Calendula

Calendula

Calendula, a versatile herb, is the essential oil from the pot marigold. This plant has been used since the 12th century for its medicinal properties. Studies abound on its healing ability on the skin specifically on burn victims. Due to its high level of vitamin A compounds (carotenoids) it is also known to calm skin irritations such as rashes, dermatitis, acne and chapped skin. Cream made with calendula, is recommended to those with breast cancer to ease dermatitis and skin challenges during radiation and chemo.

It is known as the poor man’s saffron as it can be used in cooking as a substitute. The petals also make a lovely dye. Another benefit of marigolds is Mother Nature’s bug repellant, planting them around your tomatoes so the bugs won’t eat them. Marigold petals are edible and add a lovely tang to salads.

Marigolds

Marigolds native to Mexico, were taken to Europe and Asia in the 16th century. There are over 50 species of this earthy plant. To the Welsh, marigolds were “herb of the sun” and if they were not open in the morning a storm was coming. They were used as love charms, and were thought to produce visions of fairies if rubbed on the eyes. Others considered marigold poisonous due to the heavy aroma. In Mexico we were surrounded by marigolds on dia de los muertos, and while in India marigolds were omnipresent. Ironically it wasn’t in Mexico that I learned to appreciate marigolds but in Thailand and India.

We use calendula oil in our marigold toner, marigold bergamot dry oil, marigold cleanser and marigold face kit.

Lavender

Lavender love

My love of lavender began while living in France. The decadent rows of it in the south of France and all the creams and potions were just divine. However, it wasn’t until I moved back home and visited Sequim (pronounced Squeem not seqeem), Washington that I seriously thought about having a lavender farm, a dream that might still come to fruition but very hard to do in Georgia. The Pacific Northwest although rainy, has some of the best in the country and the entire town of Sequim thrives and is dedicated to this dynamic herb. After losing industry in the community they decided to plant fields of the plants  and voila a thriving festival and businesses bloomed.

Lavender History

The history of aromatherapy is thanks to this aromatic herb. Rene Gattefosse burned his hand and used the oil to stop the pain. It healed the hand without scarring or infection. However, the French have the Romans to thank for Provence’s abundance of  farms. The Romans introduced the herb to France. It is thought that the name comes from Latin “lavare” to wash of ‘livendulo” livid or bluish. Before World War 1 the French government cleared the almond orchards. They replaced them with lavender in the hopes of keeping the population there instead of fleeing.

Lavender Uses

In ancient Egypt the flowers were used for embalming, cosmetics, massage oils and as perfume. Egyptians would put it on their heads. The Greeks would anoint their feet. According to the Greek Philosopher Diogenes “When you anoint your head with perfume, it flies away in the air and only the birds get the benefit of it, whilst if I rub it on my lower limbs it envelopes my whole body and gratefully ascends to my nose”. During Nero’s time it was used for indigestion, headaches and to clean wounds. It is said that the plant was first domesticated in the Arab world. They dominated the Mediterranean culture, specifically Spain and from there lavender spread. Fast forward to the Middle Ages and it was used to raise money for King Edward 1. King Charles V1 of France stuffed his pillows with the flower buds. It was also used to treat lice and other pests.

Lavender has been a cure all for centuries, from linen, to inciting passion, repelling insects etc. etc.It takes approximately 175 lbs of the flower buds to make one ounce of essential oil. Lavender hand cream is the second product I made and the first featured in a national magazine. You will find it in skin therapy blended with lime essential oil. Our cleansing oil and lavender mist also contain the essential oil. This essential oil is the most widely used oil probably due to its medicinal properties. I love it because it is relaxing and makes me dream ;).

 

 

Pumpkin Seed Oil

pumpkin seed oil
pumpkin seed oil

Pumpkin History

Before we talk about pumpkin seed oil, let’s talk about the fruit. Yes, the countless varieties of pumpkins are in the same family as squash, cucumbers and melons. Its origin dates back to about 5000 B.C. in North America. Pumpkins are among the most versatile fruits that exist.

The shells were used to make bowls and mats by Native Americans. Medicinally, they have been used to treat acne, fever, parasites, and kidney problems etc. etc. Long a staple in diets, the flowers seeds and meat are considered delicacies in certain cultures. Pumpkin seeds have even been recommended by the World Health Organization for its abundance in zinc.

Pumpkin Seed Oil

We all know about the virtues of pumpkin pies and roasted seeds, but the pumpkin seed oil is the prize for me. Pumpkin seed oil is packed with everything you need for glowing skin. The seeds are cold pressed to obtain the oil that makes a dark green light oil with a slight nutty aroma. It is not a heavy oil like coconut oil and will therefore not clog your pores.

Benefits for the skin and hair

This powerhouse of an oil is packed with fatty acids, alpha hydroxyl acid, Vitamins A, C, E and zinc. These ingredients are all needed to boost collagen production, increase cell renewal that brighten and smooth the skin.

Research by the University of Maryland Medical Center has indicated that the oil is beneficial to hair and skin. Why? The omega 6 fatty acids are vital to help stimulate hair and skin growth. The vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids are essential for hair growth. The oil can decrease the production the enzyme (5 alpha reductase) that is responsible for slowing hair growth.

Vitamin K in pumpkin seed oil is known to reduce swelling, healing and bruising after surgery. It is also applied to the skin to help with rosacea, acne and spider veins according to WebMD.  We love pumpkin seed oil so much that you can find it our nourishing body oil and body oil.

So the next time you carve that pumpkin or make pumpkin pie, keeps the seeds.

Garden of Grace

reddahlia

Garden of Grace

Our neighbors recently traveled to China to pick up their new baby. An extensive and exhausting adoption process culminated in a family journey across the world to a faraway orphanage. There, they were united with the 2-year-old girl waiting to officially become their daughter. They’ve named her Grace, after a revered grandmother and the hymn sung in church the day they’d made their decision to move forward with adoption proceedings.

Born with Down Syndrome, Grace has spent her young life in the Jinan Children’s Welfare Center under the care of a devoted staff. She’s received regular medical attention for various physiological and developmental conditions associated with her trisomy, but she’s been ready to meet her true family. Ready to find her authentic place in the world. And find it she did, when our neighbors flew over — parents, grandparents, and two elated brothers (adorable sprites, barely school-age themselves).

While they were away, a group of families lining our same street, discussed ways to celebrate Grace’s arrival. Her delicate transition needs made the idea of a huge homecoming party impractical, and they’d already been thrown a baby shower. So, we decided to give them something that would grow along with their family. Something that would provide a tranquil, constant testament of our affectionate support. Something that could inspire them the way their beloved family continually inspires all of us.

A garden. A friendship garden of hope, love and grace … for Grace. A garden bursting with  RED, the Chinese color of luck and happiness, and filled with meaningful plants.

As an amateur hobby gardener, I volunteered as project manager and went into the planning phase quite blindly, having only envisioned an explosion of red flowers. I started by mapping out the different areas of the yard, considering what they’d all see most often — the front curb and mailbox greeting them as they drive in and out, the walkways, the entry steps, an area directly in view from their front family room window. I puttered around various nurseries, reading tags, and started to piece together ideas. The garden plan became a little pattern for a patchwork quilt of flowers and plants, giving visual warmth as well as sentimental comfort. As I found plants I liked, I researched them selecting items representing Grace’s personal history and illustrating this first chapter of her new story.

Once all the plants had been selected and delivered, our neighborhood team met together on a clear (thankfully) Saturday morning with both adults and children eager to dig. The kids chattered gleefully as they worked, so excited to be a part of the project and to one day show baby Grace which flowers they’d planted for her. We showed them how to read the plant tags and place them in the right light, which width to dig their holes, how to loosen the roots balls and how deep to sink each one into the ground. We watched them pat the soil down, tucking in their charges with doting concern. As we finished, they beamed with pride, standing out in the street to admire our collective handiwork.

The curb area, in partial shade, already boasted bountiful oak-leaf hydrangea to which we added Chinese Snowball viburnum, Lenten Rose and soft silver lamb’s ear — fuzzy to the touch of curious fingers and known for it’s antibacterial properties. The mailbox now blossoms with bright red Double Knock-Out roses which should provide almost constant flashes of color until winter. Finally, we lined the entire approach with bright red impatiens — after all, they’ve been waiting for this precious gift for a long time.

We lined the walkways with cheer and color from red hot poker plant spiking upward like a Chinese firecracker or dragon’s tongue, red Gerbera daisies, the ‘Celebration’ variety of blanket flower and the familiar golden zest of rudbeckia. Gumpo white azaleas filled in a bare spot near the edge of the garage, and on the opposite end, at the base of their front steps a gardenia infuses the warm air with the glorious fragrance that’s made it a treasured flower of China for over a thousand years.

Throughout the yard, we found spots for special accents that spoke to me during my shopping and research. The Chinese glossy abelia brings a symbol of fortitude, it’s western cultivation almost prevented by 19th-century Malaysian pirate attack on the British sea vessel carrying them back. Nearby we tucked a ‘Little Princess’ spirea to delight the newest princess in our neighborhood, and honoring her darling big brothers, we planted two ‘Red Prince’ weigelas, also a 19th-century import brought from Shanghai to Britain by Robert Fortune.

To attract some butterflies for Grace’s enjoyment, we included Lantana camara, red bee balm, and red autumn sage. ‘Little Angel’ Shasta daisies, ‘Frosty Fire’ dianthus and assorted red daylilies soak up the rays in a sunny section while red annuals such as verbena, penta, salvia, vinca and petunia accessorize the open spaces between young plantings.

We created a small bed, centered prominently in front of their main window. As the family goes through the daily routine and the children play, they’ll all look out onto a white dwarf ornamental dogwood (Cornus florida) which will bloom each year at around the anniversary of Grace’s arrival. Red Hino-Crimson azaleas gather around the base of that dogwood, playing around in the dappled light and offering a special message — my research revealing that azaleas are a Chinese symbol of womanhood and referred to as “the flower of home” by some ancient poets. The flower of home… we’d planted over a dozen. Yes, sweet girl, you are home now and you will grow into womanhood in nurturing love, a blessing to us all.

Huānyíng huí jiā, Grace. Welcome home!

 

Are you dirty?

explore the garden

I spent the weekend dirty. Filthy, actually. Sweaty and smelly. Covered in bruises and bites, scratches and scrapes. My legs now resemble those of a kid just bounding off the bus home from summer camp. Not sure if I’ll be able to squeeze in a manicure this week, so I might have a little explaining to do when clients and colleagues catch a glimpse of my thorn-pricked palms and ragged nails. An irritating throb between my ring finger and pinky marks the path of angry ants while red dots at my ankles either reveal the appetites of nibbling chiggers or an unwelcome poison ivy slap. Despite my battle wounds, I wish I could push away from my desk, skip the rest of my work week and dig right back into that dirt.  

My gardening projects never fully reach completion, instead rambling on and on like the vines I’m constantly pulling out of my way. This time, I managed to plant an entire new corner in a couple of days, but surveying it again this morning, I thought of possible changes. Then, I noticed the weeding and pruning needed on the opposite corner and, toward the back, eyed the perfect spot for some summer bulbs, a wide morning ray spotlighting an empty altar ready for the joyful choir of sun-worshippers — gladiolus, cannas, dahlias, perhaps more daylilies along the fence… definitely rudbeckia to smile up at everyone, proud of their signature black-eyes. The shady spots whimper for extra attention, too; under distant trees, a few hostas and ferns await companions in quiet repose hoping to see friendly foliage rooted before the neighbor’s English ivy encroaches on their mellow territory.

Such the grand and ubiquitous metaphor, isn’t it? From Eden to almanacs to everafter we cultivate our notions of life and love from the parables of the dirt. Technology, politics, even concepts of art, all change. Dirt remains constant. Century to century, through culture and custom, we dig and we plant. We marvel at what we are able to produce, whether for sustenance, sale or ornamentation. We battle invasive weeds, fret over failed crops and surrender to pests. We venerate the connection between bountiful gardens, healthy bodies and nurtured souls — celebrating the sunny spots that boast the brightest blossoms, resting in the calm shade requiring our mindful regard, watching carefully for threatening invaders and attempting to monitor our growth. We bandage our cuts and wipe away the perspiration. Then we crawl right back into the soil and we get dirty. Gloriously dirty.

Who else needs to dig?

Bumble Bees

bumblebeelavender

Bumble bees, native to the United States, not like the humble honey bee that was imported in the 1600s from Europe are in danger. As with all 250 species of bees, they are in dire trouble and dying off. That is why I delight when my backyard is a bevy of buzz with all types of bees. I try and plant as many bee friendly plants as possible.

A bumble bee is differentiated from the carpenter bee by having a fuzzy, hairy body. They live in underground colonies, and die in the winter, except the queen. The wings beat 130 times a second. They pollinate plants that are eaten by humans, birds and insects, like cotton, apples, cherries and tomatoes. Unlike the aggressive yellow jackets, they will not attract and sting you. While I took the photo, they were all oblivious to me, intent on the lavender.

Plant native plants in your backyard and leave empty underground nests that have been vacated by rodents free for them. And of course plant more bee friendly plants in your yard. And please don’t use chemicals, your plants love coffee grounds and your roses will flourish with them.

Azaleas

azalea

Azaleas, in the same family as rhododendrons, can live for hundreds of years. Native to Japan, they can reach a height of 12 feet. With over 10,000 different varieties, one is at a loss to choose between them.  This one is golden azalea or native azalea and is blooming in my backyard. Folklore remedies properties include hypertension and cough. Azaleas symbolize modern, forbearance and temperance.

columbine flower

columbine1Columbine is a native wildflower to North America and is in the same family as the buttercup.  Its name comes from Latin meaning dove like (Columba) and eagle (Aquilegia its scientific name). Symbolism of the flower ranges from foolishness to seduction. It is that state flower of Colorado. There it is actually illegal to uproot the flowers on public land and you are limited to picking 25 flowers. Medicinally the petals have been used an astringent, soothing sore throats and Native America used the petals in tea to treat heart ailments. The flowers are edible and are quite sweet. They are pollinated by bumblebees and hawk moths and are dined upon by hummingbirds. The photo is my columbine in my window box that just bloomed.

 

 

apples

blog

Apples, did you know there are over 7500 varities world wide? It is the number one fruit eaten in the U.S. and rightly so. With no fat, sodium or cholesterol it is only 80 calories and 25% of it is water, that is why they float. It takes 36 apples to make one gallon of cider. And did you know the largest producers of apples is China?

This blossom is from one of my two apple trees in my backyard and it has yet to produce a harvest. It takes about 5-6 years to produce fruit, and as I am not quite patient, I do enjoy the beautiful blooms. Polinated by bees, I try and plant bee loving plants around the yard.

mums & fall planting

mums (2)When my mums start blooming in the backyard I know it is time to order bulbs for fall planting. Now is the best time to go on line and get bulbs, there are so many deals going on and one I have been happy with is Dutch Bulbs. I plant them outside and inside in pots. Mums are second to roses for the most popular flower, probably because of their longevity once placed in water. Chrysanthemums, mums, began their journey to Europe 2500 years ago from China. Considered as one of the Four Noble Ones, symbolizing the 4 seasons, they are grown with plums, bamboo and orchids. Its original color was gold therefore the Greeks named them chrysos for gold and anthos meaning flower. Buddhist monks took them to Japan in 400 AD where the emperors fell in love with the flower and sat of thrones of mums. There still exists a Festival of Happiness that celebrates mums. Mums can to the US in the 19th century and because the official flower of Chicago.