Tea

Coffee (usually Coffea arabica or Coffea canephora) is one of the many things Seattle is known for. No matter where you are in the city, you’re never far from a business that will sell you coffee, quite possibly coffee that was roasted down the block or in the back room. I enjoy coffee and drink it occasionally, but consuming it too often overwhelms my basic sense of calm and stability.

Coffee plant with immature fruit in the Botany Greenhouse

Coffee plant with immature fruit in the Botany Greenhouse

Mostly I drink tea (Camellia sinensis), and so do a lot of other people. According to the Tea Association of the U.S.A., half the American population drinks tea every day. The Turks drink more tea per capita than the citizens of any other country. They drink about 21 times as much tea as Americans. Bless them, the Turks. In the coastal town of Marmaris, having debarked after a ferry trip from Rhodes, I long ago had the experience of sitting in a tea house on a rainy autumn afternoon, drinking tea and smoking cigarettes. As soon as my cup started to run dry or my cigarette was burning low, one or another fellow customer paid for my next cup and offered, nay, forced another cigarette into my hand. Turkey was a much less prosperous country in 1989 when I visited and the extreme generosity of the tea house patrons stands as an example of how to live in the world, an example I rarely do but still hope to live up to. I no longer smoke, but I still love tea.

Tea (Camellia sinensis) growing in the Medicinal Herb Garden

Tea (Camellia sinensis)
growing in the Medicinal Herb Garden

In case you imagine tea as an exotic, tropical or subtropical plant, you’re right and you’re wrong. Yes, it is exotic. It is native to southeastern Asia. The Chinese are the top producers of tea in the world, followed closely by India. Yes, it does well in the tropics and subtropics, but it is grown as far north as Vancouver Island  and Washington state as well as Cornwall in the U.K., all places where the marine climate buffers the winter extremes of the far northern latitude.

There is a large hedge of tea plants growing in the Medicinal Herb Garden on the south and west borders of section A. They are extremely hardy, broadleaved evergreen shrubs that do well in full sun but also in shade. If you plan to pick the leaves to make tea, your best bet is to give them full sun in Seattle. As long as they get some water, they put out a lot more growth in the sun. I harvest leaves, the new growth at the branch tips, in late spring to early summer. It is traditional to pick the top ‘two leaves and a bud’, the bud being the newest leaf which has not fully unfurled. The University of Hawaii has an excellent primer on processing tea at home. You can adapt their methods to your own preferences. For instance, they use a microwave to process green tea and I use a steamer instead. But their instructions are quite clear and easy to follow.

http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/FST-26.pdf

It’s surprising, considering the influence of Chinese and Japanese culture in Seattle, that there is so little tea growing in this city. Living on Beacon Hill, a  traditionally Chinese neighborhood, especially since the end of WWII , I walk the nearby streets, making note of what people are growing. An ancient goji berry shrub (Lycium chinense) grows on the border with my neighbor to the north. Loquats (Eriobotrya japonica) and Asian pears (Pyrus pyrifolia) are planted all over the place up here. But where is the tea? I don’t understand.

People of Seattle and anywhere with a similar climate, please start growing tea. Having processed both green and black teas from the Medicinal Herb Garden hedge, I can tell you that you can produce a high quality tea here. When most people think of Camellia, it’s usually the ornamental C. japonica or C. sasanqua with  large, red, pink or white flowers. C. sinensis is not as ornamental, though it puts out respectable, white and yellow flowers through the winter. But it does produce tea. Imagine Seattle in 20 years, when different neighborhoods brag about the terroir of their teas, teas that you planted! There are all sorts of studies on the positive health effects of tea, especially green tea, but let’s face it, most of us drink it for the caffeine and the taste and the wonderful rituals involving its preparation.

Forget about boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), forget about privet (Ligustrum spp.) and get some tea plants. Be the first one on your block with a tea hedge.  You won’t be sorry.

 

 

these shriveled green leaves

picked fresh when spring meets summer

fill our cups with tea

 

 

See you in the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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High summer

We’re in the thick of it now; yes, it’s high summer. So far, it’s been a bumper year for tomatoes; my black krims and brandywines at home are covered with ripe fruit. This summer has been hot a lot. The olives in the Medicinal Herb Garden might even produce a crop worthy of the table. The same heat we are enjoying here is magnified on the drier, hotter east side of the state where huge wildfires (one of which, the Carlton Complex, is the largest in state history) have been burning for many weeks and causing a lot of damage. Hang in there, east-side friends.

I’m off again to the mountains for a backpacking trip, but before I leave, here are a few images from the garden.

Olea europea (leccino olices) section A border

Olea europea (leccino olives) section A border

Jaltomata procumbens (jaltomato, creeping false holly) section A

Jaltomata procumbens (jaltomato, creeping false holly) section A

Rosa nutkana (Nootka rose) fruit in Cascara Circle

Rosa nutkana (Nootka rose) fruit in Cascara Circle

I’m already collecting seeds from many of the garden’s plants and some fruit is ripening.

 

 

 

 

Leonotis nepetifolia (lion's paw) section C

Leonotis nepetifolia (lion’s paw) section C

Castilleja integra (wholeleaf Indian paintbrush) section C

Castilleja integra (wholeleaf Indian paintbrush) section C

Solidago canadensis (Canada goldenrod) section B

Solidago canadensis (Canada goldenrod) section B

Lion’s paw looks like a cross between a UFO and a Dr. Seuss flower. Hummingbirds love it. Stand nearby and you will see hummingbirds.

I’m growing three species of paintbrush this year. They are semi-parasitic, meaning they are partly parasitic and partly photosynthetic.

Goldenrod is another bee magnet. This picture was taken early on a cool morning, otherwise the flowers would be covered with bees.

Datura inoxia (sacred datura, tolguacha) section C

Datura inoxia (sacred datura, tolguacha) section C

Sagittaria latifolia (wapato) Cascara Circle

Sagittaria latifolia (wapato) Cascara Circle

Orthosiphon aristatus (cat's whiskers, Java tea) section C

Orthosiphon aristatus (cat’s whiskers, Java tea) section C

Sacred datura is a powerful entheogen which is, fittingly, pollinated at night, usually by hawk/sphinx moths (in the family Sphingidae).

Wapato tubers have spread through the Cascara Circle stream and are growing in any available muck. Next spring the ducks will be well fed. A pair visits every spring to feast on wapato.

Cat’s whiskers or Java tea is used to treat kidney stones and other urinary problems. It needs a lot of heat to be happy.

Limenitis lorquini (Lorquin's admiral)

Limenitis lorquini (Lorquin’s admiral)

Lorquin’s admirals are all around the Medicinal Herb Garden. Many of their larval host plants such as Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen), Prunus virginiana var. demissa (western chokecherry) and several species of Salix (willow) are represented in Cascara Circle. The adults visit a wide range of the garden’s flowering plants.

 

 

up above the world

tacking like a wind-whipped kite

Lorquin’s admiral

 

 

See you in the garden.

 

 

 

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Panta rhei

Most people who pass through the Medicinal Herb Garden do not make it across the street (Stevens Way) to the garden’s fruit forest. There’s no sign and it is surrounded by hedges and tall trees.

Center of fruit forest from the north

Center of fruit forest from the north  (minus two large goumi bushes that have a new home at the Beacon Food Forest)

The plants have gradually filled in and started bearing fruit since I first cleared brush and began planting in 2000. Luckily, representatives of most of the plants in the fruit forest can be grown, here and there, on the outer borders of the Medicinal Herb Garden across the street, because the fruit forest will face the bulldozer in the coming months, to make room for a new building. The university is constantly adding new buildings and replacing outdated buildings. We all accept and understand this truth around here, yet there’s no avoiding a period of mourning when a place you love is about to disappear.

Grapes (Vitis vinifera)

grapes (Vitis vinifera)

Sichuan pepper (Zanthoxylum piperitum)

Sichuan pepper (Zanthoxylum piperitum)

woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca)

woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca)

Years ago I read that there is now a name, coined by Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht, for this type of mourning. It’s called solastalgia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solastalgia

Though it is probably a more fitting term for the experiences of the people of southern Appalachia, facing the horrors of mountaintop mining, or the citizens of Kiribati or Tuvalu, about to be displaced from their paridisiacal island homes by rising sea levels, solastalgia describes a psychic state of dislocation and disorientation caused by physical dispossession. A sense of place is an integral part of our identity as humans. So, when a place we are connected to disappears, even a relatively small oasis like the fruit forest, feeling a bit of sadness is inevitable. The trick to remaining sane is to move forward and create new oases. There is always a marginal place that can be transformed. Keep your eyes on the borders of the Medicinal Herb Garden for these coming transformations.

sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

Italian prune plums (Prunus domestica)

Italian prune plums (Prunus domestica)

Black mulberry (Morus nigra)

black mulberry (Morus nigra)

Many of the smaller shrubs have already been relocated in the Medicinal Herb Garden. But the fruit forest space has a combination of solitude, quiet, shade in the lower part and sun in the upper, circular design, blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), paw paws (Asimina triloba), plums (Prunus spp.), raspberries (Rubus idaeus), honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea), goumis (Eleagnus multiflora), Nanking cherries (Prunus tomentosa), Sichuan pepper bushes (Zanthoxylum piperitum), black currants (Ribes nigrum), mulberries (Morus nigra), giant black walnut tree (Juglans nigra), grapes (Vitis vinifera), hardy kiwis (Actinidia arguta), sassafras (Sassafras albidum),  honeybee (Apis mellifica) hives and wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca). That combination will be hard to reproduce.

Black currant (Ribes nigrum)

black currant (Ribes nigrum)

Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)

raspberry (Rubus idaeus)

Lemon vebena (Aloysia triphylla) at north entrance to fruit forest you pass between two lemon verbenas, catching just a hint of their refreshing scent on your clothes. Fruit forest, we'll miss you.

lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) At the north entrance/exit of the fruit forest, you rub past two lemon verbena shrubs, catching just a hint of their refreshing scent on your clothes as you come and go.

Still, there is new inspiration to be drawn from this loss. The west side of the Chemistry Building’s south lawn has some excellent features. I’ve already started expanding into it and hope to add more plants during the dormant season. The same goes for the lawn between Benson Hall and Cascara Circle. Since January, I’ve planted blueberries , honeyberries, goumis, paw paws , prune plums, cherry prinsepia (Prinsepia sinensis), Chilean guava (Ugni molinae) and woodland strawberries. More to come.

New fruit forest border northwest of Cascara Circle

New fruit forest border, northwest of Cascara Circle

New border fruit forest, west of Cascara Circle

New fruit forest border, west of Cascara Circle

 

Fruit forest, we’ll miss you, but your spirit will live on across the street.

 

 

who records it all

the rolling list of losses

memory hold fast

 

See you in the garden.

 

 

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Coming down the pike…more flowers…and bees.

The last few days I’ve found myself often by the globe thistle, and it’s no accident. Globe thistle flowers smell like spiced jelly beans taste. Or something like that. It’s difficult not to linger and touch my nose to their richly scented, globe-shaped flower heads.  And when I do, my nose is practically touching honeybees. If I could buy pure, spicy, globe thistle honey, I would. Bees seem to be in a trance once they’ve landed on the globes. I’ve never seen them stay so long on any other flowers. Hurry if you want to smell the globe thistles and observe lingering bees up close. The flowers don’t last long.

IMG_1274

Echinops persicus (globe thistle) section B

IMG_1272

Bees love globe thistle.

IMG_1271

Yes they do.

IMG_1270

They surely do.

Dalea purpurea (purple prairie clover) section D

Dalea purpurea (purple prairie clover) section D

 

Dalea candida (white prairie clover) section C

Dalea candida (white prairie clover) section C

 

 

Silphium integrifolium (rosinweed) section E

Silphium integrifolium (rosinweed) section E

Saururus cernuus (lizard's tail) section B

Saururus cernuus (lizard’s tail) section B

Althaea officinalis (marshmallow) section A

Althaea officinalis (marshmallow) section A

Dipsacus asper (xu-duan) section B

Dipsacus asper (xu-duan) section B

Layia platyglossa ( coastal tidytips) section A

Layia platyglossa ( coastal tidytips) section A

Eupatorium aromaticum (boneset) section B

Eupatorium aromaticum (boneset) section B

Persicaria lapathifolia (curlytop knotweed) section B

Persicaria lapathifolia (curlytop knotweed) section B

Echinocystis lobata (wild cucumber) section A

Echinocystis lobata (wild cucumber) section A

Eurybia macrophylla (bigleaf aster) section E

Eurybia macrophylla (bigleaf aster) section E

Lathyrus tuberosus (tuberous sweetpea) section A

Lathyrus tuberosus (tuberous sweetpea) section A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boisduvalia densiflora (boisduvalia) section A

Boisduvalia densiflora (boisduvalia) section A

Pontedaria cordata (pickerel weed, wampee) Cascara Circle

Pontedaria cordata (pickerel weed, wampee) Cascara Circle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belamcanda chinensis (leopard flower, she gan) section B

Belamcanda chinensis (leopard flower, she gan) section B

 

 

nectar like spiced wine

these bees drunk on globe thistle

make it home safely

 

See you in the garden.

 

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Less talk, more flowers

Sometimes it’s best to stand aside and let the plants do the talking. We’re in the middle of a heat wave in Seattle and I’m feeling lazy. This day calls out for iced tea and a swim in the lake. For those of you far away, here are a few very recent images from the Medicinal Herb Garden. If you’re local, it’s a good day for a walk in the garden. There are plenty of shady spots for a nap and there’s so much flowering all around. Enjoy.

Gentiana affinis (pleated gentian) Cascara Circle

Gentiana affinis (pleated gentian) Cascara Circle

Monardell odoratissima (mountain monardella) section D

Monardell odoratissima (mountain monardella) section D

Chenopodium foliosum (leafy goosefoot) section B

Chenopodium foliosum (leafy goosefoot) section B

Sideritis scardica (mountain tea) section B

Sideritis scardica (mountain tea) section B

Punica granatum (pomegranate, shi liu pi) border areas

Punica granatum (pomegranate, shi liu pi) border areas

Glycyrrhiza lepidota (wild licorice) section B

Glycyrrhiza lepidota (wild licorice) section B

Platycodon grandiflorus (balloonflower, jie geng) section B and border areas

Platycodon grandiflorus (balloonflower, jie geng) section B and border areas

Ageratina occidentalis (western snakeroot) section B

Ageratina occidentalis (western snakeroot) section B

Scutellaria baicalensis (Baikal skullcap, huang qin) section B

Scutellaria baicalensis (Baikal skullcap, huang qin) section B

Verbascum olympicum (Greek mullein) section F

Verbascum olympicum (Greek mullein) section F

Helianthus nuttallii (Nuttall's sunflower) section A

Helianthus nuttallii (Nuttall’s sunflower) section A

Veronicastrum virginicum (culver's root, bowman's root) section F

Veronicastrum virginicum (culver’s root) section F

Amorpha canescens (leadplant) section D

Amorpha canescens (leadplant) section D

Aralia californica (western spikenard, elk clover) section E

Aralia californica (western spikenard, elk clover) section E

Cichorium intybus (chicory) section D

Cichorium intybus (chicory) section D

Chamaemelum nobile (chamomile) section C

Chamaemelum nobile (chamomile) section C

Aster linosyris (goldilocks aster) section C

Aster linosyris (goldilocks aster) section C

Inula helenium (elecampane, xuan fu hua) section B

Inula helenium (elecampane, xuan fu hua) section B

Angelica dahurica (bai zhi) section B

Angelica dahurica (bai zhi) section B

Anemone virginiana (thimbleweed) section D

Anemone virginiana (thimbleweed) section D

Geranium viscosissimum (sticky geranium) section D

Geranium viscosissimum (sticky geranium) section D

Galium boreale (northern bedstraw) section F

Galium boreale (northern bedstraw) section F

Stachys officinalis (wood betony) section F

Stachys officinalis (wood betony) section F

Ononis spinosa (restharrow) section A

Ononis spinosa (restharrow) section A

Berlandiera lyrata (chocolate flower) section C

Berlandiera lyrata (chocolate flower) section C

Verbena macdougallii (Macdougal verbena) section C

Verbena macdougallii (Macdougal verbena) section C

Nasa triphylla (whorled Chilean nettle) section A

Nasa triphylla (whorled Chilean nettle) section A

Lepidium montanum (mesa pepperwort) section D

Lepidium montanum (mesa pepperwort) section D

Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) section D

Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) section D

Tagetes lucida (Mexican tarragon) section C

Tagetes lucida (Mexican tarragon) section C

Aster foliaceus (leafy-bract aster) section A

Aster foliaceus (leafy-bract aster) section A

Opopanax chironium (opopanax) section A

Opopanax chironium (opopanax) section A

Oenothera speciosa ( showy evening primrose) xeriscape bed and section D

Oenothera speciosa ( showy evening primrose) xeriscape bed and section D

Pelargonium capitatum (rose geranium) section A

Pelargonium capitatum (rose geranium) section A

Salvia patens (gentian sage) garden borders

Salvia patens (gentian sage) garden borders

Asclepias fascicularis (Mexican milkweed) xeriscape bed

Asclepias fascicularis (Mexican milkweed) xeriscape bed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

this is no mirage

through shimmering waves of heat

a swaying milkweed

See you in the garden.

 

 

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More summer flowers

This summer has gotten off to a warm start. I forgot my camera today but here are some of last week’s shots.

Mimulus cardinalis (scarlet monkeyflower) section C

Mimulus cardinalis (scarlet monkeyflower) section C

According to Daniel Moerman, in his encyclopedic Native American Ethnobotany (Timber Press, 1998), the Karok people, native to a region that is now in northern California and southern Oregon, are reported to have used an infusion of scarlet monkeyflower as a wash for newborn babies.

Celosia cristata (cockscomb, ji guan hua)

Celosia cristata (cockscomb, ji guan hua) section E

It’s no mystery how Celosia cristata got the common name cockscomb. The flowers look like they should be on top of a rooster’s head. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the flowers are used to cool the blood and control bleeding.

Cimicifuga racemosa (black cohosh) section D

Cimicifuga racemosa (black cohosh) section D

Black cohosh root is used to treat symptoms of menopause, as an alternative to hormone therapy. It’s also used to treat menstrual cramps and was widely and variously used by native peoples of eastern North America. An Asian species, C. foetida, is used in TCM. We have two related species, C. elata and C. laciniata, in Washington state. They are not as widespread as C. racemosa and perhaps that explains why neither is mentioned in Moerman’s Native American Ethnobotany.

Larrea tridentata (creosote bush)

Larrea tridentata (creosote bush) xeriscape bed

I don’t remember the creosote bush flowering before but I think I’m noticing more flowers now that I carry a camera around.

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed, pleurisy root) section C and xeriscape bed)

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed, pleurisy root) section C and xeriscape bed

It gets one of its common names, pleurisy root, because it has been used to treat pleurisy, which is inflammation of the inner lining of the chest and lungs. It gets its other common name, butterfly weed, because butterflies love its nectar. It’s drought tolerant and beautiful when flowering, a good addition to your xeriscape bed.

Pelargonium sidoides (umckaloaba) section D

Pelargonium sidoides (umckaloaba) section D

Native to South Africa, umckaloaba has traditionally been used to treat acute bronchitis and other respiratory conditions.  As is often the case, the effectiveness of a traditional remedy has been demonstrated in clinical trials:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12807337

http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/pelargonium-sidoides

The flowers are dark purple, almost black, and their scent is intoxicating. I lift the plants in late autumn, pot them up and keep them in a place where they are cold but not freezing, then I replant outside in spring.

Houttuynia cordata (yu xing cao) section F

Houttuynia cordata (yu xing cao) section F

Foliage of yu xing cao smells like raw fish and is used as food and medicine from China to Japan and India. I keep it contained with a metal barrier in the shade with only a moderate  amount of water and it still threatens to escape. Be careful planting it in your garden.

Papaver somniferum (breadseed poppy, opium poppy) garden borders

Papaver somniferum (breadseed poppy, opium poppy) garden borders

This variety is called Danish flag. If the flag of Denmark really looked like that, I’d consider defecting(though it’s doubtful they would accept me). I love this poppy, not just because it is beautiful, but because it produces a lot of seeds. The breadseed poppy that produces the seeds for your bagels and pastries and breads is also the opium poppy that produces the important pain reliever, morphine, and the horrific drug, heroin. Alas, it is true, reality can be quite complex sometimes. But we are sophisticated consumers of information and can reasonably discern the difference between natural products that are harmful and those that are healthful. Just think of the difference between delicious and nutritious corn on the cob and that awful adulterant, high-fructose corn syrup. Enough said.

Nigella sativa (black seed) section A

Nigella sativa (black seed) section A

Less-adorned cousin of Nigella damascena (love in a mist), black seed is an easy annual to grow and its seeds are sold as a food and a medicine. Check out the profile from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center:

http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/nigella-sativa

Gentiana tibetica (qin jiao) section E

Gentiana tibetica (qin jiao) section E

Used in traditional Tibetan and Chinese medicine, qin jiao is an easy plant to grow. We all might consider consuming more bitter food/medicine; and gentian is bitter. I’ll leave you with the words of Dr. Weil:

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA401077/Is-Bitter-Better.html

 

 

a little bitter

helps gallbladder and liver

learn to like the taste

 

See you in the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our toxic world

A couple of weeks ago, a group of 4-H students from north of Seattle came to visit the Medicinal Herb Garden and the nearby honeybees maintained by Evan Sugden and his students.  One of their teachers spoke to me briefly about the difficulty of raising bees in the 21st century. There is no escape from environmental toxins, even if your role in life consists of flying around from flower to flower, sipping nectar and gathering pollen.

ditto

Bees!

Luckily, the city of Spokane, Washington, over on the sunny side of the state, has just banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on city property. They are the second city in the country to enact such a ban, after Eugene, Oregon. Thank you, Eugene, for getting the ball rolling and thank you, Spokane, for setting an example for the city of Seattle. And thank you to the Seattle City Council for the ban on neonicotinoids on Seattle city property. Oh, wait a minute, that hasn’t happened yet. But it will happen soon, very soon if enough people in Seattle contact Mike O’Brien, Seattle City Council Chair of the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee. The best way to contact Councilmember O’Brien is through his Legislative Aide, Jasmine Marwaha:

Jasmine.Marwaha@seattle.gov

But there’s more we can do. We can petition stores and their corporate owners to stop selling plants that are treated with neonicotinoids to poison “pest” insects. Ironically, many of these plants are marketed as “bee-friendly” because they have flowers that attract bees, but the flowers are toxic and because honeybees live in colonies, they bring the poison back to the hive. What a nightmare scenario this is.

Here’s some good information and a petition from the environmental protection organizaton, Beyond Pesticides:

http://action.beyondpesticides.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15118

Their invisibility is what makes most environmental toxins so insidious and scary. If enlightened American cities keep banning neonicotinoids, maybe the government of the USA will follow the lead of the European Union, which recently took the preliminary step of banning neonicotinoids across the continent for two years.

As the radiation from Fukushima washes ashore in the state of Washington, it is hard to ignore that everything is connected in a giant web of life. Maybe it’s time to start applying the precautionary principle ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle ) when corporations propose the introduction of toxic substances into the environment. Just because a poison is sprayed in someone’s back yard, golf course or farm, it doesn’t mean it won’t end up radiating into the wider environment, one way or another.

Those who respectfully work the land know that the highest goal is to leave things better than we found them. For all our endeavors, that is an ideal to think about as we move carefully into the 21st century. We all live in one and the same ecosystem.

air, water and land

 following the same current

to where we are now

See you in the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Latest blooms

The scent from the flowering Japanese privet  (Ligustrum japonicum) in section D, wafting through the warm, humid air, is the scent of early summer in the city. Ah, summer. We do not, in my opinion, get enough summer in Seattle, but it’s here now and it sure feels good.

Here are some recent bloomers.

Morina longifolia (whorlflower) section A

Morina longifolia (whorlflower) section A

From the Himalayas, the whorlflower is used in Tibetan and Chinese medicine. It is a striking plant when flowering but holds its own all year as an evergreen, herbaceous perennial.

Liatris spicata (blazing star) section C

Liatris spicata (blazing star) section C

Blazing star, native to eastern North America is a good choice for a sunny meadow garden.

Psoralidium tenuiflorum (slimflower scurfpea) section C

Psoralidium tenuiflorum (slimflower scurfpea) section C

This midwesterner blends well with the Liatris, Echinacea and Eryngium neighbors in its section C garden bed. The roots have been used by Native Americans to treat lung conditions and headaches.

 

 

Jasminum officinale var. grandiflorum (white jasmine) section B

Jasminum officinale var. grandiflorum (white jasmine) section B

As if on cue, the jasmine breaks into flower when the last adjacent French roses (Rosa gallica) are losing their petals. The national flower of Pakistan, jasmine releases its delightful fragrance at dusk, just in time for an evening stroll through the Medicinal Herb Garden.

Callirhoe involucrata (purple poppymallow) section B

Callirhoe involucrata (purple poppy mallow) section B

Tough, easy to grow in full sun and drought tolerant, it self-sows but not too much to control . Some plants in the garden linger on but never really thrive. Others are a bit too successful and must be constantly managed, but purple poppy mallow, though a bit sprawled out and weedy looking, is a dependable space filler with dazzling blooms.

Nolina microcarpa (sacahuista, beargrass) section C

Nolina microcarpa (sacahuista, beargrass) section C

ditto

Bees!

Nolina microcarpa (sacahuista, beargrass) section C. It's flowering for the first time since I started it from seed 15 years ago. The flower spike is 8 feet tall.

Behold the magic wand of bee heaven.

Honeybees love the sacahuista. The entire flower spike, roughly 8 feet tall, is covered with bees on sunny days, as long as the flowers last. If you’re local and you don’t go to observe the honeybees, you’re missing out on an amazing phenomenon. There are thousands of flowers on the single spike and every day, more flowers open. The honeybees from the hives across the street have figured it out. It is truly a rare spectacle and it might not happen again here for a long time.

 

spire of lofty white

Nolina microcarpa

bee heaven here now

 

See you in the garden.

 

 

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Summer approaches

Tomorrow is the solstice, when summer officially begins. The garden is filling in and, the traffic noise from Stevens Way excepted, it feels like a little bit of paradise. After 15 years of growth, the sacahuista is flowering for the first time and in slow motion. First the spike emerged and grew until it topped out at about 8 feet, and now the little, white flowers are starting to open, a few at a time. If you can get here to see it, you should.

Nolina microcarpa (sacahuista, beargrass) section C. It's flowering for the first time since I started it from seed 15 years ago. The flower spike is 8 feet tall.

Nolina microcarpa (sacahuista, beargrass) section C.

Sundrops are in full bloom and the wood rose has finally flowered for the first time.

Oenothera fruticosa (sundrops) section E

Oenothera fruticosa (sundrops) section E

Rosa gymnocarpa (dwarf rose, wood rose) Cascara Circle

Rosa gymnocarpa (dwarf rose, wood rose) Cascara Circle

A pair of gadwalls, shy cousins of the mallards, stopped by for a visit to section B recently. A few days later the crows discovered their nest, hidden in one of the beds in section C. It was a bounteous feast of fresh eggs for the crows, but a setback for the gadwalls.

Anas strepera (gadwall) If they're looking for slugs, they have my vote.

Anas strepera (gadwall) If they’re looking for slugs, they have my vote.

Anas strepera (gadwall) briefly visiting section B

Anas strepera (gadwall) promenading through section B

The tian men dong is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat lung, kidney and heart conditions and it is flowering for the first time.

Asparagus cochinchinensis (tian men dong) section E

Asparagus cochinchinensis (tian men dong) section E

Asafoetida root resin is sometimes referred to as Devil’s dung because of its odor. The powdered resin is just the right spice for just the right meal, but its scent lingers stubbornly and unpleasantly.  It is used medicinally to treat respiratory, digestive and nervous conditions and other complaints.

Ferula assa-foetida (asafoetida) section A

Ferula assafoetida (asafoetida) section A

It’s cheating because I took these in the mountains of eastern Washington, but I have grown both species in the Medicinal Herb Garden. Scarlet gilia has been used medicinally and bitterroot has been used as food and medicine by Native Americans. Neither species ever looked as good here at the garden. Right plants, wrong place.

Lewisia rediviva (bitterroot) east slope, Washington Cascades, Iron Bear trail.

Lewisia rediviva (bitterroot) east slope, Washington Cascades, Iron Bear trail.

Ipomopsis aggregata (scarlet gilia) east slope Washington Cascades, Iron Bear trail

Ipomopsis aggregata (scarlet gilia) east slope Washington Cascades, Iron Bear trail

 

scarlet gilia

following the melting snow

a hint of summer

See you in the garden.

 

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Flower alert teaser

If you’re thinking about a stroll through the Medicinal Herb Garden, put on the flip-flops and start walking. It’s pretty colorful right now. Here are some very recent photos of the latest plants to flower, but there’s much, much more in bloom. Enjoy!

Mirabilis multiflora (Colorado four o'clock) section C

Mirabilis multiflora (Colorado four o’clock) section C

Sidalcea neomexicana (pink checkermallow) section C

Sidalcea neomexicana (pink checkermallow) section C

Gentiana macrophylla (qin jiao) section B

Gentiana macrophylla (qin jiao) section B

Veratrum viride (green false hellebore)

Veratrum viride (green false hellebore) section A

Philadelphus lewisii (Lewis' mock orange) Cascara Circle

Philadelphus lewisii (Lewis’ mock orange) Cascara Circle

Baptisia australis (blue false-indigo)

Baptisia australis (blue false-indigo) section F

Opuntia polyacantha (plains pricklypear) xeriscape bed

Opuntia polyacantha (plains pricklypear) xeriscape bed

Triteleia laxa (grassnut) section C

Triteleia laxa (grassnut) section C

Vaccinium macrocarpon (cranberry) section C

Vaccinium macrocarpon (cranberry) section C

Rhodiola kirilowii (roseroot, hong jing tian) section C

Rhodiola kirilowii (roseroot, hong jing tian) section

 

 

 

 

 

Allium canadense (wild garlic) section D

Allium canadense (wild garlic) section D

 

 

 

 

 

 

flowerless summer

imaginable but grim

no, perish the thought

 

See you in the garden.

 

 

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