Category Archives: Garden

Calendula – Say Hello to the Sun!

+ Family / Subfamily: Asteraceae / Asteroideae
+ Tribus: Calenduleae
+ Genus: Calendula
+ Species: Calendula officinalis
+ Names: marigold, pot marigold, Garten-Ringelblume, Bride of the Sun, Goldes, Holigolde, Husbandman’s Dial, Marybud, Ruddes, Ruddles, Spousa Solis, Summer’s Bride, Sonnenwend, Todtenblume

The flowers of pot marigold mirror the sun – their radiant petals shine in bright yellow or orange colors from spring to late autumn. According to folk belief, simply looking at them does strengthen the sight. Their magic is – naturally – of the sun and the element fire. Calendula petals added to the bath water create a magical shield and help winning respect and admiration from other people.

The flowers are also perfect for the game “he/she loves me, he/she loves me not” (originally effeuiller la marguerite in French). Though plucking the flower is said to conjure thunderstorms! The flowers were also used in divining one’s future lover: the flower petals were dried with other summer herbs, then ground and made into a salve with honey and vinegar. Young women would then apply the salve before sleep and call upon St. Lukas to dream of their future love. Simpler yet just as effective: scattering the flowers under your bed,  they protect in sleep and give prophetic dreams, not only about future lovers, but also when it comes to revealing a thief, that has robbed you.

If you do not believe in the conjuring of thunderstorms, then you may plug the flower at noon, when the sun is highest in the sky, and it will strengthen and comfort the heart.

Peasants too, held marigold in high esteem, since they helped to predict the daily weather: if the flowers open early between 6-7 am, it would be a sunny day ahead; but if they stayed closed beyond 7 am the day would be rainy. The genus name Calendula hints at this: it is modern Latin diminutive of calendae, meaning “little calendar”, “little clock” or possibly “little weather-glass”.

Garlands of marigolds strung on the doorposts stop evil from entering the house.  Carried in the pocket, marigold helps justice to smile favorably upon you while in court.

Finally, in the past understanding the language of the birds must have been pivotal, and so it was thought, that if a girl touched the flowers with bare feet, she would be granted that skill.

Medicinal and culinary uses: Marigold is cultivated mainly in Germany and the Netherlands. The flowers are plucked manually or with machines and then dried. Flowers destined to be used as a decorative coloring agent, are dried at 80°C. The petals, fresh or dried, are added to tea and other food. Cheese and butter are colored with marigold. It can also be added to rice during cooking. While marigold itself does not taste like much, it enhances the taste of other food, similar to salt and can be added to pretty much any dish. Since marigold has been used to adulterate saffron, it is also known as “poor man’s saffron”.

In natural medicine, dried marigold flowers are used in various ways, i.e. as a tea, oil, salve, tincture or watery extract:

  • internally – against stomach ulcers and pre-menstrual tension syndrom, or as an antispasmodic, diaphoretic, diuretic and anthelmintic
  • externally – for treating skin inflammations, contusions, boils and exanthema and promoting wound healing

According to the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products, the medicinal effects of calendula are not proven, or better said, sufficient surveys are lacking. If you are allergic to other plants in the daisy family, you may avoid marigold.

Pot marigold in the garden: marigold is such an easy plant, with so many good traits, that it could almost be considered a sin, to not grow it! It grows basically anywhere and in any soil, but if you want a strong marigold, full of flowers then plant it – of course – where it gets all of the sun! A clayey soil seems to be favorable as well. Too much nitrogen fertilizer impairs flowering, likewise does a lack of potassium and phosphor. Elin Unnes suggests to do like Annemarta Borgen: in a bucket blend the seeds with peat dust and water and then simply throw it wherever you want marigold to grow.

While I adore the flowers of pot marigold, the real treat for me are the seeds. Not only, because they are so differently shaped, but because they seem to resemble little dragons or fossilized animal bones. And yes, the strange claws from the outside of the faded flower up to the small curled up things in the center are in fact all seeds! The German name Ringelblume means “ringed flower” and is derived from the curled shape of the seeds. Now, after a year of blooming there are plenty of them and they ensure a new and profuse generation of marigold plants – typical for annuals! If on the other hand, you mind your pot marigold multiplying exponentially, dead-heading is a thing.

Pot marigold seeds are rich in oils. Do you know about any uses for them?

Propagation by seed:  An easy plant that readily self-seeds! Sow from April – August. Sow 0,5 cm deep and cover loosely with soil. The seeds germinate within 2-3 weeks at temperatures around 20°C. Calendula thrives in sun to half shade. The soil should be fresh, humus rich or clayey and well drained. Plant 25 cm apart. The annual plant gets 50 cm tall, with bright orange or yellow flowers. Some garden varieties have extra large and filled flowers. Pot marigold has a long duration of flowering. The petals can be added to salads. The seeds are rich in oils. Calendula has a positive effect on the soil and can be planted as a companion in any cottage, ornamental or kitchen garden.

Addendum: the origin of pot marigold is unknown. Some say it once came to Europe from Egypt and then was carried on with colonists to the New World. Or it once escaped from gardens and then was naturalized all around the world.

Not to be confused with the French or Mexican marigolds in the tagetes family!

Links and further reading:

Elin Unnes: Gartenverrückt, “Arme-Leute Safran”, p141 f.
Scott Cunningham, Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs
Alchemy Works
Wikipedia

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Gartenverrückt

When you find out an author you admire follows your blog, then quickly order their freshly translated book in German, only to receive an email from said author shortly after, that they would like to send you a free copy!!! Thanks @thesecretgardener 💚
On to another garden-crazy year!

Out now via http://www.hoffmann-und-campe.de/buch-info/gartenverrueckt-buch-11191/

Hellebore Galore!

 

Because hellebore… they come in all shapes and colors and have a growing fan base worldwide. Just use the hashtag #orientalhellebore on Instagram and you will see what I mean. Above is a selection of my own hellebore collection, including variants of oriental hellebore as well as a self-seeded stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus). The latter is proof that my seeds for these are indeed viable, it just took a whole 4 years . Hellebore flowers are bee-loved by pollinators and provide an early nectar source. So they do not only look nice but also serve an important purpose in the garden.

Gardening Season 2019

I spent the last two weeks of March in our garden in Dresden, preparing for this year’s gardening season. Every day (when weather permitted) I set for myself and fulfilled small goals, which included:

  • removing the winter covering from the flower beds
  • removing dead plants and faded plant parts
  • preparing the flower beds, removing weeds
  • pruning the roses
  • preparing new planting pots
  • turning the compost and straining the lower half
  • planting out black hollyhocks sown in 2018
  • sowing various herbs and flowers in the bed
  • sowing various herbs and flowers indoors for planting in June

Earlier in March I had already sown the following:

Officially Spring Now

The buffet is opened: Today came the first bees! Still a bit slow and clumsy from the cold, but so nice to see them back in our garden!

Earlier this week, I went to my old childhood playground and gathered willow catkins. My mom dug out these old painted wooden Easter eggs and little beetles. In 2 weeks I will be moving. It is hard for me to imagine, but something in me is determined to discover and live in a new place.

Winter Returned

Today winter returned once more. Temperatures went below zero again, but this time the cold was accompanied by snowfall, covering the garden in white. A field fare (Turdus pilaris) – first time for me to see this bird – spends the late winter here, thriving on rose hips and left over fruits. Snowdrops are living up to their name and a spiderweb sways in the wind, portentously catching snowflakes… the time for winter’s magic isn’t over just yet.

June 2017

Half time: half of the year is over, half of this heap of soil has been sieved and used for the new flower beds

Summer Solstice and St. John’s, 2017

My ritual for the summer solstice took place on Wednesday morning, at 6:24 am, the time of the astronomical beginning of the summer. As the sun rose, opened also the first poppies, as if they had an inner clock set. Together with the singing of birds and buzzing of early bees frequenting the poppy flowers, I greeted the arrival of the hot season. With the smoke of the incense composed for this occasion, I blessed the new herb patches. A common redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) that I had already seen a couple of times in the garden, came really close now as if to inspect my doing.

Poppies opening on the morning of the Summer Solstice 2017, bees going wild

I spent the rest of the day planting henbanes and datura into the newly made bed. The following days I harvested different herbs and roots during auspicious hours, and dug up more ground to open up even more space for the herb patches, which by now feels much like a never-ending project. I was often working until dusk, but I would be in magical company…

Incense burnt for the summer solstice, on the morning of the 21st of June 2017

Since the summer solstice there are little fireflies dancing around our garden at dusk. Their literal heyday happens to fall between the summer solstice and Eve of St. John (24th of June), which is why they are also known as “Johanniswürmchen” in German. It is the night, when the males can bee seen “dancing” in the air in search for a female. The male fireflies are now in their last incarnation, during which they only drink water and sustain themselves from reserves gathered during previous chrysalis stages. The females in turn are not able to fly and thus attract the males by emitting light. From this may stem the English name “glow worms”. There are many different light emitting bugs to be found all across the world. But in my location the males of Lamprohiza splendidula are the only males also capable of emitting light. The males of other firefly species in my area do not emit any light. Hence it is 100% the males of Lamprohiza splendidula when seeing fireflies dancing in the air where I live. When the males have spotted a partner they descend vertically unto the female for copulation and die shortly after. I guess that’s what you call “getting laid”! Now, before you accuse me of disturbing them in their most intimate moment; I found them on our basement steps and first did not realize that it was two mating fireflies. I wanted to secure it but also was curious which species it had here and hence took this photo and then relocated the pair to a nearby flower patch. Hoping for a new and larger generation of fireflies to frequent our garden soon!

Johanniswürmchen (Lamprohbeginning of summerza splendidula) bei der Paarung, Juni 2017

The garden month of June

When the moon is waning, early in the morning, at the dawn of the Day of Saturn, encircle with an iron tool three times the black hellebore’s root, dig it up protecting your hands, cut it in two, keep the larger half and put the smaller one back into the soil.

Hellebrous niger root, harvested when the moon is dark, at the dawn of the day of Saturn

When the moon is dark, in the middle of the night of Venus and hour of Saturn, light two beeswax candles, one to the left and one to the right of the Valerian. Carefully remove some parts from the roots, which are spreading into all directions. Save a few cuttings for planting new patches of Valerian and keep the rest for drying.

Valerian root, harvested during dark of the moon, in the middle of the night of Venus/hour of Saturn

I have been growing rue in pots for years, always moving it indoors during the cold season. Now was the first time I planted one outdoors. And it gave a sorry sight after the long winter… All the more excited am I to see this very same rue plant flowering and prospering! This little bumblebee joined me.

Bumblebee on flowering rue plant, June 2017

The annual buzz concerto has returned – bumblebees of all size and couleur are busy frequenting the lush flowers of the white and purple flowering foxgloves. As they enter the flower their buzzing sound is amplified.

Bumblebee entering foxglove flower, June 2017

I recently read somewhere that monkshood and foxglove would not get along beside each other. I cannot confirm this…

Shade garden: foxglove and monkshood growing beside another, June 2017

Every year I am enchanted by the sight of the ghostly white flowers of the Northern wolfsbane (Aconitum lycoctonum). It is the first of the aconites to flower and set seed.

Ever haunting, the ghostly white flowers of Aconitum lycoctonum, June 2017

Perfect match: the flowers of blue monkshood are adopted to the physiognomy of bumblebees, the only insects able to enter the flowers…

Blue Haven: large earth bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) on blue monkshood (Aconitum napellus)

This month came also – finally – some rain showers. Though compared to the rest of Germany and previous years, we really had the lowest amount of rain in a long time. I remember our drenched meadow from previous years, June would always be rainy. Not so this year. There were a few short thunderstorms, and relatively soft rains, with maybe 1 exception. In the face of a near blackened sky I spent one afternoon making the garden save for the announced storm, one could hear rolling thunder in the distance… and in the distance it would stay. Our rain barrels ended up only half filled.

Poppy flower after the rain, June 2017

I had sown black, white and purple poppies as well as a mix of seeds. I was really surprised though about the many different colors and shapes. Basically no flower would be like the other: it’s having purple to red, purple to black, black to red, white, white to purple, filled, simple, fringed and all of these combined!

Red corn poppy and fading purple opium poppy after a short rain shower, June 2017

By surprise, these red corn poppies appeared in the patch were I had sown various poppy variants, which were sown in rows and accurately labeled, hehe. These must have been part of the seed mix gifted by one seller. I sure don’t mind…

The first poppies to flower here were the red corn poppies, June 2017

The bees, bumblebees and other pollinators are frequenting the poppies every day, as also new flowers open daily. The foxgloves, Northern wolfsbane and henbane are nearly done flowering. So are the shrubs, except for roses. Lavender has yet to start. So the poppies, rue etc. are a welcome food source.

“All mine you have to be…”, bee on poppy flower, summer solstice, June 2017

Hover flies mimicry the look of other, more dangerous insects to confuse predators. It seems to work also when in competition for newly opened flowers, such as this lovely dark colored poppy.

Hover fly on dark poppy flower, Summer Solstice 2017

Remember the bee approaching a poppy flower above? Here is the same flower, now frequented by a large earth bumblebee. Despite its size it would not dare to access before the bee had left.

Bumblebee on poppy flower, photographed on the morning of the summer solstice 2017

So much for them poppies. 10 days later and with the month ending, the last poppies are done flowering. In a few days from here the pods and seeds will be ripe for harvest. I will need them for my necrosophic incense of Qalmana as well as new qliphotic blends.

Preceding the summer solstice, I went to gather herbs for midsummer: mullein, viper’s bugloss, mugwort and yellow chamomile make up a lovely bouquet.

Midsummer Bouquet, June 2017

These and a number of other herbs associated with the summer time are also part of my summer solstice incense:

Incense blend for the summer solstice, June 2017

Last but not least, seeds sown this month: Hypericum perforatum var. ‘Tauberthal’ and some remaining Artemisia absinthium, scattered loosely into the bed.  St. John’s Wort sown on St. John’s Eve. 😉

And now for a coffee break… Enjoy your summer!

Garden Work Coffee Break, June 2017

May 2017

Rue, rosemary, rose, columbine, belladonna and henbane, various trays with young henbane plants, pots with mandrakes

May is a tough month, both for me, as well as the green. Whilst April is still cool, bulbous spring plants are in bloom and other plants just begin sprouting fresh green, May sees the arrival of the first hot days and the green now grow and expand rapidly. It’s the first time during the year that I find myself running and watering daily. Seedlings have to be replanted and previously pricked out plants demand larger pots or have to be planted to the ground, least they wither. It’s an overall stressful period. And as I find myself plagued with pollen allergy the plants too start to suffer from various diseases: first and foremost aphids (which have been multiplying rapidly and in significantly larger amounts than in previous years), secondly black spot disease and mildew (plaguing my beloved Munstead Wood rose) and thirdly a fungus that causes leaves to crumble and roll up (this fungus infests fruit trees and is effecting our cherry tree heavily this year). So I am constantly on watch, removing aphids by hand and cutting off diseased leaves and twigs.

It’s also a month for harvest: paying attention to the moon’s phase, auspicious days and planetary hours, I dug up mandrake and greater celandine root and collected elder flowers. Further the seed capsules of the Hellebores can set free their load any day and I am of course eager to collect their seeds, especially those of the black flowering variants. Alas, ants also have an interest in the oil-rich and therefore nutritious seeds and quickly carry them away into the darkness of their underground abodes. I got serious competition…  Did I mention it’s a stressful month as pertaining to the garden?

But there are also joyful moments, e.g. when the light of the evening sun shines through the flowering trees…

End of May the elder trees start blooming and the air smells of their sweet scent. I gathered the flowers during the night and hour of Venus.
Dog rose, swaying in the evening sun…

And yet there is more work to get done. My garden goals for this year include making a new flower bed beside our back porch. It’s a spot, where flowers will enjoy noon and afternoon sun during the summer. But before I can plant anything here, I first have to break up the old ground, which includes the removal of old tree roots as well as implementing a root barrier to the side of the hedge, mainly to keep the ground elder out. This part is done now. When finished with digging up the entire space and removing weed, I will blend the old soil with compost and humus-rich soil. The process thus far:

New flower bed process: breaking up soil and implementing root barrier to keep ground-elder from spreading, removing old tree roots

You see, it’s still a way to go for my future flower bed! But now some more impressions from the garden and recent herb harvest….

Leaving flower ‘islands’ on our lawn: this year appeared these lovely heartsease
Black petunia flower, floral galaxy unfolding…
Nightsky in a flower, May ’17
These two irises are back and I love them!
Valerian, Foxglove and Monkshood at dusk
Buzzy times for bumblebees. Here is one cleaning itself and almost falling over from the flower of my Valerian.
Mandrake root harvested in May ’17, under the waning moon: long legs and an auspicious hip swing it got!
The way it looked at me from the ground… sadly the upper part was rotten, probably due to a late frost in April. I saved what was left.
Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus), harvested on the day of Mars and night hour of the Sun. To me it is one of the most powerful witching herbs native to where I live.
The color is real. Here it shows why greater celandine is sometimes compared to Canadian blood root. It is also known as tetterwort and its applications in herbal medicine are similar.

 

April 2017

I spent this month mainly with work on the next row of wooden seed boxes, adding new herbs to the set and reading up on them. The central theme this time were summer herbs (with the summer solstice in mind), which are sown in spring or early summer, such as poppies, cornflower, chamomile, evening primrose, yarrow, viper’s bugloss etc. Then I paid attention to Harold Roth’s book “The Witching Herbs” (signed copies available here), and included seeds for the magical herbs discussed there. Besides these I added some endangered plants such as the wonderful centaury and plants that are in decline, such as the field larkspur. With wood betony and motherwort there are some new old, forgotten about healing herbs joining the series.

Another herb I was curious about (and I know that you are too), is the enchanter’s nightshade. It is quite inconspicuous in appearance, almost invisible between other herbs. It is not poisonous at all and in fact, much more beneficial than, what its name suggests. This makes for some very interesting treats for employing this herb in sympathetic magic…

Along with adding more new herbs I also updated the sowing tables and added info texts for each. Further, my attention was drawn to the Euphorbiaceae plant genus. Last year I had been pointed to the spurge as part of a Martial incense recipe. I started researching but could not pinpoint which type of spurge was meant. There are many plants in that genus, which is found in large diversity all around the globe. But which is the one most relevant in Western medieval / renaissance magic? By chance and when searching for spurge seeds, I came across a seller on eBay who just mentioned randomly that the caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris), with its impressive size, poisonous milky sap and auspicious shape, was the plant famously believed to break hexes and ward of witches from one’s home…. Well, here we go. It is now added to the selection of poisonous herbs coming with the boxes and I can’t wait to grow it myself.

What more? I finished and shipped the last of my “Poisoner’s” seed boxes. I will now overthink the concept and design for this one.

I also spent a lot of time in the garden, harvesting masterwort root, thinning and weeding out, pricking out seedlings and sowing more…

My shortage of henbane last winter led me to sow new henbane, which resulted eventually in hundreds of little plants of black, white and the rare Egyptian henbane! These have now been separated and planted in trays of 24 each + 1 mixed tray. The temperatures are still low and even though it did not actually freeze again, it is too cold for the small plants (the test tray doesn’t seem to like my outdoors experiment on the window sill). I am therefore keeping the trays with the white and the Egyptian henbane indoors, together with purple Indian datura and several moon vine plants. The tray with the black henbane seedlings stays in the unheated greenhouse.

This month’s harvest:

  • Lamarck’s Aconite (Aconitum lamarckii), thinning out, Tuesday (11th)
  • Masterwort root (Peucedanum ostruthium), thinning out, Tuesday (11th) and Thursday (27th)
  • Herb Gerard (Aegopodium podagraria), weeding out, Saturday (22nd)
  • Myrtle (Myrtus communis), pruning, Sunday (23rd)
  • Horse tail (Equisetum arvense), weeding out, Friday (28th)

Besides, l am now a lady with a barrow full of fragrant lily of the valley! 🌱🌱🌱 (Thanks to an unexpected gift from our neighbors, who are restructuring their garden.) I now have to prepare a spot for them to grow. Else, that barrow has now met its final destiny…

Herbs I plan to sow this and the following weekends:

  • blue hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis ‘Caeruelus’)
  • caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris)*
  • centaury (Centaurium erythreae)
  • clary sage (Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica)
  • enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana)
  • evening primrose (Oenothera odorata ‘Sulfurea’)
  • honeywort (Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’)
  • lion’s tail (Leonotis leonurus)
  • poison hemlock (Conium maculatum)
  • snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus ‘Night and Day’)
  • st. john’s wort (Hypericum perforatum ‘Tauberthal’)
  • thyme (Thymus vulgaris ‘Frnech Summer’)
  • wood betony (Stachys officinalis) *

So long, I wish my followers a Blessed Walpurgis!