Herb Bonanza!

Chamomile at Oglebay Park, WV, in autumn. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved. Pinning to this page is okay.

“Sputnik”

Fellow ArtFire-ian Azure Dandelion recently included my photography in three of her collections—three herb-themed collections I was quite happy to see simply as harbringers of spring. Due to some health issues, I’m a bit behind on my garden planning and work—normally my winter sowing is out in the yard by now—but last week I finally ordered seeds (they’re popping up at local hardware stores, too—everybody’s ready!) and they should be here any day. Hurrah! Planting season is so exciting to contemplate—particularly considering the winter we’ve had. How about you? Have you begun planning yet? I’m already hearing reports of bumblebees being out and about in some parts of the country. Spring can’t come a moment too soon! Let’s take a look. There’s so much to like in each of these, for home, garden, and self-decoration. 😉

The hand-crocheted rug is so lovely—I grew up with that sort of rug around, and to my mind, they make a home seek so cozy and welcoming. The green pendant is very pretty as well—of course, sage green is one of my favourite colours, so it goes without saying that I’m rather enamoured of this collection in particular! My photograph of a sage green door, complete with tempting golden key in a softly burnished lock, is here. Sage, a member of the mint family, has long been held to be medicinal, and was cultivated as far back as ancient Egypt. Romans held it in such high esteem that there were special sage-cutting ceremonies requiring those doing the cutting to wash and wear special clothing!

Here in America, the native peoples used burning sage to purify homes and people while also enjoying the herb’s potency medicinally, even using it for bathing. Of course, it’s delicious as can be—I often make a sage-cream sauce for chicken—and it smells marvellous (to me, anyhow).

One thing I found surprising was that this antibacterial herb was once used to preserve meats, not just season them. Perhaps this explains why the herb was also used on snake bites (though I’m not sure how effective that would be) and sore throats (probably quite effective). And a tip: Come summertime, a cup of sage tea may help you cool down.

Chamomile is another favourite herb, one long beloved by gardeners and naturopaths alike for its cheery face and many uses; I’m fond of chamomile tea in the evening or when feeling overwrought, and the herb has many topical applications as well—the most famous probably being its ability to lighten one’s hair and leave locks smooth and shiny. Where the Romans held sage above all herbs, the chamomile was ancient Egypt’s favourite; they dedicated it to their many gods. Anglo-Saxons considered it sacred—though it was used to flavour stews as well (ah, another use for chamomile buds…soup garnish!).

Azure Dandelion is selling chamomile seeds; the plants are easy to grow, tolerate a fair amount of neglect, and really, they’re so cheerful in the garden! After tending your pollinator-drawing chamomile, you can scrub off the dirt with a bar of gardenia-chamomile soap, then make some chamomile-mint tea. If guests are on their way, you can even cut off a fresh bar of handmade eucalyptus-chamomile soap just for your visitors! Hm…That sounds quite pleasant and certainly relaxing! My photo of chamomile with an attitude of curiosity is at the top of this post.

Ah, lavender. Fragrant, lovely, bee magnet yet insect-repelling—could we possibly ask any more of this herb? Used in a rather astounding variety of ways for nearly 3,000 years, lavender has rightly earned its high status. Egyptians used the herb as both a perfume and during the mummification process; very precious lavender oil (spikenard) was poured onto Christ’s feet by the repentant Mary; and one of my favourite British monarchs, Queen Elizabeth I, insisted on having fresh lavender flowers in her presence daily, lavender conserve on her table, and was quite fond of Yardley’s lavender products (Queen Elizabeth II is, as well).

Used to scent everything from laundry to cupboards and rooms with its heady fragrance, Lavender at Blennerhassett Island. Photo copyright LibertyImages/Jen Baker. All rights reserved, though pinning to this page is okay. lavender is also wonderful in the kitchen—in cookies, cakes, and ice cream, used to make infusions, and as a garnish (could there be a prettier garnish?). I’m quite fond of lavender in vanilla cupcakes, myself.

There are several lavender soaps in this collection—by the way, I keep a bar of Yardley in my car’s console, which infuses the road-tripping vehicle with lavender’s invigorating scent, including this pretty cold-process soap that’s far too attractive to toss into the console (sorry, Chevy). I must say, though, that after a long day of working in the garden, the idea of a bath made fragrant by lavender bath salts is quite appealing indeed! There are also dainty monogrammed lavender sachets and, of course, heirloom lavender seeds.

My photograph of lavender drying in the kitchen of Blennerhassett Mansion is right here (and there, of course). The sight of the herb drying in the somewhat primitive yet still elegant and welcoming kitchen captured my fancy—as did the docent’s telling us that brilliant green such as that seen on the shelves was thought to keep flies away, something quite necessary in those days!

Seeing so many herb-themed collections really got me even more excited about the coming warm season and all of the beautiful things that shall soon be blooming and swaying in the breezes. Even better, all of these herbs are much favoured by pollinators—so they’re a good choice all around, don’t you agree?

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