The majority of really odiferous plants get their smell from naturally occurring chemical compounds called essential oils. Although intended to play the duel purpose of antifeedant (which prevents fungus), and herbivory deterrent (which prevents animals and insects from eating the plant), essential oils are supremely useful, and desirable to us humans. Especially to those of us who like a nice cup of tea.
Teas are made by adding hot water to fresh or dried leaves and flowers. For an easier and more potent brew make sun tea: simply put your tea harvest in a wide-necked jar full of water and place out in full sun for a few hours. Here are a list of easy to grow annuals and perennials for a window box tea blend planting:
Lemon balm: A hardy perennial that needs light sandy soil and full sun to partial shade. Lemon flavored leaves can be used to make teas and lemonades- which are said to remedy migraines.
Spearmint: The easiest of all scented perennials to grow, spearmint will thrive in whatever conditions you plant it in. If planting in the garden, make sure to contain its roots within fine, sturdy netting, or better yet, in a pot. Otherwise it will overcome the rest of your plants in a few years. A soothing tea can be made from fresh or dried leaves.
Hyssop: A hardy perennial that needs well drained soil and partial shade. Purported to remedy coughs and asthma. Similar to mint in flavor, but with a hint of liquorice.
Basil: An annual that can be grown in full sun to partial shade in rich soil. Basil tea helps relieve stomach aches.
Borage: An annual plant that flourishes in poor, sandy soils and can grow in full sun to partial shade. The cucumber flavored leaves can be used in salads and summer drinks, like pimms.
Bee balm: A hardy perennial that needs well drained soil and full sun to part shade. Both the flowers and leaves can be used to add a zesty, almost citrus flavor to drinks and herbal brews.
The New York City gallery Family Business has included us in their awesome zine mart and event series, Megabodega. The space, recently started by Maurizio Cattelan and Massimiliano Gioni, will play host to 200+ zines, art books, and magazines for sale from around the world; nightly book launches, readings, and parties and a toll free 24/7 MEGABODEGA HOTLINE with curated guest recordings daily.
See you there…
With the mid-year mark behind us, summer’s lilies are in full swing. One of the most popular and easy to grow garden plants, lilies are also one of the most curious in terms of their reproduction strategy. Most people rely on good weather and garden soil to ensure next year’s flowers: a nourishing summer and a restful winter re-invigorates tired bulbs, allowing them to blossom again. However, there is an easy way to maximize lily bloom in the garden and to cultivate the kinds of lilies you want to see more of. All you need is a little time, and patience.
- Lilies grow from fleshy underground bulbs layered in swirling scales. Each scale contains the nascent promise of a new and identical lily, and removing these scales to cultivate new plants is known as the practice of ‘scaling’. Wait until flowering is finished to lift the parent bulb from the ground.
- Inspect the plant’s foliage for any black spots, burns, or severe insect damage. Note – removing some of the bulb’s scales will open the plant’s tissue to disease, temporarily weakening it, so you want your mother lily to be as healthy as can be before beginning the procedure.
- After gently forking the bulb from the ground, remove the outer ring of scales and place into a ziplock bag filled with moist vermiculite.
- Place in indirect light for 2-3 weeks, or until tiny new scales are visible growing from the bottom of the bulblet. Roots should be visible at this point too, but if they haven’t appeared, wait another week or so.
- Plant your lily babies in regular potting soil in trays to monitor growth. Keep bulblets inside in a cool, well lit location through the winter, and with any luck they will be strong enough to produce flowers two summers from their harvest date. Welcome to the world of propagation!
I just received two copies of the Summer issue from our printer! Oooh and ahhh…. It looks gorgeous! The front cover by Grant Cornett, blows me away as do so many of our Summer stories. Subscribers to Wilder Quarterly will also be getting a poster by Mr. Cornett (pictured above) that is truly a slice of summer.
The issues are now at the fulfillment house being packaged, stamped and mailed. The entire issue is our best yet. I hope you love it as much as we do.
I wish I was at the beach. Partially because it’s 96 degrees in Brooklyn today and partially, because I recently met the folks behind new surf magazine, Wax. I’m a fan.
Over drinks, we wandered into a conversation about the plants that thrive at the beach and appear along the dunes. Let me introduce you to one of the gang and my new friend, the Hairy Spinifex - whose true purpose is to protect the beach from sand erosion:
“Hairy Spinifex can grow in bare sand and has the ability to hold and bind the sand together with its extensive root system. The leaves are covered in a thick layer of fine hairs which slow down air movement, assisting the plant in reducing water loss from the leaves. If covered with sand the plant can survive, grow upwards and produce a new plant mat over the old one.”
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to spend some time getting cozy with some other beach favorites. I’d also like to get cozy with a surfboard, so I can enjoy Wax even more and also, spend some time with my husband who loves the waves at Rockaway.
Sounds like a good summer, right? I hope yours will be, too.
This is a photo of Reignac-sur-Indre – the largest plant maze in the world. Opened in 1996, the 10 acre maze is ever changing. In the summer, a gorgeous field of sunflowers appear and in winter the maze is “remarked and sown to reappear as a new design in spring.”
Summer’s heat and humidity trigger the proliferation of all the nastiest garden pests but most of the time, birds and other beneficials can handle it. Not so with the USAs latest insect invader- the winter moth. Hailing from Europe, winter moths are voracious leaf and blossom eaters, capable of completely defoliating entire trees. Although concentrated in MA, RI, WA, and OR the moth is spreading fast. In badly affected areas forests crackle with the dropping of caterpillar frass as loopers chomp their way through countless leaves. To ID this rather ordinary looking larvae, look for a pale white stripe running down either side of the caterpillar’s lime green body. The larvae often ‘balloon’, swinging out on transparent strands of silk to reach new feeding grounds. If you notice lattice leaves on your trees, begin watering heavily to aid in the production of a second flush of leaf growth and call your local extension office. They’ll have the latest updates on the winter moth’s spread.
The best treatments for combatting winter moth caterpillars are biological: Cyzenis albicans, a fly that parasitizes the caterpillar, and Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacteria that lacerates the insect’s gut, are both safe effective ways of dealing with this pest.
All across temperate North America and Europe the frothy white caps of elderflower (Sambucus) are coming into bloom. Indifferent to pruning, soil compaction, inundation, and even a prolonged spell of dry weather, elderflower is a true garden stalwart. Growing up in England my grandfather used to make a potent, slick wine from the tart, nutritious, glossy black berries, and as a little girl birthday parties were livened up by a light and bubbly champagne made from the plant’s flowers. Ever so slightly alcoholic, crisp, floral and refreshing, elderflower champagne is also hilariously easy to make.
- Add 2.5 gallons of boiling water to 2.5lbs of sugar.
- Leave the water to cool, stirring as the sugar dissolves, and add the juice of 4 lemons, and 4tbsp of white or cider vinegar.
- Snip 10-20 (depending on your sweet tooth) just opened flower umbels, de-stemming the florets by raking them into a bowl with a fork and mix into the water/sugar/lemon/vinegar mix.
- Cover the brew with a cloth and leave to ferment in a cool, well aerated place for 24hrs.
- Strain with a muslin cloth directly into screw-top plastic bottles (glass looks prettier, but it can be dangerous as fermentation increases and pressure builds- elderflower champagne regularly shatters glass containers) but don’t screw the caps on tight yet!
- Bubbles should begin to appear within a week or so, but if they don’t add a pinch of champagne or bread yeast to the bottles.
- Watch the champagne until bubbling appears to be slowing down, and fermentation decreasing.
- Screw on the caps tightly only then and leave for a few days to let the liquid gather carbonation.
Enjoy for the next couple of weeks over ice, with lemon! Bring it on, summer!
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