carotenoids are present in macular pigments, where their importance in aiding against ocular disease is currently under clinical research. So eat your plants. 🙂

Saving Nasturtium seeds

I save nasturtium seeds to plant more next year, but I also harvest some unripe pods to create condiments, especially spiced herbal vinegars.

For this recipe, simply steep them in a jar of vinegar for a week or two, along with any other herbs you like for additional flavour, (shake daily), then strain and bottle. It’s really that easy!

The leaves are also rich in vitamin C, and in addition, they contain a sulphur compound that apparently offers an excellent anti-fungal, antiseptic, and antibiotic source when eaten.

Nasturtiums, Hollyhocks, Scarlet Runner beans

Edible flowers should be picked in late morning after the dew has gone, but before the sun is high in the sky. Pick the fully open flowers.

Never eat any flower that’s been in contact with chemicals or other poisons such as pesticides or herbicides. Organic is always the way to go! If you grow it yourself, you know it’s safe for your family. Otherwise, the local farmers’ market is another great source to find healthy food.

Much like growing grapes for making wine, flowers of the same variety, but grown in different locations, will have a slightly different taste.

This ‘terroir‘ as it’s called, (and I just love this word!) 🙂 is pronounced tĕr-wär′. It offers the complete set of local conditions where a particular fruit, vegetable, or herb, (cheese & other hand crafted food), is produced, including the soil-type, weather conditions, topography, obtains its individual character.

Flowers and foliage may taste a little different at the end of the growing season too, and can vary from year to year. Think of dandelion leaves which for me, always taste best in spring.

And, the best part you ask? Flowers are mostly free of calories!

Once more

Do NOT eat ANYTHING from the garden if you aren’t absolutely sure you know what it is first! – Thank you!

More edible flowers

Bee balm
Borage
Calendula
Chamomile
Chive flowers
Dandelion
Daylily
Lavender
Lilac
Marigold
Mint
Nasturtium
Pansy
Rose hips
Sage
Squash blossom
Violet

Have fun experimenting, and happy gardening! ~ Karen

Milkweed and Monarchs #ThursdayThoughts

What more can I add to the already enormous amount of factual information & interesting literature in cyberspace, stating why we should plant milkweed in the garden to help Monarch butterflies?!

Not much, I admit…

(Sharing those links below).

In any case, I’ll try to promote the idea by sharing here how this past summer, I let the milkweed roam & grow where they liked.

Did I mention their scent is lovely? Well, it really is. -> Next year, take a snootful and see (smell) for yourself what I mean.

Rarely, but on occasion, the ‘o.c.d./weeding/tidy up the garden’ gardener in me, reached in towards the flower beds in order to pluck a few out.

But, I came to my senses and resisted… then scolded myself in the process.

Glad I restrained myself, because when it comes right down to it, what is a garden really for?

Our personal enjoyment yes, but also to encourage and help the other beings on this planet thrive, be they insects, birds, or mammals.

At the end of the season I was duly rewarded with plenty of seeds pods that burst forth in a spectacular fashion! Truly, they are nature’s understated fireworks.

So, I collected many seed pods and dried them in order to scatter those seeds all around our property next spring.

Here’s hoping it helps our winged friends, even a little bit, and that many of them will visit me next year.

Just some thoughts on a snowy winter day. 🙂

Further reading

Nature Watch Canada

National Wildlife Federation

PBS 

Monarch Watch

Biodiversity Heritage Library

How to best grow Basil, and some Folklore, too

Basil – Arguably one of the most popular kitchen herbs today, it adds just the right flavour to so many recipes. But, did you know there is folklore surrounding this tasty plant?!

Inspired by #FolkloreThursday on Twitter for some time now, I began researching my favourite plants and flowers to learn their history, and what connections if any, they may have to ancient lore, superstitions, or stories.

In parts of Italy to this day, Basil is considered an herb that inspires love. Its scent is thought to bring about sympathy, and Medieval Italian maidens gave their chosen love a sprig of Basil to ensure their love would be returned in full.

With antibacterial properties, basil is considered to be good insect repellent. Along those lines, it’s good for hornets and wasp stings too, according to Culpeper, “Being applied to the place bitten by the venomous beast, or stung by a wasp or hornet, it speedily draws the poison to it“.

To carry a sprig of Basil in your purse or wallet is supposed to be a way to draw money and abundance to you and your bank account.  <-  I’ve tried with limited success. 😉

In dispute of what I’ve shared above, the Dierbach’s Flora Mythologica der Griechen und Römer, claims Basil represents poverty. In addition, the approved modern English ‘Dictionary of Flowers,’ states that offering Basil is a way to show hate to one’s enemy.

Who are we supposed to believe? Better not chance it, I’ve just removed the sprig of Basil from my wallet. Perhaps that’s why there was limited success.

According to ‘The Expert Gardener’ (1640), a work “faithfully collected from Dutch and French authors”, and a whole chapter devoted to the times and seasons which one should “sow and replant all manner of seeds”, this book offers special reference to the phases of the Moon. Specific to Basil and when to sow, reads: “must be sowne in March, when the Moone is old.”

As it’s still February, we’re not quite there. Another month to go before sowing those seeds. But when you do, here is some practical information on how best to grow it.

Basil will reach a height of 24″and spreads from 12-15″
Germination takes 7-10 days, and they should be sown at a shallow depth of 1/8″

Planting Season, other than the folklore above, I suggest outdoors in containers, 1-2 weeks after the last Spring frost has gone. Basil requires full sun for best success, and well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter.

In any case, with more than 150 varieties of Basil available, my personal favorites include Lemon Basil (Ocimum citrodorium), Purple Basil, less common than its traditional green counterpart, but with an uplifting, punchy flavour and a rich, show stopping colour, and last but not least, the ever popular Italian Large Leaf Basil, that some call Genovese.

All three are perfect for pesto, pasta sauces, and herbal vinegar.

Basil is best used fresh, picked from containers close to your kitchen! Mine are by our dining room door where we have sun all day long.

Thankfully, Basil has very few pests, and you can also use it as a companion plant to repel mites and tomato worms. As the saying goes, ‘Tomatoes loves Basil’.

Basil loves its tips pinched, which will encourage fuller plants, delay flowers, and keep it from going to seed.

I suggest letting one plant go to seed so that you can save them to grow again next year, or share with friends.

Personally, I grow Basil indoors on our sunny windowsill all year long. The seeds can be planted anytime!

Pest Recipe – Wall Flower Studio – Feel free to print and share.

Enjoy!

Itchy Green Fingers? Lets Start Sowing #Seeds

Gardeners can rejoice because it’s time to get the jump on spring! Time to start sowing seeds indoors.

If you have itchy green fingers this time of year like I do, here are some suggestions on how to get growing!

In in a pinch, (pun intended), and need to find quick and inexpensive labels? Clothes pins are the way to go, (popsicle sticks work equally well), and it’s simple to write the variety of seed you’re growing on them and then clip them to the pot.

When the time comes to planting the seedlings in the garden, the clothespin can be switched to a bamboo stake, or a popsicle stick can be stuck right in the ground.

These labels can be decorated, too! That’s a great way to involve the kids, and we all know Pinterest offers an abundance of creative ideas to do just that. 🙂

Egg shells and egg cartons work particularly well. The egg is nature’s packaging, and the carton is a ready made holder that conveniently comes with the eggs!

After that Sunday breakfast, keep the shells and pot them up with your seeds.

Eggshells will do more than just keep slugs away from a Hosta.  They’re an organic way to provide calcium to the soil. The seedlings benefit, and any worms in the garden will be quite happy to make compost out of them.

The whole enchilada can be planted in the ground, and the best thing of all is that their tender roots won’t be disturbed once it’s time for them to be planted outside.

Containers from newspapers work well, too. The best 20 bucks I ever spent was on a pot maker purchase! Every year it repays me because it’s easy to make these recycled containers, which also keeps some paper out of the landfill site. Newspaper will break down in the garden, so they too can be planted directly in to the garden.

No muss, no fuss.

My kind of gardening!