Another grey day required me to go out and find the pretty things in the garden…. enjoy~
Another grey day required me to go out and find the pretty things in the garden…. enjoy~
Hey, how’s it going?
I’ve been celebrating sunshine by sowing seeds (albeit still with heatpads and glasshouses!). How are your garden plans coming along?
Are you building a new herb garden or wanting to fill in some gaps? Looking for plants for your food forest or some companion plants for the vege patch? I very well will have the herb for you. Always pays to ask even if you can’t see it here on my website.
Now. There’s one herb that I’m not advertising on my website because I’m not actually sure if I’m allowed to sell it… So if you’re reading this and know the plant I’m going to be talking about, you’ll be as excited as I was when I clapped eyes on this plant in a friends garden…
It’s Aconitum napellus, AKA Monkshood, Helmet Flower, Turks-Cap, the Aconite in your homeopath kit..
This is the quintessential plant of the occult. An infamous herb that the Christians of the 15th century loved to peg onto witches. “How is the ointment with which you you rub your broomstick made?” Seriously, this is one of the questions asked in a witches trial, the answer they’re looking for is “Yes sir, I made my flying ointment out of Aconite and Belladonna”. They (they being the witches of course) also made an ointment out of Aconite and other beastlies that would put witches in a “sabbatical” state in which they could leave their physical body to communicate with the spiritual world. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME KIDS!!
From the roots to the seeds this plant is poisonous. It is also quite gorgeous with tall spikes of purple flowers quite similar to delphiniums. If you’re at all interested (and I suggest you should be) here is a list of other gorgeous poisonous plants.
Unlike a lot of other herbs, Monkshood does best in rich soil and some shade. It’s dormant during the winter so make sure you remember where you’ve planted it. If you do have young children make sure they are well educated of its dangers or err on the side of caution and wait til they’re older and wiser before introducing this plant to your garden.
If you’re interested in this fascinating plant use the contact from on the right near the top to get in touch with me.
Right, I’m getting back out there whilst it’s still sunny; can you believe day light savings is next week already??!!
Things have been going a bit tits up here at Stoney Ground Herbs. I’ve been throwing blame about but have now cottoned on to what actually is the issue.
We are now living in a completely different climate that we have ever lived in. My gardening and Stoney Ground Herbs has always been in temperate New Zealand, coastal and warmer. Eketahuna is in the bronx of the cool/mountain climate. I somewhat foolishly haven’t adjusted my growing practices to reflect the differences between coastal and mountainous. And in actual fact, without some massive tunnel houses a lot of my plants aren’t going to be ready until November. My mother plants are still adjusting to the change so I have limited stock for some plants and none at all for some of my stock standards…
Very limited stock;
Plants that won’t be available this year;
In so saying though I do have new plants available!!
Give me a bit and I’ll start updating my website accordingly.
Other changes are that courier prices have gone up so I’m having to change my costs accordingly. Whilst we’re on the subject of couriers they just get too crazy busy during the Xmas period so I will not be sending any plants after the 10th December until the new year.
Here’s to learning curves!
This year I’m planting according to the moon, not just any moon, but our moon, marama.
Haha! Don’t worry, I’m still on the same planet as you – (most of the time) and I’m well aware there is only one moon for us earthlings.
I’m following Maramataka Māori, the Maori lunar calendar for fishing and horticulture. Maramataka means literally, turning of the moon.
(Artwork by Wiremu Barriball of Revolution Aotearoa)
When Europeans arrived in Aotearoa (the ones that knew these sort of things) they were well impressed with Māori horticultural practices; neat, weed-free and obviously productive. Of course Māori weren’t vegetarian and they lived in a mixed economy of gardening, gathering and fishing.
Long long before “gardening by the moon” became hip and before even your grandparents or great-grandparents talked about planting with the moon (lucky you). Māori were walking the talk with Maramataka. In fact the moon and the cosmos were reference point and guide in all aspects of pre-european Māori life. Matariki didn’t start happening in the 1990’s.
So. In my admittedly complete amateur understanding of Maramataka – like most cultures, time was cut up by the cycles of the sun and the moon. (Month = moon. My bet is women cottoned onto the rhythm of the moon before men!). But instead of breaking the month up into weeks then days, Māori had a different name for every single night (which also typically marks a day) in a lunar month.
The lunar month starts with Whiro. Ko te rā i muri iho ō tā tō Pākehā new moon (the day after the new moon on the calendar) and ends with Mutuwhenua… E hara i te rā pō pai tēnei kua hinapouri te ao e ai ki ngā kōrero ō neke rā. It is not a good day at all: The world is in darkness!
It takes a bit of working out if you haven’t been brought up knowing Maramataka and I’m going with the very basics. I imagine that, especially back in the day, it would have slight variances between iwi’s depending on the Tohunga’s readings of the Matariki stars at the start of the year and a lot of other nuances non-related to fishing and horticulture. (Please, if you know more, enlighten me and others in the comments section below!)
My journey has just begun, literally, two days ago. when I bought my seed potato and thought I better start planning when I’m going to start everything.
Last year I noticed I had pretty rubbish outcomes with seed I sowed during the new moon but had much better luck during the last quarter. I’ve acknowledged moon calenders and they’ve been pretty useful for reminding and planning of things to do in the garden. Koangas Garden Guide (by Kay Baxter) has been my guide, but not my ruler!
Then I read a book earlier this year called Moon Gardening by John Harris, head gardener of Tresillian Estate in the UK. He explained really simply, the moons effect on the water table. (Rises as the moon is coming up to full – waxing, whilst the water table drops when the moon is waning and at its lowest during new moon).
I recommend this book if you can get your hands on it. In it, the author mentions how a television crew came from New Zealand to interview him about moon gardening and he over-heard a crew member murmuring to a mate “Why’d we have to come 18,000 km’s to hear about something the Māori have been doing for hundreds of years?” Fair bloody call. White validation?
Anyway, the good man devoted a whole chapter to Maramataka Māori.
I also have a booklet called NGĀ PŌREAREA ME NGĀ MATEMATE O NGĀ MĀRA TAEWA, Pests and Diseases of Taewa (Māori potato) Crops. You can get this through Tāhuri Whenua the National Māori Growers Collective. This, amongst other good things to know has the Maramataka Maori (Te Āti Awa version) in it. And it is from here that I’m getting my info from.
I’m not going to go over the whole Maramataka here but you can join me on my journey…
Right now (the 4th August 2018) it is Tangaroa piri a mua – the 23rd day after the new moon. He rā pai tēnei ki te ono kai, ki ngā mahi hī ika koura. A very god day for planting, fishing, crayfish and eels, especially from noon until sunset.
According to Maramataka Māori it’s a pretty good day for planting (and fishing) from midday til sunset three nights before last quarter, called Korekore tūroa (which was the 2nd August). and we’re all good for sowing and planting and fishing until Mauri (a couple of night before new moon), the 9th August, E hara i te rā pai tēnei he oro mauri te kai ka omo. Not a very good day for planting or fishing. fish, eels and crayfish are very elusive.
I have sown white sage, licorice, thyme, motherwort, common sage and spillanthes so far (with use of a heat-pad). With dill, parsley, chervil, shiso, savory, tulsi and catnip to go. It’s a bit early for some but I always like to push the boundaries! (My early potatoes will go in next month).
Another book I highly recommend if you’re into this sort of thing is A Tohunga’s Natural World, plants, gardening and food. by Paul Moon. Gardening from a Tuhoe Tohunga’s perspective.
I’ll be updating on here on how I go and what I’ll be doing next according to the Maramataka. Have you done this/do this? Please comment below on how it works for you~ ngā mihi!
Are you familiar with tinctures? Have you tried tinctures? Have you been finding what you’re looking for?
For me personally, tinctures are the way forward for taking herbal medicine. Herbal teas are wonderful and are best for chronic conditions. But if you’re offering me a hot drink I’d be hoping some good strong coffee is on the menu! (Black, no sugar if you’re asking..)
Tinctures are highly concentrated liquid herbal extracts which keep for many years. The chosen herb is macerated (soaked) in alcohol, usually vodka, for two to four weeks, shaken twice daily, strained then taken by the drop or dropper-ful. Tinctures are good for acute situations and are taken in a small amount of warm water, tea or juice. It’s a minimal amount of alcohol that you are having, the most would be three teaspoons (for an adult) over the course of a day. Tinctures can be made with an apple cider vinegar base which keep for a year, more if stored in the fridge.
So I’m telling you all this for good reason, because I’ve started making tinctures using my organic herbs here at Stoney Ground Herbs home base. I make small batches to ensure quality and strength. It’s fun and feels like the way forward for SGH. So far I have available…
As more plant material becomes available more tinctures will become available. On my website you can find my tinctures under the “Products” drop down menu. Or you can be instantly taken there like magic here.
They are also taken to flavour cocktails, either by the drop or spritz. Take you bartending skills to another level! (I’m thinking lemon verbena, vietnamese mint…)
If I don’t have something you’re after please ask~
Dream away my friends and if those dreams aren’t big enough or bright enough maybe you need some mugwort…
The name mugwort doesn’t seem very dreamy though does it (more beer-y), lets change it to cronewort, a name that some people whom work with the healing properties of plants prefer to call Artemisia vulgaris.
Use it in a dream pillow to encourage clear techni-coloured dreams, possibly prophetic (not recommended for childrens dream pillows!). Cronewort has a long history with magic; on one hand to ward off evil, on the other to divine the future.
“Being such a powerful herb, mugwort has long been thought to predict the future. If you want to determine the course of a relationship and don’t want to pay a psychic or fuss with tarot cards, test this old fashioned technique; Plant two mugworts side by side in well drained soil in full sun. Designate one as you and the other as your intended…If the plants grow toward one another, everything will be wonderful in the relationship. If they bend in opposite directions, problems will inevitably arise (staking is not allowed).
So as not to make self fulfilling prophecies and create a sense of doom in an otherwise happy relationship, it’s best to apply this technique to the lives of your friends and then boldly make predictions about them based on the results. Create a whole row of divining mugworts, and expand your focus to foretell the course of a business deal, predict whether a nephew will stay in medical school, and augur the possibility of a year-end bonus – anything that can be predicted negatively or positively by the plants growing apart or together. the law of averages states that you will be right at least half the time, and in the meantime you will have amazed your friends with your herbal prowess.” Mary Forsell author of Herbs.
Medicinally cronewort has similar actions as the other Artemisias (Southernwood and Wormwood)… bitter tonic, stimulant, anti-bilious and emmenagogue but also has the action of a nervine tonic due to its volatile oil (so don’t boil it!). This makes it a grand remedy to regulate periods, reduce period pain and PMS.
Mugwort has been used alongside acupuncture for over three thousand years in the form of moxa. I don’t know a heck of a lot about acupuncture aside from the basics and that my friend Nicky Walker in Kapiti is an acupuncturist (unabashed plug here http://www.nickywalker.co.nz/). Here is a fascinating article about moxa/mugwort and acupuncture.
I have just started growing mugwort this year so will have plants, dried herb and tinctures available in 2019.
I don’t usually talk about the homeschooling part of our life and here I am mentioning another of our “field trips”. They’re just so interesting lately!
So this time we went to Stonehenge Aotearoa in Carterton for a guided tour with emphasis on Matariki. What a freakin’ cool place! Have you been there?
It’s not trying to be a replica of Stonehenge in Salisbury, England. It is our very own Stonehenge made to the specifications of our southern skies including sunrises and sunsets. Everything has been thought of, Kay Leather and Richard Hall have done a terrific job and have so much knowledge. Totally recommend going there and having a tour so you can get a full grasp of the amazing-ness of it all.
Any-hoo; why I am writing about this trip is because they have a beautiful statue of Artemis, which made me immediately think of Artemisia plants. plants which I’m just a little enamoured with at the moment. You know what’s funny though, is through doing some quick research, the plants associated with the Goddess Artemis are actually (according to Wikipedia) Amaranth and Asphodel, but amaranth comes from South America….hmmm, I dinnae know about that one. AND, that the Artemisia plants are actually named after this quite amazing woman from way ago called Artemisia ll of Caria whom was a botanist as well as an army commander and specialist in grieving for her husband/brother (yep, both one and the same). Here’s another article that is quite interesting about Artemis and Artemisia plants with a feminist bent. I think there’s a pretty valid reason why I love these plants!
What are these plants? There are approx 180 species and I’m not going to name them all even if I could. The most common ones here are Wormwood (A. absinthium), Southernwood (A. abrotanum), Mugwort (A. vulgaris), and French tarragon (A. dracunculus). There is also the annual Sweet Annie (A. annua) and Roman wormwood (A. pontica). All of which have some type of medicinal/household/culinary/spiritual use. There are many others that are just plain gorgeous; Marshwoods in Invercargill sells a few of these (the ornamentals).
I’ve only just acquired Wormwood and Mugwort this year. The more I learn about them the more excited I get about having them available to use and to sell. (Which unfortunately won’t be this season- they aren’t big enough to propagate from yet).
Wormwood is a bit dime o dozen, if you look for it you’ll see it at the front of driveways in its big blazing silver glory. I’ll bet in many gardens (not all!) little is known of its history and uses…
According to ethnobotanist Murdoch Riley (author of Maori Healing and Herbal) Wormwood was brought to Stewart Island (Rakiura, Aotearoa) from Australia in the 1860’s by a Scottish captain William Sherburd. “Captain Wormwood” as he was affectionally referred as, introduced it to The Neck solely for the relief of consumption (TB). All the families were given slips of Wormwood to grow with the recommendation of chewing a bit before every meal or to make the bitter tea (with the exception of Rue Ruta gravelons, wormwood is the bitterest of herbs).,
Wormwood slowly inched its way up New Zealand; a plant was recorded as being found in Canterbury by a botanist in 1871 and in Wellington in 1877.
Of course New Zealand is a young country and Wormwood has been used since way back when. In the 14th century it was recommended to be strewn in the chamber to keep the fleas away (you can still do this but perhaps the dog kennel or chicken coop would be more useful). It was also laid among “stuffs and furs” to keep away moths and insects. Seems most Artemisias can be used to keep moths away from stored linen etc.
Was also the herb to have on hand if biting sea dragons were a problem in your area… I believe they the Ancients are referring to the Weever fish which is still an issue today. Other poisons that Wormwood was reputed to counteract were/are; hemlock and toadstools.
The leaves and flowering tops of Wormwood are used medicinally. It’s primary use these days is that of a bitter, which has the effect of stimulating and invigorating the whole of the digestive process which in turn helps the whole body. Which is particularly relevant for todays diets which are more sweet and salty than bitter. Go here and here for more info as to why we need more bitters in our diet.
So as well as being a bitter tonic, Wormwoods other actions are; carminative, anthelemintic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bilious, anti-microbial, emmenagogue, heptatic, stimulant.
If you hadn’t guessed from Wormwoods botanical name… Artemisia absinthium was used to make absinthe and vermouth.
In the nineteenth century it was banned from alcoholic drinks due to all those crazy artists in Paris – nahh! Not just them, everybody else that drank loads of absinthe too.
The oil of Wormwood is a psychoactive and when mixed with alcohol it stimulates the cerebral cortex, causes havoc on the neural system and if taken in large doses can lead to coma and convulsions. Now that would bring a bummer to the party.
It was also used instead of hops in the making of beer but the Artemisia most well known for that purpose was Mugwort, Artemisia vulgare.
This post for some reason has taken me ages though so we shall continue with Mugwort in the next one…
As winter settles in, now is the time to do hard wood cuttings from your woody perennials.
Anyone whom has a pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) in their garden will know that it can get quite big and rangy and about now its flowers will be looking a bit worse for wear.
So cut it back now and make some hard wood cuttings whilst you’re at it. (The following info is also relevent for rose geranium, rosemary, purple and common sage plus any deciduous plant)
When pruning back you can cut quite hard and make it into a more pleasing round shape – you may even get another whirl of flowers. When cutting back make sure your cut is just above a node where new leaves will spring forth.
From the stems you’ve cut, select a piece which is about as thick as a pencil and quite hard (not soft and pliable)
Pull away the leaves from the bottom two nodes. Make sure you pull down as you want to tear the stem a bit exposing the cambium. This part isn’t totally necessary but I do it to increase my chances of roots forming not just from the bottom cut but along the stem too.
Leave at least one leaf at the top, or lovely potential leaf buds..
I use a mix of potting mix and sand in my pots; make a hole (with dibbler or pencil) and insert your stem. Your mix should be wet enough that you don’t need to water, but watering does help your cutting settle in. Whatever you do definitely spray the leaves ASAP with a fine mist of water. This is crucial as the plant loses its moisture through it’s leaves (no roots to dry out).
You can leave your hard wood cuttings out in the open, not in direct sun though. If they are under cover, misting them regularly is a good idea, watering not so much, you don’t want your sticks to rot. Now, it won’t happen over night, they take a while to make brand new roots, for some you won’t see any movement til late spring and take more than one cutting as not all will strike.
Personally I love taking cuttings, its fun and I always learn something else every year and it widens your scope of possible plants… like a plant in your friends garden? Take a cutting! Strolling through the Botanics? oh there’s a pretty plant, deftly take a cutting!.. of course, which I do not endorse for that is quite likely not allowed and I have never, ever, no sir-ee bob, done that…..
I probably haven’t covered everything here in taking hard wood cuttings, so any questions just ask… no such thing as a stupid question! Last word of advice, keep a spare pair of secateurs in your car glovebox or handbag/man-bag/nappy-bag, you just never know…. and it’s like a total gardeners badge!
Our local home ed group had a picnic at Garry and Ali Fosters‘ food forest, Matahiwi, this week.
Their property just out of Masterton used to be a school that closed down in 1971. They’ve been there for 30 odd years, brought up their three children there and in the last four years Garry has been developing their food forest.
For those not in the know a food forest is the ideal permaculture garden where all layers from the top most canopy to the roots (seven layers in all) live in a symbiotic relationship feeding and protecting each other whilst also providing for you and ideally the community. Go here for an article about 5 pretty amazing food forests from around the world.
No digging is involved here part from the action of harvesting roots and tubers like potatoes, yams, kumara (he harvested one beauty that weighed 2.4kg!), chinese artichokes and yacons.
The amazing thing about their food forest aside from the diversity of plants they have is that a lot of it was built on top of a carpark (school carpark) and/or old riverbed, so the “soil” is actually arborist mulch.
Garry is actively (and joyously) crushing long held gardening myths – firstly by growing in mulch alone. (In regards to his fruit trees he scratches into the mulch til he hits soil then plants the trees and lets their roots do the work). He doesn’t dig, doesn’t need to hoe (the weeds easily pull out from the mulch, though he does have the dreaded Italian arum). He doesn’t even make compost..but he does have a chook yard that gets moved year about, putting his mulch gardens on top of the scraps and garden rubbish that the girls have dealt with.
You could say Garry is a biological permaculture gardener whom believes the most important thing is the micro and macro organisms within the growing medium rather than the medium itself.
The fungi and bugs do their job, deep rooted plants bring up nutrients alongside shallow rooted plants doing their business, nature is left to her devices and the reward is a bounty of produce. A lot of people aware of the importance of those micro-organisms often bring them in with EF products but Garry does it alone with his mulch and his mulch alone.
Everything works together so well at Matahiwi and is quite the inspiration, particularly for us folk that live on impenetrable clay ground or old riverbeds.
We’ve been working on our grounds and honestly it feels more like mining than gardening.
We’re using a spade to get the turf off then it’s all crow bar baby. At least my garden beds are making their own borders!
But after our visit here at Garry and Alis’ place I’m re-thinking how I might do the rest of the garden areas.
Garrys’ other horticultural passion is Aotearoa’s native flora. This time round I didn’t get a full gander at them but I did see the biggest Muehlenbeckia astonii I’ve ever seen, they’re usually so wind blown it’s rare to see them at their full 2.5m height! Its seeds are designed to be spread by lizards. In turn it provides food and shelter from birds for them. Natures design is incredible.
Did you know New Zealand has 5 endemic species of mistletoe? I didn’t even know we had one! The one Garry showed me is Ileostylus micranthus. In rongroā (traditional Māori medicine) mistletoe bark was pounded and used to treat “the itch” caused by a type scabie known to the Māori as hakihaki.
There was plenty of Poroporo Solanum laciniatum around Matahiwi too; when the berries are ripe (yellow-orange in colour) they’re a nice snack for people and birds, similar in flavour to the Cape gooseberry. The expressed juice of the poroporo was sometimes used in tattooing and again “the itch” could be treated with poroporo leaves. You can also use the leaves as a hair shampoo. You boil the leaves and use the water for washing your hair, leaving your locks lovely and shiny as well as apparently dandruff and grey free!!
So it was a great day in all – oh, the kids had a good day too!
Look forward to going back in summer when everything is in full swing!
I have met my foe… she’s Italian, quite pretty (of course), impervious to cold weather and thrives in the rain.
I met her briefly in Spring (when we moved here) and she was all showy-showy-look-at-me-and-my-trumpets. I took her down a peg or two and she disappeared. I thought I’d won..until now.
She’s back and back with vengeance.
Italian Arum, Arum italicum, spreads by corm, seed and root, may as well have spores as well! (It doesn’t) So even if you think you’ve got all the corms (which you won’t have because a lot are brown and small and they can go about 0.5m deep in the ground) there’s proberly seed throughout anyway.
This stuff is evil man and all parts are poisonous to prove it. Her leaves start unfurling from the ground in autumn and then hits her stride the colder it gets. Flowers in early spring, bearing orange berries by late spring. And then it disappears for summer only to rear its green and white head again come autumn.
I’ll give it the benefit of being interesting for the fact that it’s one of few plants that thrives during the cold winter months with beautiful variegated lushness (which is why it’s celebrated in some gardens) and has the decency to go away in summer (though this is not helpful in a perennial herb bed!). Also has an interesting little quirk of generating its own heat through the spadix which supports the flower, enough that your hand can feel it!
But don’t be fooled. I have researched high, low and far and it appears this plant is nigh impossible to get rid of. I even went to the dark side to see what chemicals would do the job. Not even! One person involved in their own battle has come to the conclusion that spraying even makes them worse. People have tried boiling water, vinegar and covering, deep mulching, you name it – I believe it’s been done…and the Italian siren keeps on rising to the challenge. Check out this link to a forum discussion about its wild and wicked ways. you have to read through them all to discover that most advice given doesn’t work!
So. The big so. What am I going to do….
I’ve already tried digging them out, that worked for a couple of weeks and I swear it made them worse.
I’m now in the process of taking out my plants, cleaning their roots and putting them in a newly made bed.
I have some new cuttings that I’m currently growing to size ~ Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris and Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium (I’m quite stupidly excited about these plants!) which I will plant (in the “Arum garden”) along with my Southernwood Artemisia abrotanum (picking a theme here?) and Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus, not an Artemisia but it is grey/silver). My plan is that these plants will grow so big that they will smother any signs of the Italian arum.
In the meantime I’m going to cut all green growth off rather than fruitlessly dig out and definately not allow any- no matter where on the property- to flower.
Wish me luck! If you have had any experience with this plant, good or bad please comment below~