Category Archives: Seeds and Sowing

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

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!

March 2017

Spring is here

Since some years, just before Lenten, I am spending a little fortune on oriental hellebores. This year it had to be – among others – a filled purple-black variant. It is not as black as I had hoped, but still a lovely sight and very Gothic. The bees love it too, along with crocuses and other early spring flowers. Out of a heap of soil left out on the meadow from last year’s construction work grow little snowdrops. Looks like this one will have to stay. I am thinking ‘herb spiral’…

Sowing Season

I have sown a couple of new plants, among others different species of henbane. I bought the seeds from a french seller on eBay, who shipped them at near speed of light and included  gift seeds of Datura discolor. I have sown them beginning of March, without priming. The Hyoscyamus niger var. agrestis seeds germinated within a week. The seeds for the rare Egyptian henbane (Hyoscyamus muticus) germinated after 2 weeks, as can be seen in the following pictures. I am really satisfied with the results.

The first round was sown on the 4th of March. I prepared another tray two weeks later, with dream herb, sinicuichi and primed moon vine. Further I primed seeds of mandrake, morning glory, white henbane and datura, which were sown 25th of March.

Thus far only the Ipmoea alba germinated (it did so within 3 days after priming with 100% germination rate). But no sign of the daturas yet or the other herbs.

Now here are also the results from my 2016 winter solstice sowing:

The wormwood was the first that germinated, but now is going slow. The second photo shows what I hope to be a comfrey seedling. I would love to have it in the garden. Comfrey is easier to propagate via cuttings, but you know seed -> genetic diversity… The third photo is of different henbane seedlings. It will show which of the henbanes are annuals and which are biennials. I had sown a lot more but nothing happening thus far.

The garden awakens

From seed to root, from flower to fruit – impressions of the plants in the garden, which is just getting started…

The greater celandine has sown out itself in a circle and now forms an auspicious ‘fairy ring’. I am not sure yet, what to do with all of it. Tincture the entire circle? For the moment it just looks fancy.

The aconites return – thankfully. I had lost half of them last year due to root rot. (Partly my mistake.) I was wondering though, why other plants grown in that corner would fade as well. I had grown wormwood there earlier. Wormwood emits substances into the soil that keep other plants from growing in its proximity. Could it be that these are still in the soil and effecting other herbs? On the other hand it had a lot of rain and the ground was sopping. Aconite likes a moist ground but this may have been just too much.

The deadly nightshade now appears in places where I can’t remember to have planted it. Nice coincidence: on the above picture a single thin thread of spider web is attached to the plant, which is named after the Greek Atropos. (Atropos was one of the three fates and in charge of severing the thread of life.)

Last year I planted a small Aconitum hemsleyanum, which I had grown from seed and kept in the pot for too long. It was on the brink (pot left outdoors during ceaseless rain).

Far from tender is the masterwort. In the raised bed it found the perfect spot, ready to conquer all. I don’t mind, its root is a powerful magical and medicinal agent.

Closing this round, the lovely lovage is working its way through the ground elder. Lovage does not like competition. I will have to help here – which means, it will be another year trying to dig up and decimate the obnoxious  ground elder.

New Seed Boxes

This month I also got to work on the next row of wooden seed boxes (numbers 31-36). I received such a wonderful feedback last time and more emails. I have been working on them non-stop for the past weeks and they are near completion. Emails will be sent out to those that reserved one and then it’s first come first serve… Meanwhile here are the last four sold and shipped earlier in March:

Useful

Herbs to sow in March: agrimony, bittersweet nightshade, chamomile, columbine, evening primrose, henbane, mandrake, monkshood, poppy, thorn-apple (pre-culture), tobacco, viper’s bugloss, wood betony

Herbs to sow in April: agrimony, black cumin, borage, caraway, catnip, chervil, clary sage, columbine, elecampagne, enchanter’s nightshade, evening primrose, fennel, henbane, lemon balm, lovage, mandrake, marigold, marshmallow, moon vine, morning glory, motherwort, mugwort, poison hemlock, poppy, purple coneflower, rosemary, rue, sage, tobacco, tansy, thyme, valerian, wood betony, wormwood, yarrow

Links: plantacasa (Hellebores), Odysseé Naturelle (seeds)

 

Columbines

These lovely columbines have sown out themselves in our front yard and I’m now giving away seeds for each:

From upper left to lower right: Aquilegia “Bordeaux Barlow” with filled flowers, Aquilegia vulgaris with white-pink , pink and blue “petticoat” shaped flowers. The petticoat probably comes from cross-pollination with common columbines. The flower heads have a compact, tighter form than those of common columbine. I love them all and am happy for the bees and wind to have brought them here.

Pricing for seeds: 2 Euro per bag with 50 seeds and 3 Euro for a mixed bag with 200 seeds from all four. Shipping in Germany is 0,70 Euro and 1,50 Euro for shipping worldwide.

Candlemas, Februalia

 February 1 2016
Snowdrops are the first messengers of spring

The 1st and 2nd of February respectively are associated with Imbolc, the Gaelic festival marking the beginning of spring, and Candlemas, the day, when all the Church’s candles for the year were blessed.

This time marks the midpoint of winter between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It signals the return of the light of the sun and the days getting longer again.

Romans celebrated the Candelarum festival in honor of Persephone, who was kidnapped by Hades, and searched by her mother Demeter, bearing a torch. The return of Persephone from the underworld, signaled the return of the light and the end of the winter season. Romans lit candles and torches to drive out evil.

February, from Latin februum, meaning “purgation”, “purging”

The Roman Februalia was a festival of purification and purging, which later merged with the Lupercalia. The Latin term febris, meaning “fever”, might be related. (see)

In Jewish tradition the mother of a boy was considered impure for the 40 days following its birth (and for 60 days following  the birth of a girl) and was not allowed to enter the temple. At the end of this period the mother underwent a purification ritual. This custom was incorporated into the Christian Catholic festival of Candlemas, also known as the “presentation of Christ in the Temple in Jerusalem” and the “purification of the blessed virgin Mary”.

Hellborus orientalis

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.

There is still time until the vernal equinox and the winter may still be long and cold, especially if this day is clear and sunny. A rainy and
cloudy Candlemas on the other hand means the worst of winter is over. The animals, such as bears and bumble bees, come out of hibernation for the first time. Snowdrops begin to flower, Christmas roses are in full bloom and the winter seeds begin to grow.

Now start sowing indoors those seeds that require warmth and light. The seed trays are kept on the window bench until April or until the last frosts are over. Then the young plants will be ready to be planted outdoors.

Traditional offerings: beeswax candles, Chandeleurs = pancakes (also kown as crêpes)

Animals: bear

Places: wells

Plants: snowdrops, early flowering plants

Deities: Brigid, Persephone, Father Martin (Romanian)

Rituals: cleansing and purification rituals, divination

Superstitions: If someone brings snowdrops into the house on Candlemas day it symbolizes a parting or death. Any decoration left from Christmas, such as holly twigs, should be taken down completely by Candlemas, else there would be a death among the community before the year was out.

Another tradition holds that anyone who hears funeral bells tolling on Candlemas will soon hear of the death of a close friend or relative; each toll of the bell represents a day that will pass before the unfortunate news is learned.

Sailors would not set sail on Candlemas Day, believing that any voyage begun then will end in disaster.

Winter Sun
Return of the Sun

Btw. we had a very rainy and cloudy 1st day of February and tomorrow looks no different… 😉

Sources:

Candlemas + Februalia + British Culture + Folklore Calendar + BBC religionsFather Martin +

Helleborus orientalis purchased from http://www.plantacasa.de/

Garden diary, photos of seedlings and more

two new site sections

Documenting the garden all year round, the new garden diary. Photos, experiences and observations pertaining to the garden as an ecosystem throughout the seasons, the influence of weather, soil, sun, interactions of pollinators, birds and other animals, the work that needs to be done and whatever does not fit into the other categories. I hope to complete a full year circle with this diary, starting now, during the winter rest…

January 24 2016

January 24, 2016: half of yesterday’s snow is already gone. Temps rose from -8 °C to + 8 °C over the weekend. The birds took advantage, searching for worms in the moist grass. According to my father, even bumblebees could be seen flying around.

Upon request, providing now photos and documentation of seedlings and young plants, as an aid for recognizing and distinguishing self-sown plants from other plants and weeds. Along with this, I also provide information and experiences pertaining to the germination of seeds and seed dormancy. Making the start are young rue plants, sown in 2015 and a mandrake germling, which popped today:

These rue plants were sown in 2015 and hardly developed in my unheated greenhouse. I took them indoors before the frost, first having them by the window in the basement and now on the window bench in my room. At last they are growing. Warmth and enough sun light are the essential thing with rue plants.

Mandrake seedling, 2016

Living proof: sometimes seeds need to fall dry before they will germinate. I had not watered this tray for a while and let it nearly dry out. Then started watering again. That’s apparently what was required to break the slumber (dormancy) of this little Mandragora officinarum seed, which germinated yesterday. It was sown in the summer of 2015 and spent several months in the soil, where exposed to warmth and cold.

Fennel in the Garden

Fennel

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a wonderful and mighty plant in the garden. It is for example a nectar source for hover flies. Hoverfly larvae feed on aphids (one hoverfly larva may devour as many as 700 aphids during its development) and thus are very useful creatures in the garden, providing long-term protection for infested plants.

Fennel seed is a remedy against all sorts of digestive disorders, both in man as well as animals. A quick first aid for young birds that have fallen out of their nest and occur starved is dextrose/honey solved in fennel tea. Birds in the wild love to eat the seeds, hence another reason for making fennel a constant companion in your garden.

My fennel plants are 4 years old and come back every year. (Who said fennel was biennial?) They are quite the sight, get over two meters tall and always remind me of the fire Prometheus stole from heaven and brought to earth for mankind to master… (tbc that myth applies to Ferula communis, but our common fennel can be viewed as worthy substitute). The sulfur yellow flower umbels also make for a nice contrast with the dark green leaves of monkshood and yew.

Sometimes I spend a moment in the sun and just watch the fennel sway in the wind… I perceive it as an ultimate summer/air plant, which also has the power to clear a chaotic mind as well as inspire artistic vision. The seeds I have here are VERY aromatic, sweet but also with a strong camphorous note.They would make a fine addition to prophetic incense blends as well as oils and decoctions. E.g. I love to sip some fennel tea in the evening and when my mind feels tired or scattered, as it brings back focus and clarity.

Of course you can also sow them. Now is a good time to harvest fresh ripe fennel seeds and sow them directly.

References

Wildvogelhilfe.org + Wirkt langfristig gegen Blattläuse +

New Moon Sowing, Garden August ’15

Mandrake seeds, Rue seedlings Aug. '15

Today I have sown the remainder of the mandrake seeds, which had been primed months ago. They were kept in wet paper towels and placed in the fridge for weeks, then taken out and placed in fresh wet paper towels. I’ve been hoping for them to germinate but thus far no sign of life. Yesterday I took them out, cleaned them (all seeds sunk in water, which is a sign they are still viable) and placed in soil today. In addition I have sown the same amount of unprimed mandrake seeds for comparison. I have one tray on my window bench at room temperature, but may move it to the basement, where it has cooler temps. The other tray is in the green-house.

Besides Mandrake I have also sown biennial henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) from fresh ripe seeds.

Now below some impression of the flowering green and the garden, from August 13-15 ’15

Datura metel var. fastuosa

Last evening both my “black datura” as well as toloache opened their first flowers for this years. The black devil’s trumpet (Datura metel var. fastuosa) is grown from seeds from Malta and has really big, double filled flowers, which smell absolutely enchanting.

Datura inoxia

There goes the beautiful “moon flower” (Datura inoxia), flower about to open. Comes back year after year, always a sweet joy.

Atropa acuminata

A fine addition: Indian Belladonna (Atropa acuminata) has slightly smaller, more cone like and edged fruits compared to her European sister. Flowers are a touch darker, velvet brownish purple. Grown from seed. I’m happy to have this lovely sister of the native deadly nightshade.

Aconitum lamarckii

One of my favorite ‘ghost’ flowers: Yellow Monkshood (Aconitum lamarckii), returns every year and makes for a nice contrast beside the Blue Monkshood (Aconitum napellus), both of which are in bloom now.

Solanum dulcamara

The bright red berries of Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) are tempting to taste, but poisonous! They still make a beautiful contrast to the pale yellow flowers of Aconite etc. The stems contain cortisone-like substances and are used in herbal medicine. They are harvested in autumn or spring.

Red Sun, Poison Green I

Through the tunnel of the poison green, illuminated by the red sun…

Red Sun, Poison Green II

As the sun sets and bathes the poison green in red, the day in the garden ends. I started my work at noon and finished at dusk. It felt like only a second had passed.