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The Healing Garden – Herbs for Health and Wellness

The Healing Garden – Herbs for Health and Wellness by Deb Soule

Healing Gardens. Ever since humans walked this earth, they fell and cut themselves, or felt so sick they couldn’t get out of their beds. It did not take long for humans to try and find ways to repair those cuts  and find something to drink or eat that would make them feel better. Over thousands of centuries we searched for ways to cure our ailments and problems. Nowadays we have doctors and nurses and hospitals with all kinds of equipment and medicines that can bring us back to health. And we are very glad for all those medicines and equipment.

However,  we can learn there are natural ways to keep us healthy  and plants that can heal us. Deb Soule, the founder of Avena Botanicals, has written The Healing Garden: Herbs for Health and Wellness (Princeton Architectural Press $25.95). This book, with many useful photographs, will guide us to gardening, gathering, and drying plants, and teaching how to prepare teas, tinctures and other remedies.

Soule begins with Chapter I Gathering With Gratitude. As a child she was taught about respect, reciprocity, gratitude, humility and love. She was taught to connect and communicate with plants. She shows us the  ways of looking at the creatures and plants that surround us and the practices that teach us about the rhythms of the seasons, the sun and moon.

Soule is a biodynamic gardener. The system of biodynamic gardening was first laid out by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in1924. It puts significant focus on soil health, but it is also used for teaching young children at Waldorf schools. This section of the book includes basic instruction on dealing with plants.

Chapter II is devoted to the different ways herbs can be dried. Chapter III is devoted to the specific kinds of plants that can be dried, and the different drying techniques.

Part IV teaches how to prepare herbal medicines, and focuses on  the plants have which healing qualities. First there are familiar herbal teas, then  herbal infusions with dried herbs, and with fresh herbs. Some of us may already be familiar with Sun Tea, but Deb Soule offers us Magical Lunar Infusions, and Spirit Infusions.

Then there are Decoctions. These are made with the woody parts of plants, seeds and berries. There are so many  ways to look at plants! There are  so many ways to work with them for health! All these plants are put to use in  tonics and tinctures. The doses for these different tinctures and tonics are also given.

As a former beekeeper myself, I was also happy to see the ways that honey and herbs can be used. I want you to know  what I have mentioned is only a part of  the ways that herbs can be used for health.

The final section about the healing garden takes us from Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Nettles, Roses, Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) and Teasel (Dipsacys sylvestrus) with explanations of their healing qualities and how they should be used.

For example, although we don’t usually think that nettles (Urtica dioica) have any good qualities for health, but the nettle is one of “the most nourishing herb and food sources on our planet. The leaf is  high in minerals and micro-nutrients, especially iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and protein.” These are important elements, along with others, to keep us healthy, with good information about how to use them.

Turning  these herbs and flowers into medicinals is a serious business, but Deb Soule is a good teacher. In this book she brings us her knowledge of medicinal herbs. In addition to writing The Healing Garden, she has written Move Like a Gardener and Healing Herbs for Women.

Deb Soule with Anise hyssop harvest from the Healing Garden.

Echinacea flower tincture made from flowers in the Healing Garden.

June is Bustin’ Out All Over – With Roses in Every Shade

Carefree Beauty Rose – Dr. Griffith Buck creation

June is bustin’  out all over with roses and surprises. In my Heath garden the roses did not start blooming until mid June. But today several roses are blooming, and their are lots of buds ready to open.

The Carefree Beauty Rose was a Griffith Buck rose developed at the Iowa State University. It is just one of the many roses he developed to be hardy and long blooming.

Folksinger – Dr. Griffith Buck Rose

Folksinger, another Buck rose in  a tender bronze shade.

Quietness Rose – Dr. Griffith Buck – a tender shade of pink.

Purington Pink rose an old  country rose was given to me years ago by dear friends.

Thomas Affleck rose, vigorous  and beautiful, blooming into the fall.

Purple Rain – Kordes rose. I don’t know why this petite rose was named Purple Rain, but there are mysteries in  the world of roses. This is another carefree rose to delight.

Oso Easy “Paprika” – This is one of the new low growing ‘landscape’ roses that will bloom for a long season.

When I was young, and did not have any roses, I thought they were fussy plants, and always seemed to demand a lot of work. It was not until I discovered Old Roses, that were tough – and fragrant –  and romantic – with a history.  When I first grew roses in Heath the danger was the cold. Now that I am in Greenfield, the danger is too much water.  No matter, these roses are tough and beautiful – and make me happy.


Herbal Houseplants: Grow beautiful herbs – indoors for flavor and fun

Herbal Houseplants by Susan Betz

It is always nice  to have a little herb garden by the kitchen door, but I had never thought about caring for Herbal Houseplants  ($24.99 Cool Springs Press) that  would work in the kitchen – and in the living room. Susan Betz has given us a handsome little  book that opens new worlds of the herbs that  will grow indoors, and that will also show us how  to use fragrant herbs like patchouli and lavender, or just have fun  with sea onions.

Herbal Houseplants begins with a Primer offers basic information about caring for herbs indoors. Knowing how much light each herb  will require, the temperature and humidity, soil mixtures, necessary watering and fertilizing. We gardeners always need to consider these basic necessities.

It is thinking about bugs from aphids to whitefly and diseases that make us put on our thinking hats. Susan Betz also reminds us of  the necessary special considerations of bringing herb plants indoors.

Chapter Two provides information for each herb from  chives to thyme. I confess Betz reminded me that chives can be frozen and used three months later. There will also be instructions for certain plants like horehound. Maybe you’d like to make your own cough drops?

Chapter Three is about fun and fragrance. We know lavender is fragrant, and we can use it to make sachets. I did not know that eucalyptus can freshen the air, “filtering out harmful compounds in  the air, making it much healthier to breathe?” Amazing! There is so much to learn about all these herbs and Susan Betz is a gentle and knowledgeable teacher.

Scented leaf geraniums get their own chapter, Chapter Six will give advice about preserving the herbal harvest, and even a couple of recipes like Pesto Cheesecake. These chapters show that

Susan Betz is a member of the International Herb Association and other organization including a life member of the Herb Society of America.

Lemongrass – for use in soaps, perfumes, candles and insect repellents. Also seasons South Asian dishes like curries and soups.

Rose Season Begins and a Plant Sale for Flower Lovers

Thomas Affleck Rose

Rose season has begun and  the energetic Thomas Affleck rose has begun his very long season of bloom. I can usually count on Thomas Affleck to offer me flowers into September. What strength and beauty he has.  I  will say that my Thomas is at least five feet tall.

‘Paprika’ rose

The Oso Easy ‘Paprika’ rose is one of the strong, long blooming roses. It is only about two feet  high with months of  bloom. The shades of ‘Paprika’ shift as they open and it will bloom into the fall. Notice the shiny foliage. I fell in love with this rose when I was shopping 5 years ago for our new house and garden.

Purington rose

The Purington rose is very special to me. It was a gift from the Purington family who live on a wonderful farm in the hills. It is a old rose and very prickery, but it will bloom and bloom – even though it looks delicate.

Rose season is just beginning. I think these roses are the earliest we have ever seen in our garden. You will see more as the season progresses.

Bistort – a peek into the quiet garden

Bistort (Bistorta bistortoides) is a native plant that the Native American used as food. The roots are edible either raw or fire-roasted with a flavor resembling chestnuts. The seeds can be dried and ground into flour and used to make bread.

Plants for Sale – Greenfield Garden Club, Mass.

This is not a lovely scene and I am hoping the Sheffies and Sanguisorba canadensis perk up a little more. I won’t even show you  the 6 foot daylilies, ‘altissima’,  right now, but I am sure once they take hold they will look great mid-summer.

The Greenfield Garden Club will hold its annual Plant Sale at the John Zon Community Center on Pleasant Street in Greenfield on Saturday, May 29 from 8:30 am and 12:30 pm. Perennials, Annuals, Herbs, Dahlias and more!  YOU MUST WEAR YOUR MASK!

How To .Grow Your Own Food and Herbs – in Containers

Angela S. Judd has just given me – and you – the great gift of useful information about How to Grow  Your Own Food in an Illustrated Beginner’s Guide to Container Gardening. (Adams media $20.) This bright and colorful book begins with basic information about growing food in containers, the principles and benefits for success.

Most of us will know that it is important to consider the amount of adequate light and temperature plants need. Information about the special soil for containers, the kinds of fertilizer, the way to water properly, learning that plants and their roots need air to grow are just four of the principles that will make plants grow successfully in containers.

I am just beginning to learn  about growing  vegetables in containers. I no longer have sufficient usable  soil in my garden – it’s mostly a swamp.  I need to grow some vegetables and herbs in pots. I  learned last year that it is vital to use potting soil with amendments like compost and vermiculite, and other mixtures. My first try was just using regular soil, but that was not successful. There is also good advice about choosing plants that grow vertically, and dwarf , or bush varieties.

There are helpful suggestions about the tools and materials that will be needed for growing in pots.

Different plants will need different size pots, whether  they are terracotta, metal, resin, fabric or other materials. I have used almost all of these kinds of pots including the durable Smart Pots that look and feel like felt, but provide aeration for the plants. Smart Pots are very sturdy and will last for years.

Chapter three  will give you the ten steps to success from choosing a location to harvest at the right  time. Chapter four is a helpful set of gardening terms.

Chapter five begins on page 34,  and ends at page 133. The journey takes us from Arugula, past cauliflower, peas, scallions and finally violas. Flowers are always a blessing on  the dinner table. And what satisfaction to know that  you can grow  your own food.

Lettuce in a long container

Angela S. Judd is a master gardener in Arizona and she has published in Gardener’s Supply Company, Better Homes and Gardens, Kellogg Garden and more. She certainly encourages new gardeners and makes them feel confident and successful with her clear information.

Beets in a terra cotta pot

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – May 15, 2021

A bloom day array

On this Bloom Day I wanted to give you an idea of the garden, with its spring blooms. I have a clump of small blue irises (don’t ask me which type) The beautiful ‘Goldheart’ bleeding heart, a peek at the last of the grape hyacinths on  the other side of the bed,  the low growing bistort next to the fothergilla and the blue of an energetic creeping phlox groundcover.


Epimediums are wonderful plants. I have several epimediums that are slightly different, and come in different colors, sometimes carried differently. I got all of mine from, a great nursery who specialize in this friendly plant. They like the shade, aren’t too fussy about soil and here in Greenfield they increase nicely. You can give a clump to your friends.

Yellow epimedium

White epimedium

This epimedium raises its flower high, and the leaves are quite different as you can see. Lots of choices if you are interested in low growing spring flowers.


I have lots of daffodils, all carelessly chosen every fall. I never remember their names. In spite of being so careless I have ended up with different varieties with different bloom times.

Fairy Bells

The only place I have every seen Fairy Bells is at the Shelburne Fall Bridge of Flowers plant sale. They don’t mind the shade, or  the dampness of my garden.

Geum avens red

I have grown and lost geums because of too much dampness. I am hoping that  this spot is sufficiently dry.


I think this deep purple lilac is Yankee Doodle. It was one of the first large shrubs we bought in 2015. I bought Beauty a Moscow at the same time but after a couple of years it got a blight. This year I bought a new Beauty of Moscow, lovely  with pink buds opening to white with sweet fragrance.

We have a ‘hell strip’ in front of our house that gives us another space to add flowers. Centaurea montana blooms early and goes through June in  our town.\

I want to thank Carol over at for giving us Bloom Day, a day  to show off our own gardens, and a chance to admire gardens all across our great land – and beyond.

Mother’s Day – Time to Make Your Own Bouquet

Wood poppy

Mother’s Day arrives and daughters and sons often choose flowers as a gift. You can buy roses and other beautiful flowers at the florist. Or, we gardeners could walk through our spring gardeners and choose bright and sunny flowers and make a unique bouquet.

The wood poppy is also known as the celandine poppy that will bloom now and into June. The 18 inch plant will be covered with sunny golden blossoms and will be sure to to create happy smiles. Tolerates lots of shade.

“Goldheart” bleeding heart

Bleeding heart plants now come in different shades. The foliage in “Goldheart” is as brilliant as the sunny wood poppies.


And of course daffodils, which come in a multitude of shades of white and gold, make beautiful bouquets for many days after Mother’s Day. And Mother deserves more days of bouquets. Where would we be without her?

Happy Mother’s Day to mothers, grandmother’s and those who care for us like mothers.

Phenology – The Science to Help You Plant Your Garden

These lilacs are just beginning to bloom – past the date of a mouse’s ears, but almost time to plant beans

Phenology is the science dealing with the relationship between climate and the recurrent natural events in relation to seasonal climatic changes. That may sound difficult to understand, but those who watch for the arrival of migrating birds, or the opening of flower buds are studying phenology. Centuries ago the Chinese did not know about the science of phenolgy but they did understand that spring was recognized by plants before the farmers did.

Eventually farmers around the world learned to watch for the signs that said it is time to plant. I  remember the first time I was told that when a lilac leaf was as big as a mouse’s ear it was time to sow peas and lettuce. This year, in my tiny vegetable garden I did plant lettuce when the lilac leaf was as big as a mouse’s ear. I was thrilled to see the little seedlings greet the sun. The dandelions blooming in my lawn told me it was time to plant beets and carrots, as well as lettuce. I planted beets.

Treasure your dandelions. They feed the pollinators

Lilacs have a lot to say about when it is time to plant other plants. When the lilac is in full bloom it is time to plant beans, and when the lilac flowers have faded it is time to plant squash and cucumbers.

Of course, it is not only lilacs that give advice to the gardener. When daffodils begin to bloom I’ll know it is time to plant peas and when oak leaves are as big as a squirrel’s ear it is time to plant corn. Apparently little ears can tell you a lot.

The dogwood trees in our neighborhood are just beginning to bloom but when they are at their peak bloom it is time to plant tomato seedlings. Or you could check the lily-of-the-valley flowers. They also know when it is time to plant tomato seedlings.

There are problems in the garden and the plants help here, too. If the crabapple and wild plum are at budbreak it is time to watch out for the eastern tent caterpillar. Steps must be taken The eastern tent caterpillar is not a friend.

The study of phenology has been useful for thousands of years, but it was not until 1736 in England when Robert Marsham   began gathering information about the seasons and birds, insects and plants – began to use the word phenology.  In 1875 the Royal Meteorological Society  included  this science and began keeping records of those creatures.

For more about phenology  BUDBURST, a project of the Chicago Botanical Garden will provide information and interesting projects for you.  (

Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook – All Natural Solutions

Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook

The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook by Susan Mulvihill (Cool Springs Press $26.99) is a book that will be useful to experienced as well as beginners in the garden. First there is information about the whys and hows of organic gardening. The brief beginning reminds us that that it is vital to pay attention to the needs of the soil including the needed organic fertilizers for healthy growth of your plants. The dangers of herbicides and insecticides are clearly explained.

The rest of the first chapter is given to basic information about organizing your garden space, planning for the room each crop will need, how they will get sufficient water, and prepare you for weeding. There is the first mention about identifying bugs and learning about Integrated Pest Management. Spraying poisons is never the answer. Fortunately, nurseries that usually sell fertilizers and such are aware of the dangers of many plant poisons. The chapter closes with the pleasurable tasks of learning how to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects, as well as the birds. More and more we are aware of the necessity to support these creatures in our environment.

Asparagus beetle in garden

Asparagus beetle

The second chapter Meet the Bugs will identify plants from artichoke to turnip with the damage that can be done to each plant, and the possible culprits. The longest section in this chapter is a list of Pest Profiles with clear images of each one. There is information how they live and how they can be controlled. I found this particularly fascinating about how  they work – and how beautiful many of them are.

There are lots of unpleasant bugs, but there are also kind bugs, the Beneficials. The assassin bug doesn’t sound or look like a helper but it will eat aphids, cabbage worms, cucumber beetles, cutworms, and more! This is one important bug to welcome to the garden. Many more beneficials are shown with advice on how to attract these important bugs.

The third chapter, Organic Pest Management Products and DIY Pest Control is so encouraging with advice about safe and healthy ways to kill those bad bugs. It also gives great directions to DYI projects like making row cover hoops, sticky traps and more.  Vegetable garden pests

The book concludes with the alphabetical Mugshot Gallery – a really clear photograph of 122 creatures.

Susan Mulvihill began growing vegetables as a teenager, but that was just the beginning. She has written garden columns for the Spokemans-Review for more than 30 years. She now also has created youtube how-to-garden videos and posts daily on Facebook – She give us lots to learn and to enjoy.

First Time Gardener – Growing Plants and Flowers

The First Time Gardener – Growing Plants and Flowers Book

With The First Time Gardener: Growing Plants and Flowers by Sean and Allison McManus ($29.99 Cool Springs Press) new or new-ish gardeners will find lots of information about working in the garden.

During this long pandemic year many of us have taken another look at our back yards and our gardens. So much of our chores around town, and pleasures with our friends have been put aside during these long, sometimes lonely months. Starting a garden or taking a new look at our old garden have been ways that we can bring some pleasure and joy to these days which still continue.

When I first browsed through the book with its colorful images I saw just the advice I needed. You would think after all the years I have spent with my roses I would be an expert. Alas, not. I was so happy to see the images of the ways to make the proper pruning cut of a rose stem. Needless to say roses are very prickery and so when you prune them in the spring it can be hard to get your clippers in just the right spot without pricking yourself. Of course I am always agonizing over what the right spot is. I think I often cut too close to the bud on the stem, and I think now I will be able to make better cuts.

Setting Garden Goals

The book title starts with The First Time Gardener, but there is a lot of information for many of us. The chapters begin with Basics, from plant types, and the plants that will entice pollinators – bees, birds, butterflies, etc. The next chapter is about what the plants need, how to layout a garden, and information about containers. Becoming familiar with your garden space and your own desires will find this chapter helpful. It is a chapter you will turn to more than once.

As you move through the book you find information about taking an inventory of your wishes, plants, your tools, and sunlight. Gauging the quality of your soil is important, as well as learning how to improve it.


Essential basics continue in this useful and enjoyable 164 page book. Want to learn the different ways to mulch, prune, compost, recognize plant diseases, and deal with animals? Squirrels are always hiding nuts in my lawn, and dig up the lawn everywhere in the spring. This  book is  sure to help you.

Sean McManus worked on his family’s rhododendron farm in Washington State, and continued his interests with a Master’s degree in environmental horticulture. He has been spent more than 12 years in a private landscape and consulting company. His wife, Allison McManus has always loved the natural world and has a Master’s degree in teaching. Together they now have a website –;; and Instagram, Twitter and more.

Watch for the next important garden book – The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook by Susan Mulvihill.