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!
A few weeks back, we interviewed Megan Paska – one of the original Brooklyn beekeepers and homesteaders. After 6 years of Megan is decamping for Seven Arrows, a 20 acre property an hour outside of NYC. In order to get growing, Megan and her partner Neil, need to raise funds to “build infrastructure for the 2013 growing season: a chicken coop for 50 hens, movable rabbit hutches, goat housing, bee hives, a green house and protective fencing are all on the list of needs…”
Just like in Brooklyn, the crew will be offering educational services from weekly workshops to monthly intensives on things like beekeeping, small livestock care, sustainable gardening, food preservation, cheese making, home brewing, orcharding, foraging, fishing, hunting and more.
So give a little by heading over to their Kickstarter campaign.
Pictured: Gladiola (Gladiolus)
As we turn the corner of June and go hurtling into summer, we enter the mushroom’s domain. More specifically, start keeping your eyes open for chanterelles. Richly yellow and rimmed on their undersides with innumerable delicate gills, some markets sell this ambrosia for more than $30/lb. Seemingly the fruit of the earth, chanterelles appear to sprout straight from the ground, materializing from the forest floor overnight. The season lasts through September and when, or if, you happen to stumble upon a good patch, it will continue to fruit year after year.
Collect mushrooms by gently twisting and pulling their stems, plucking the whole thing out of the ground. The mushroom is only the fruit of the fungus, which lies concealed below the soil. Take care not to over-pick or trample the mushroom’s surrounding habitat. If you want to enjoy wild edibles, sensible stewardship of the environment should be a top priority. Oh, and definitely make sure somebody trustworthy confirms the identification of your mushroom booty, too. The jack-o-lantern mushroom is similar in color and structure to the chanterelle and will make you quite ill for the evening. Look for the chanterelle’s irregular, golden trumpet in Douglass fir, hemlock, oak or beech woods.
Legendary actress Butterfly Hu.
Pictured: Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)
Occasionally, Wilder posts on international boutique Opening Ceremony’s blog. Our recent post features an interview with Bill Dilworth, caretaker of THE NEW YORK EARTH ROOM, a 35-year-old installation maintained by the DIA Art Foundation. Set on the sixth floor of a New York Soho loft, the installation is literally made of earth – 250 cubic yards, 3,600 square feet, 22 inches of depth. It’s a bit unbelievable. My favorite quote from Bill:
New York is a wild place––a lot of commotion. And this is in contrast to that. New York is always changing; this is radically unchanging. I think to be surrounded by all of New York City makes this a very poignant and healthy place. And it has given me that sense of balance in my own life. The time tells the story there. The interesting thing is that Dia supplies the time for this to be here––for decades.
So infrequently do we see the the all-important pollinators that run our garden’s errands. And even less frequently do we see those that fly by night, but feeding in the inky darkness are millions of moths, sifting through the night’s myriad of scents on chalky silent wings.
If you’re interested in seeing what’s out there, be an entomologist for the evening: hang a white sheet from it’s uppermost corners outside in the garden or on lower level fire escape and shine a very bright light on it. You’ll attract some species using just a regular lightbulb, but if you’re serious, look for a mercury vapor bulb, or an actinic light strip, which produce the blue end of the light spectrum. Check the sheet every 15 minute intervals and see what comes fluttering in from the dark beyond.
Water lilies are one of those things that, to me, signify the beginning of summer’s lush, hot weather. Pearly white, creamy pink, or balls of buttery yellow, water lily blooms are usually found punctuating the steamy surface of shallow tropic ponds- that is, ponds that have enough substrate on the bottom for lilies to grow. Many people opt to grow cultivars of tropical lilies in their ponds outdoors, but I propose a few minor variations on this theme: first of all, why not go native? There are plenty of stunning native species ready for cultivation, like Nymphaea odorata pictured above. Second of all, who says you need a pond? Many lilies thrive in the cramped shallow quarters of shoreside ponds, and they will do just the same in a tub in your backyard. Third of all, none of this has to be done outdoors. I’m sure you 25th floor folk would like to grow water lilies, too.
To plant lilies indoors or in a small container outdoors, pot them up in a 6 inch clay pot with regular potting soil. Bury the roots completely and cover the top of the soil with a thick 1 inch layer of gravel. Dunk the planted lily in the aquarium/bucket/tub and move the whole thing somewhere sunny. If the lily already has leaves, adjust the water level to leaf height. If the lily doesn’t have leaves, it will eventually grow to the right height, but only fill the water level to a couple of feet. The ideal water temperature for native water lilies is about 70-75 degree, but, being native, they will hopefully be tough as nails and will cope with a wide range of temps. For other beautiful native alternatives, check out American lotus (Nelumbo lutea) and varieagated pond-lily (Nuphar variegata).
A word to the wise: Nymphaea odorata is native only east of the Mississippi. In fact, it is so popular and easy to grow elsewhere, it has escaped and become a real nuisance in places like Washington state, and as far away as India. Always do your research on invasive plants before buying!
Image by John Burns
New food, drink and culture mag, On Plate Still Hungry, spoke with me the other day about the Wilder genesis story. You know… the who, what and why of Wilder Quarterly. The online magazine was started by friend, journalist and Dazed magazine hero, Terence Teh and it’s pretty awesome. The site is in BETA right now, but I’ve enjoyed every article I’ve read.
My favorite story is certainly Kevin Vaughn’s on Argentina’s Abasto neighborhood. I’ve been toying with the idea of splitting from Brooklyn to spend a year making Wilder from Buenos Aires. Vaughn is making me want to pull the trigger right right right now:
It is an unofficial micro-barrio on the northwest point of Balvanera, and an uncommon melting pot of peoples and faces in a city that is rather homogeneous by most international metropolis standards. Located in central Buenos Aires, it is lodged between the über-upscale Recoleta to the north and the working class market district, Once to the east and south. The two inverse worlds meet in Abasto, where quick contrasts of socio-economic climates have mingled and transformed this small borough into one of the most diverse corners of the city. Traditionally dominated by Orthodox Jews, the area has adapted into a conglomerate of working class Bolivians, Peruvians and Chinese, middle class Argentines, and a more recent boom of African populations from the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Somalia.
Sounds good. Sounds like mashed up culture – my absolute favorite.