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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Scentfully Delicious Herb Walk

The fascination with herbs extends over a wide range of interests. Some people grow them for culinary purposes, some for medicinal uses, others for homemade cosmetics, and there are those who just enjoy being in the midst of their presence. Those interested in attracting beneficial insects should definitely consider planting an actual herb garden or tuck plants in various places amidst the landscape. Herbs are usually deer resistant, pest resistant, low maintenance, hardy plants.

Aromatic plants evoke emotions, as well as memories, the two often being connected. Emotions run deep into the core of our being. Scent has no concept of time and exposure to a certain fragrance often stirs up buried memories.

William Wordsworth wrote in 1807, "The world is too much with us". In today's overstimulated world where we are bombarded with information, we need a space in which to retreat and find some peace. Our gardens are a place to just "be". A "safe" place where we can connect with the spiritual and realize by observing the seasonal cycle of plants that whatever is happening with us, "this too shall pass".

Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" has reference to the allure of plants.
"Are you goin' to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine."

So very relaxing to just meander around a landscape dotted here and there with treasured plants we look forward to paying a visit. To take a pinch of favorite herbs just to savor their fragrance can be a heady experience as we feel better just in taking those deep breaths.

Annual herbs that reseed will usually find their own ideal spot and greet you year after year. Discover the right location for your perennial plants and you'll find them surprisingly easy to maintain. Periodic snips and cutting back in the fall should keep the plants in nice form.  Naturally hardy and pest resistant, herbs can be quite content provided they have sunshine and good drainage.

Below are pictured a variety of wonderful aromatic herbal plants:

My herbal arrangement in a pot consists of Greek oregano, Purple sage, Thai basil, Marjoram and Lemon thyme.
The Greek oregano and Thai Basil were chosen because they don't get as large as the garden varieties. These herbs take me away to the Mediterranean. Used extensively in cooking, these are great to keep near the kitchen door to snip as needed.

Rosemary is another great cooking herb, but is also wonderful in hair rinses and very useful to keep handy to sharpen our minds at moments we have to think clearly. Symbolizing fidelity and remembrance, rosemary is traditionally used during religious ceremonies such as weddings and funerals. I usually keep this plant in a pot so I can try to overwinter it indoors.

Anise hyssop is a personal favorite. Anise smells like a sweet combination of black licorice with a hint of lemon, pine, sage and camphor. This uplifting North American native perennial brings back memories of those black anise bear candies.

If you love hummingbirds, you have to have Pineapple sage. A tender perennial in the Northeast, it is a must for late season blooming, providing nectar to migrating hummingbirds by producing adorable red tubular flowers in September. This plant really does smell like pineapple and the leaves are a delightful addition to teas. Give this herb room as it will grow into shrub like proportions.

Catnip doesn't carry me away with its scent, but it is a must have since I have needy felines who enjoy the dried herb to break their boredom indoors. Catnip is also a great tea for a colicky baby or as a fever reducer.

Chamomile is such a delight to see appear in the spring. Its feathery stems with its apple scent is sought after as a tea, hair lightener or made into salves for skin inflammation. Once this annual plant goes to seed it tends to look messy but try to let it go so it can reseed before you cut it down.

There are four types of mints growing here, and I planted them years ago before realizing how it spreads and should have been planted in containers or with some kind of barrier. Spearmint and peppermint grew around a pond when I was a child and refreshing mint tea is a fond memory. Orange mint is a low growing ground cover that the insects adore. Apple mint doesn't really taste like apple and is recognized by its fuzzy leaves.

Lemon balm is another fairly hardy perennial in the mint family, and though it doesn't spread by underground runners it will reseed. These lemony leaves make a great addition to ice tea and very relaxing as a hot herbal tea, great for soothing the nerves.

Lovely lavender is usually loved by everyone. It took a few tries till I found a spot where this perennial would return in the spring. It likes full sun and a spot with very good drainage. Relaxing, healing, sensual, this plant has a multitude of uses. A bottle of this essential oil is like a first aid kit. Sunburn, bug bites, wounds, all benefit from this standby. Lavender is most recognized for its use in potpourris and linen sprays.

Russian sage is another beautiful plant with its purple spikes, but it needs room to sprawl. A hardy perennial, this sage is for ornamental use and should not be used for cooking as is the Garden sage. Russian sage makes a lovely companion to lavender and as long as it is cut back after blooming it'll return its display till frost.

Southernwood is a plant long used to deter bugs and mice, spread around floors to freshen,
placed among stored clothing to ward off moths, and popular in wreaths. Very aromatic with its sharp, camphor, lemon odor.

Fennel is great for a showy background plant. It's lovely sweet anise smell and flavor is used in teas to aid digestion, helps reduce hunger pains, and freshens bad breath. A favorite addition for butterfly gardens, Fennel is a magnet for Swallowtail Butterflies and beneficial insects. The only drawback is that if you don't collect the seeds or prevent it from going to seed, it will easily spread.

Often it is thought that Dill is related to Fennel but it is not. Unless you make pickles, you may not really utilize this pretty plant. However, the beneficial insects will appreciate its presence. This annual reseeds and will pop up anywhere, but is easily pulled if not in a place you want.

Rue or Herb-of-Grace, isn't the most pleasant smelling plant, but is a pretty ornamental plant with its blue/gray foilage and yellow flowers. Worth mentioning, because it is very beneficial if you want to deter cats from your garden area. Cats strongly dislike the smell of this plant. 

Last, we have a favorite of any children's garden, Lamb's Ear. Though it doesn't have a distinct odor, it's soft and fuzzy leaves open a child's imagination to many creative ideas in play. Easy to grow, this plant is a perfect selection for a low maintenance rock garden or as a ground cover. It is drought resistant, spreads quickly into a mat leaving little room for weeds, and it flower's attract insect pollinators.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Don't Let The Garlic Scapes Escape!

Growing up my father always had a large garden, known then as a "truck patch". Yet, I don't ever remember growing garlic. Hard to imagine now since I can't imagine cooking without garlic.

Though many healing herbs can be labeled "wonder drugs", garlic deserves a special distinction. It is the second oldest medicine (after ephedra)and is even in the world's oldest surviving medical text, the Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medical papyrus dating to circa 1550 BC.

Before the Age of Antibiotics with the discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, garlic was relied heavily upon for the treatment of infection. The source ingredient in this wonder herb was discovered in the 1920's when researchers at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals in Switzerland isolated alliin. When garlic is chopped or chewed, the alliin comes in contact with a garlic enzyme, allinase, which transforms it into another chemical, allicin, a powerful antibiotic.

Known to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduce the chance of blood clots, garlic's allicin and ajoene content stand the test of time for a healthy heart.
Diabetics use garlic to reduce blood sugar.
There is growing evidence that garlic can be used in the treatment of cancer.
AIDS patients can even see an improvement in immune function by taking daily galic cloves.

Those who grow hard-neck garlic know to snip off the flowering tops which encourages more energy to go to the growing bulbs beneath the ground. These tops are called scapes. They are considered a gourmet delicacy by chefs with their short 2-3 week season. By the end of June, farmer's markets have a good supply of these scapes, but since they are eagerly sought out by cooks, they soon sell out.

These young spikes have a very mild garlic flavor and can be used in any of the ways we typically use garlic. Sauteed, grilled, chopped for omelettes, chicken, fish, pizza, delicious all the way around. They can be frozen fresh for later use if desired.

If you grow your own garlic and time slips by and those scapes flower, you'll still get a good crop of garlic, though they may not be as large. The flowering tops are also edible or you can let them dry up along with the rest of the garlic leaves and then save them to plant for spring garlic greens (like scallions).

Three popular recipes to use these scapes are in a pesto, a pizza, and pickled:

1/2 pound scapes chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup olive oil
2 cups parmesan cheese

In a blender, combine the scapes and olive oil. Pour mixture into a bowl and blend the cheese in by hand.

Toss the scapes with olive oil and sea salt and grill.
Spread ricotta cheese over a pizza dough shell.
Arrange the grilled scapes over the ricotta.
Optional is additional mozzarella or cheese of your choice.
Bake at 400 degrees for 18 - 20 minutes
Sprinkle with zaatar (a middle eastern herbal blend)

2 pounds garlic scapes
1/4 cup canning salt
2 1/2 cups vinegar
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp. cayenne pepper, divided
4 tsp. dill seed, divided
optional is one whole cayenne pepper per quart

Trim flower pods off of the garlic scapes and chop so that they will fit in the jars. To make it easier to fill the jars, separate the straight from the curly sections.

Combine salt, vinegar and water in a large saucepot.
Bring to a boil. Pack scapes into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace
Add 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper and 1 tsp dill seed to each pint.
Ladle hot liquid over beans, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Remove air bubbles by dipping a chopstick around edges.
Adjust metal caps and rings.
Process pints and quarts 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner

Yield: about 4 pints or 2 quarts

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tribute to Father's, Mentors on Father's Day

Whether your father is sitting across from you today or tucked deep within your heart, Father's Day is a designated day on the calendar to recognize the person who helped develop you into the person you are today.

Parenting doesn't come with a manual and all of us learn on the job. Keep in mind that people do the best they can at the time, with what they've got. Reflecting back most of us would do things differently knowing what we do now. I know while we were raising our kids one of our fears was something dreadful happening to them and of course as parents it is our job to keep them safe. So just getting them to their 18th birthday in one piece is quite an accomplishment.

In today's world, what is a normal family? Who sets that criteria anyway? We're all dysfunctional to some extent, I suppose, which is what makes family histories so interesting.
The more time that goes by since my Dad's passing, the more at peace I am with the "what could have been if..."

It is best to put aside any negativity and focus on the warm fuzzies of our memories.
As I mature in my own development, I can better understand the environment in which he grew up and what was going on during that time period to influence the man he had become.
People are what they are and usually do what they think is right at the time. 

Perspective is key to outlooks and attitudes. My mother's wisdom was always,
"If you can do something about it, do it, if not, accept and Let Go, Let God"

The words of Buddhist teacher Gil Fronsdal: “Forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past.”
That realization will give you hope for a far brighter present.

From a biblical point of view, we are taught to first be a good example to our children since they listen and observe everything we do. Second, we are to give them a sense of significance. To feel valued and secure is so very important for personal success.
Last, we are to release them to their own lives and let them shine in their own right.

So, realize your parents did the best they could and now apply your best to your own children or those to whom you mentor.
Make contact and connect with that special dad, step-dad, uncle, it through a visit, phone call or prayer.

Father's Day poses as just the perfect occasion to express feelings of gratitude and thankfulness to every dad in the world. Though the day is celebrated with utmost fervor and enthusiasm in the present times, it wasn't always that way. The  Father's Day celebration had a modest beginning. It's history dates back to 1909, in Spokane, Washington. Sonora Smart Dodd was listening to a Mother's Day sermon, at the Central Methodist Episcopal Church. The lecture inspired her to have a special day dedicated to her father, William Jackson Smart, who raised herself and her siblings after their mother had died.

Sonora realized the enormity of her father's dedication and commitment to his family. She wanted to let him know how deeply she was touched by his sacrifices, courage, selflessness and love. To pay a tribute to her beloved dad, Sonora held the first Father's Day celebration on 19th of June 1910, on the birthday of her father. She was the first to solicit the idea of having an official Father's Day observance. However, unlike Mother's Day, which was readily accepted, Father's Day was received with mockery and hilarity. Though the day was gaining attention, it was mostly for the wrong reasons. Jokes and satire made ridicule of this chosen day of celebration.

In 1913, a bill in accordance with making the day official was introduced. The idea was approved by US President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. Later, in 1924, the idea gained further momentum as it was supported by President Calvin Coolidge. In 1926, a National Father's Day Committee was formed in New York City. However, it was thirty years later that a Joint Resolution of Congress gave recognition to Father's Day. Another 16 years passed before President Richard Nixon established the third Sunday of June, as a permanent national observance day of Father's Day in 1972.

Father's, or any male serving as a role model, certainly deserve the respect of being acknowledged on this special day of honor. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Sun Friend or Foe?

There is nothing like the warm lure of the sun to draw a person outside or out of a grumpy mood. However, as we enjoy 12 - 15 hour days of sunlight this time of year, we have to be careful of the amount of unprotected exposure we allow ourselves.

It may seem like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation when it comes to sunscreens. As a society, we have been taught to avoid the sun out of the fear of skin cancer. But we are now being told that little is really known about the safety of what is in most commercial sunscreens. Yet to avoid the sun, we may become vitamin D deficient, which in itself can lead to a host of health issues.

To naturally absorb the required amount of daily vitamin D, we have to expose our skin to the sun's rays at least 15 minutes. For those of us who need a sunhat and the protection of sun screen, getting enough vitamin D seems impossible without supplements.
It has been found that vitamin D is so very important for bone health and a healthy heart that most people should be taking extra supplements in addition to getting enough outside time.

The best you can do is to use a common sense approach. Studies are showing that chemical sunscreens contain ingredients that are absorbed into your system and may possibly tamper with your endocrine system. Do your research about the ingredients in your sunscreen and don't let sunscreens give you a false sense of security and think if you wear sunscreen you can stay out all day. Remember, the SPF may keep you from burning, which is good,  but the UVA radiation still penetrates deep into the skin, which we know accelerates skin aging and an increased risk for skin cancer.  Take a look at another informative post about skin health and skin aging.

Though not waterproof and needs to be reapplied frequently homemade mineral sunblocks are much safer for you and your children.
Natural sunblock

The choice we have when choosing a sunscreen is between "chemical" sunscreens, which contain ingredients which may be absorbed and could disrupt the body's hormone systems, and "mineral" sunscreens, which contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.

Oxybenzone is the most common active ingredient in sunscreen and according to the EWG, there is concern about its use in children because it can penetrate the skin and attribute to allergic reactions and potential hormone disruption

Zinc oxide is safe; the micronized particles of this mineral form a physical blocker in sunblocks and deflects the suns rays like a mirror. Often paired with titanium dioxide, which reflects light, titanium dioxide is not included in this lotion because it has the potential to be irritating to the skin.

What you want in a sunblock is broad spectrum protection, which means protection against both UVA (sun's ultraviolet long-wave) and UVB (sun's ultraviolet short-wave) rays. UVA is what causes aging and wrinkles ( blocked by zinc oxide) and UVB (blocked by zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) is what causes burning. UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply which is why our skin tans but also contributes to aging skin. UVB rays damage the skins epidermal layers resulting in sunburn and a risk in skin cancer.

It is better to have a lower SPF (sun protection factor) and have a UVA blocking ingredient than have a high SPF but only be blocking UVB. Zinc oxide blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
SPF refers only to the risk of burning (UVB) and should be at the minimum 15. The amount of zinc oxide used in this sun lotion is 12% which is sufficient but since it is not tested by the FDA I cannot make any claims as to the actual SPF.
This sunblock lotion consists of skin loving nourishing oils which in themselves contain a low SPF factor.
Avocado Oil - SPF 6- 8
Avocado oil is a heavier oil full of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, and is great for repairing body tissue and maintenance of healthy skin.

Sesame Oil - SPF 4
Sesame oil is a stable oil and helps increase the shelf life of the lotion. Long used in skin care, it soothes, softens and helps reduce skin aging.

Shea Butter - SPF 4 - 6
Shea butter is another heavy butter that once it penetrates is very therapeutic for dry damaged skin. High in fatty acids needed to retain moisture and elasticity, a favorite for serious skin care.

Hazelnut oil - SPF 10
Hazelnut oil is a lighter oil which is slightly astringent, nourishing and quickly absorbed into the skin.

Wheatgerm oil - SPF 20
Wheatgerm oil is one of the best sources of natural vitamin E and when applied to the skin acts as an antioxidant to prevent free radical damage.

Coconut oil - SPF 4
Coconut oil is known for its ability to help skin retain moisture. This wonderful hydrator feels so cool on parched skin.

Aloe vera is used in many formulas for reparative skin preparations, soothing astringents and sun products. Its gel is extremely cooling and refreshing.

Carrot seed essential oil has significant antioxidant value, high levels of vitamin A and provides natural sun protection.

This sunblock comes in a 4 oz. plastic flip top bottle.

When not in use store in the refrigerator to extend the shelf life.
Since sunscreen bottles are often within a beach bag, car or pool gear, they are exposed to heat and sun, which may accelerate spoilage.
If you want a larger than 4 oz. size it would be best to purchase multiple bottles and use one at a time.

Shake the bottle to reblend the ingredients if necessary. Without synthetic emulsifers and stabilizers there is a chance the oil and water content will separate. Just give it shake before using.
Apply 30 minutes before sun exposure.
Reapply hourly and after getting wet.

Add the extra protection of a t-shirt or sun protective clothing.
Try to seek shade during the midday hours.
So get outside, just be safe!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Naturally Safe Father's Day Gift Ideas

"The average American man uses six personal care products a day containing more than 80 unique chemicals. Many of these chemicals are absorbed into the skin, inhaled or ingested, and the vast majority of cosmetic chemicals have not been assessed for safety."

This statement was made by The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics. Usually when we think of the cosmetic industry we think of women, but this industry includes the personal care products used by men as well. Shampoos, shaving products, body wash, body sprays, deodorants...all advertised to help our men smell alluring and masculine.

Below is the rest of the article:

Some of the chemicals used in men's body-care products – from aftershaves and shaving creams to deodorants and shampoos – are linked to cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities and other chronic health problems. A common chemical found in most fragranced products may be particularly harmful to male reproductive health.

What's in his Medicine Cabinet?

Problematic chemicals in men's personal care products include:

Diethyl phthalate (DEP): found in fragrance-containing products such as cologne, aftershave, shaving cream, shampoos and deodorants
  • Recent human studies link DEP to sperm damage in adult men, abnormal reproductive development in infants, and Attention Deficit Disorder in children (i).
  • A study by Harvard University researchers suggests that a single use of cologne can markedly increase the level of DEP in a person’s body (ii).
  • Recent product tests found DEP in popular men’s colognes Quicksilver, Calvin Klein Eternity for Men, Old Spice After Hours Body Spray and Abercrombie & Fitch Fierce (iii).
Lead acetate: found in men’s hair and beard colorants
  • Banned from cosmetics in European Union because it is a known human reproductive toxicant
  • Brands include Men’s Grecian Hair Formula and Youthair Hair Color for Men.
Coal tar: found in dandruff shampoos such as Neutrogena T-Gel Shampoo
  • Known human carcinogen that is banned from cosmetics in European Union.
Triclosan: found in antibacterial soaps and deodorants such as Old Spice Wide Stick Deodorant, Speed Stick deodorants, Dial anti-bacterial soaps and Edge Advanced Shaving Gel, Ultra Sensitive
  • Linked to hormone disruption, and the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (iv).
  • The Canadian Medical Association asked the Canadian government to ban triclosan in household products due to concerns about bacterial resistance and carcinogenic byproducts (v).
  • There is no evidence that triclosan soaps are any more effective than regular soap and water (vi).
Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane: found in many leading shampoos and body washes
  • Known animal carcinogens and probable human carcinogens, according to US EPA (vii).
  • Formaldehyde is a leading allergen that can trigger skin rashes and other allergic reactions.
  • 1,4-dioxane is a leading groundwater contaminant and suspected as a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant, according to California EPA.
Meadow Muffin Gardens carries many safe, affordable, holistic personal care products for men as well as women and children. The items listed below can be found on our website
or within the Etsy shop

Great gift ideas for that 'hard to shop for' dad, husband, son, brother or best friend.
Think ahead for Father's Day or a birthday celebration!
Already assembled gift baskets for that special man in your life!
An assortment of eight body care products he is bound to appreciate; all tucked into a seasonally appropriate decorative basket.

Items include:
1. Sensual, Relaxing Lavender/Sandalwood Massage Oil

A deep muscle massage is a treat for any man.
2 oz. plastic pump bottle

2. Restless Sleep/Restless Mind Massage Oil

Helps unwind and relax a tired mind and bodily
2 oz. plastic pump bottle

3. Fungal Fighter Foot Powder

Anti-fungal powder for athletes foot or jock itch.
6 oz. plastic shaker bottle

4. Stinkfoot Odor Foot Powder

Helps reduce odor caused by trapped moisture and bacteria
6 oz. plastic shaker bottle

5. Weekend Warrior Muscle Overexertion Relief Balm

Relaxes tense and sore, overused muscles.
2 oz. plastic jar

6. Plantain & Coconut Oil All-Purpose Balm

Relief from dry, chapped skin or healing minor wounds.
2 oz. plastic jar

7. Yarrow Insect Repellent Body Spray

Deet free bug spray and aid for bug bites.
4 oz. plastic spray bottle

8. Honey Lemon Lip Balm tube

Moisturizes dry, chapped lips.

Great gift idea for that special man who just loves the out of doors and its many activities and occupations!
Assortment of necessities and first aid items for the gardener, hunter, fisherman, farmer, ranch hand or outdoor enthusiast

Items include:
1. Calendula and Comfrey Healing Balm

Herbal salve to aid in the healing of minor wounds,
skin irritation and minor burns.
2 oz. jar

2. Weekend Warrior Muscle Ache Overexertion Relief Balm

Herbal balm utilizing comfrey, ginger and essential oils
to help relieve tight, sore muscles and stiff joints.
2 oz. jar

3. Shea Butter Herbal Balm

Herbal olive oil infusion and shea butter help those
with chapped and irritated skin, eczema or dermatitis.
2 oz. jar

4. Sunburn Care Ointment

St. Johnswort and comfrey infused olive oil and
essential oils aid in the repair of sun damaged skin.
For use with first degree burns.
2 oz. jar

5. Yarrow Insect Repellent Body Spray

Deet free herbal body spray to help deter insect bites.
Alcohol based infusion with the addition of essential
4 oz. plastic spray bottle

6. Jewelweed Vinegar Body Spray Remedy for Poison Ivy

Herbal vinegar infusion with lavender essential oil to
ease the itch and irritation caused by exposure to
poison ivy.
4 oz. plastic spray bottle

7. Cocoa Butter Lip Balm

Flavor free cocoa butter lip balm for healing and
protecting chapped lips.
plastic jar or tube style(if have a preference convo me)
These items give you an idea of a practical, yet unique gift idea. Visit our shop on Etsy or the website and browse for individual products or put together your own basket assortment. For custom orders contact me at
Below is a wonderful sentimental assortment of items reminding us to appreciate the little everyday things this Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Container Planting Ideas

There is just something about wandering around a nursery this time of year when it is finally safe to plant shop till you drop!

Resist the temptation to just grab whatever catches your fancy. Have in mind what you want or make a list before you make the trip. Have an idea where you'll be putting these plants. Will they be in full sun or partial shade? Will they be in containers, bedding plants, window boxes?

Pictured here are ideas for container plantings. When you plan container or window box plantings, keep in mind three things: thrillers, fillers, and spillers.

This galvanized old pot contains four types of heat tolerant annuals requiring full sun. I used one spike and two each of the other three types.

In the center is the accent plant, Dracaena spike, a tall, upright growing, grassy annual.

Around them are Calibrachea, trailing 1 inch petunias that bloom profusely until they slowly peter out by late summer. They come in a choice of colors ranging from yellow, peach, pink and purple.

Trailing Verbena
A trailing perennial often planted as an annual growing to 12 inches tall and 2 feet wide. The leaves are medium to dark green, ovate in shape with coarse toothed margins and grow to one inch long and half as wide. Beautiful plant as it spills over the edges of its pot, basket or over rocks. Colors options are in the red, pink and purple range.

Diamond Frost Euphorbia is a light airy plant with little white flowers great to use to fill in the gaps. Tiny, delicate leaves and flowers adorn this 12 to 18 in. plant which looks a bit like Baby's Breath.

This assortment consists of aromatic cooking herbs. Great combination to have near the kitchen door. Herbs are heat and drought tolerant, requiring sun and well drained soil.

Garden oregano does best in the ground due to its size so for this arrangement I used Greek Oregano. A much smaller plant, this oregano smells as you'd expect and is perfect for snipping as needed.

There are several choices of basil. Typical Garden Basil also does best in the ground. Here we have Thai Basil which has smaller leaves, with purple stems and flowers.

Purple Sage looks great with the Thai Basil as it has a purple tinge to the leaves.

There is a difference between Marjoram and Oregano. Though similar, marjoram is actually a member of the mint family. It is considered a meat herb, complimenting many types of dishes. Marjoram is a bit sweeter than oregano.

Lemon Thyme is a favorite for those who love to add these sprigs to fish or just enjoy the citrus aroma of the leaves. There a many types of Thymes in which to choose.

Potted herbs need to be trimmed regularily or the plants get leggy and woody. Trimming helps them get bushier which is more attractive as a grouping.

For shady spots needing a splash of color, think Colelus. These attractive plants are grown for their beautiful foliage. Coleus will survive in the sun but the color of the leaves is most enhanced in the shade. Small flower spikes appear in late summer. Pinch off these blooms and growing shoots of young plants to encourage bushier plants.

The center spike plant is called Cordyline Australis. Magenta in color it blends very well with the other plants.

The trailer for this pot is known as Ipomoea or Sweet Potato Vine. Deeply veined dark magenta leaves drape over the edge.

This assortment looks skimpy now but it will quickly fill the gaps.
The Cigar or Firecracker plant is a shrubby type that does well in a pot if large enough. These red tubular flowers are great for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.

Fuschia plants are so pretty. Delicate blooms hang like jewels on a necklace. Just be sure to give this one plenty of water, especially if in a pot that dries out quickly. Pinch them to discourage legginess.

Surrounding these two center plants is the old standby for easy color, Impatiens. These plants will let you know when they need water. But quickly bounce right back. Impatiens bloom the entire season right up to frost, which turns them to mush, requiring little effort in fall clean-up.

Check flea markets and auctions for finding various unique containers for your plantings. Farm auctions often have old cast iron cooking pots and galvanized pots, tubs and buckets. If the tubs or buckets don't already have rusted out spots on the bottoms, you'll either have to drill a few drainage holes or else periodically take out the flower pots so that you can tilt the tubs and dump out the accumulated water.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Path to Inner Peace

With the daily grind of catching the school bus behind us, there is a strange quiet about the house now. In the past, the end of a school year was met with the pride of being one step further up the social ladder of high school. Now there is the excitement tinged with trepidation of "What should I do now?"

The guest speaker at our son's graduation was the Reverend Emery Thompson. His message to the students centered on the path to personal success while maintaining inner peace. It was a very pertinent subject for all of us. Too often we see people reach their mid-40's or 50's, have attained financial success yet wonder why they're not happy or why they haven't realized such success in their personal lives.

Reverend Thompson claimed that our lives will be content and full of inner peace if we live by two guidelines. Be truthful and show mercy in our lives.

Though we live in a seemingly cutthroat, dog eat dog world, he stressed that in the long run, those whose word can be trusted by being honest when stating what he intends to do, and then follows through by doing what he says he intends to do, will be truly successful. To be perseverant and responsible will pay off in the end.
I've often heard the expression "It's where you end up that counts, not how you got there." I doubt Rev. Thompson would agree with that. He really stressed the significance of good reputation and character. What we interpret as personal success for ourselves will naturally follow.

Living by the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", is of utmost importance if we want to have a clear conscience and sleep at night. The reverend pointed out that there will be many people throughout our lives who need our support and mercy as they struggle with their own mistakes, or our forgiveness if those mistakes harm us or others. We are told that we have no right to expect ourselves to be forgiven if we are reluctant to be the forgiver as well. Whether this refers to our forgiveness by God or our fellow man, it does make sense.

Reverend Thompson also made it clear to the students to never undervalue or underestimate their potential. He had a list of "greats" who started out in life as peons or the least of us in social or economic circles. Stressed was the importance of the confidence to be willing to fail before you can realize succeed. That is how we learn.

As these young adults take their first baby steps into the world of the unknown, I really hope they have the guts to get out of their comfort zones and be willing to flounder about at times without feeling like they failed.

As much as I'd love to always be there and know what is going on with my children, I also know their wings will never spread if I keep them in a cocoon.

My husband's words of wisdom have always been, "When in doubt, go for it! What's the worst that can happen?"
As a mother I think "plenty can happen" ....but we can't live in fear... so
"Go for it guys and fill in the pages of your life!"