from the ground up

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Summer Heat

On a hot summer afternoon last week, a dear friend of mine invited me to spend the afternoon with her. Along with our daughters, we strolled through a public garden in a neighboring town. What a joy it was to walk the garden paths together and find treasures around each corner. We hope that you enjoy the tour as much as we did.

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Herb of Grace

Rue. There is much folklore behind this medicinal herb.  The name Ruta comes from the Greek “reuo”, or ” to set free” and was noted in the Middle Ages as an anti-magical herb, used for warding off spirits and witches.  It was once thought to have beneficial properties in aiding epilepsy, gout, insect bites and gas pains.  The artists Michelangelo and da Vinci used it in an eye wash to improve eyesight.

Common Name: Rue, Herb of Grace

Latin Name:  Ruta graveolens

Family: Rutacea- Citrus family.  Interesting, I know!

Habit:  Height: Approximately 3 feet.

Width: 2 to 3 feet.

Details:  Prefers well drained soil.  Full sun.  Can reseed.

Rue’s rounded, lobed leaves are thought to have been the inspiration for the symbol for the suit of clubs on playing cards.

Up close, the flowers of this herb are interesting and unique.  From afar, they create a soft yellow cloud. In my garden, this interesting plant creates a unique, ornamental hedge.

Important Notes:  Rue is considered unsafe and is not recommended for internal use or consumption.  Skin contact with the leaves and flowers can cause photo sensitivity and blistering.

(from Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, and The Eyewitness Handbook on Herbs by Lesley Bremness


The Hum and The Pause

The Hum and the Pause.

You feel it before you hear it. The energy, the buzz, the hum, then gone. Then again the buzz, the hum, then gone. There it is, zooming by. A boy with tiny feet, then another. A bird with tiny wings, then another, sometimes many. In deep imagination, in playful games, at the feeder, at the flower. Hummmmmm. The hum of the days.

My boys and I have been trying to capture on camera the fleeting visits of one tiny hummingbird to the bright red salvia in our deck planter. We hear the hum, we watch, wait. Then we see it, we feel it…the pause.

It is a single breath, it is quiet, it is laughter, it is a hug in the morning, it is the eagle flying above, it is the lazy afternoon, it is the bedtime story. It is because of the hum that we are spellbound by the pause. It is because of the pause that we can embrace the energy of the hum.

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Update: Catgrass

The catgrass grew. First, tiny white shoots, then tiny green shoots of grass. Was this the variegation, I wondered. We watched and wondered how many shoots would grow. Over the weeks, one dominant stalk has remained, all the others have wilted away.

This grass with a thick, green stalk and some truly variegated leaves is positioned exactly center in the pot in which it was planted. At some point, my son decided that the nasturtium seeds originally planted in this pot should be transplanted, so the grass lives alone.

There has been no further discussion of offering this succulent green to the cat next door. The excitement has faded. Should I point this out? Should I remind them that Smitty might surely enjoy this treat? Or let the excitement live where it was, weeks ago in the selection and planting of this barley variety.

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Kashmir Sage

Many winters ago, when my husband and I were newly weds, we stayed with my family in Colorado for a season.  During our stay there, I had many hours of leisure time (oh, what I wouldn’t give now…).  Each time a treasured plant or seed catalog came in the mail, I quietly snuck some time alone to peruse those lustrous, colorful photos and carefully laid out garden plans.  A novelty during that season of my life.

One of my favorite catalogs, High Country Gardens, claimed much of my time, with its highly informative exerpts and abundance of unique perennials. During that quiet Colorado winter, one plant in particular really caught my eye: Kashmir Sage.  I carefully clipped the photo from the catalog and placed this charming perennial into in my garden dream book.  Eight years later, it has taken a stronghold in my west facing perennial garden.

Common Name: Kashmir Sage

Latin Name: Phlomis cashmeriana

Family: Lamiaceae- Mint Family

Habit:  Upright.  Whorled flowers.

             Height: 3 to 4 feet.

Width: 1 to 2 feet.

Details:  Easy growing!  Sun to part shade.  Well drained soil is preferred.

*** Phlomis fruticosa, Jerusalem Sage, is a beautiful, buttery-yellow blossomed cousin of Kasmir Sage.  But alas, it is only hardy to a Zone 7.  Sigh.  ***


Lavender, oh lavender.

There is an incredible place in my heart for Lavender.  It has always been a favorite herb of mine.  But over the years, it has taken a front and center seat.  When asked what my favorite plant is, I am quick to answer with a smile, lavender.

The smell, the color, the medicinal properties of this one plant, it is the queen of my garden.  Several years ago, I traveled with my mom and sister to the Olympic peninsula of Washington for a midsummer Lavender Festival.  I truly have not been the same since.  Those fields of soft purple and misty waves of scent rolling over us.  Baskets of fresh lavender everywhere we looked.  Lavender lemonade, ice cream, sangria, even infused into fresh seafood.  It was life changing for this plant lover.

Common Name:  Lavender

Latin Name:  Lavendula species.  Most commonly grown is English Lavender, Lavendula angustifolia

Family: Lamiaceae – Mint Family

Habit:  Height Range:12-24 inches,  Bushy, upright, branching.

Width: 12-24 inches, depending on species.

Lavender likes to grow in sandy, dry and light soil, with good drainage.  This is one of the most important aspects of keeping lavender plants from year to year.  Lavender plants have a very long life, when their feet are kept dry!  Commercial lavender growers often rotate plants in, to keep harvestable foliage young and tender.  Other growers may keep cultivated varieties for upward of 30 years.

~In the weeks and months to come, we will continue our posts about lavender.  Keep on the lookout for our favorite varieties, recipes, crafts and photos of my own lavender “field”.~