Violet: “A Fine, Pleasing Plant of Venus”

According to Greek mythology, violets helped to get the god Zeus out of a bad bind. You see, he fell in love with a priestess named Io. This wasn’t the first time for the philandering Zeus, so when his wife Hera found out, she was understandably miffed. To keep Io out of his wife’s way, […]

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Keep Thyself Youngly

Rosemary, an evergreen perennial with an invigorating pine fragrance and delightful versatility, has been a favorite of gardeners through several millennia. It was among the first herbs used by humans; the needle-like leaves have been found in caves inhabited ten centuries before Christ. Fresh or dry, rosemary lends its memorable taste to meats, vegetables, desserts, […]

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Nettle: Bite Back

Being stung by a nettle is no picnic. First it bites, then it burns—for a long while. Some nettles can cause death, and all can sting even when they’re no longer alive. When a plant museum was being moved out of London during World War II, a long-dead 150-year-old nettle stem stung one of the […]

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Gardener, Spare That Dandelion!

What’s in a name? A lot, actually. Take the dandelion, for instance. The word “dandelion” is an Englishman’s mispronunciation of the French dent de lion, or tooth of the lion. Most experts think this refers to the plant’s toothed leaves, or maybe to the blossom’s color—the same bright yellow used for heraldic lions. Over time, […]

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Foxglove: A Heartfelt Romance

It all started in the English spring of 1768, in the county of Shropshire, when Dr. William Withering rode out to make a house call on Miss Helena Cooke. Her illness confined the young lady to her home and required the good doctor to visit frequently. The two young people fell in love. He proposed […]

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Ferns: How to Become Invisible. Or Not.

The ferns that grow in that moist, shady corner of your garden are the modern miniature remnants of a prehistoric forest of towering plants that were around long before the dinosaurs showed up. In our world, there are over 10,000 different species of ferns, growing all over the planet. But they all have two things […]

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How St. John’s Wort Got Its New Name

St. John’s Wort had been around for many centuries before the Christian era—but you wouldn’t know that by its name. For one thing, St. John the Baptist didn’t live until the time of Christ. For another, the word wort—an Anglo-Saxon word that means simply “plant”—didn’t come along until about the eleventh century. Before the plant […]

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A Geranium by Any Other Name . . .

My grandmother’s windowsill was filled with plants that smelled good when you rubbed the leaves. They didn’t have many flowers, but if your leaves smell like lemons, or peppermint, or roses, or peaches, who needs flowers? My grandmother called them scented geraniums. My grandmother was wrong. The scented geranium—and its cousins, the zonal geranium, the […]

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Peony: Blossoms That Blush

According to Greek legend, the peony began as a beautiful nymph named Peonia. Apollo rather liked this innocent young girl, who was a bit of a flirt. One day, the two of them were carrying on in their usual bantering way when Aphrodite happened along. The goddess was not amused. She stamped her foot and […]

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Rue: An Herb for Second Sight

Besides being nice to look at, rue just might be good for your eyes. Consider, for instance, the fact that ancient Roman painters are said to have consumed great quantities of the bitter-tasting plant, especially in salads. They believed that rue sharpened their eyesight and allowed them to see colors in their true light—a valuable […]

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The Opium Poppy: A Plant to Die For

The opium poppy has been around for a very long time. Three millennia before the time of Christ, it was cultivated in Mesopotamia, where the Sumerians and the Assyrians knew it as the “joy plant.” Its effectiveness as a narcotic, a painkiller, and a euphoriant was well known, and the dried, milky juice of the […]

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Mullein: What Does It Make You Think Of?

My father hated mullein. When I was growing up on our little farm in Illinois, he used to pay me a dime an hour to cut this weed out of the fence rows. As I hacked with my hoe, I whiled away the hours by imagining that I might use the plant as a flaming […]

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Herbs with a View

Herbs are a natural for a window ledge. With a window box to frame your view, all you have to do is reach out and pinch a bit of basil or nip a few nasturtium blossoms to add color and flavor for your salad. The view from the other side is almost as nice, for […]

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Rotten Pots and Sweet Jars

Did you know that the word potpourri is French for rotten pot? You can make authentic Victorian moist potpourri–sometimes called “sweet jar”–by thickly layering fragrant blossoms with salt in a wide-mouthed ceramic or opaque glass jar. Use blossoms of rose, carnation, peony, lilac, honeysuckle, or lavender and the leaves of scented geraniums and other fragrant herbs (margoram, rosemary). […]

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Rooting for Willow

Every time you take an aspirin, think willow. The use of willow bark dates back to Hippocrates (400 BC) when chewing on the bark was recommended for people suffering from fever or inflammation. The bark of white willow contains salicin, which is a precursor of acetylsalicylic acid, the chemical in aspirin. But you could also […]

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Chocolate: An Herb to Die For

We’re not the first civilization to treasure this divine concoction. The Mayans of Central America worshipped the cacao plant (Theobroma cacao), used its beans as money, and brewed them into a medicinal drink called xocolatl, mixed with wine and fermented corn. The later Aztecs of Mexico added chile peppers to make an aphrodisiac. The explorer […]

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Fawn-time, and a word about tariffs

This sweet little guy’s mom told him to hunker down and pretend he’s a fallen log, covered with mushrooms. He didn’t stir when I stumbled on him, and he was still there when I came back with my camera. From the looks of the does in our resident deer herd here at Meadow Knoll, there […]

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Celery: Not Just Stalks

Celery leaves make a delicious seasoning for soups, chowders, and vegetable dishes. You can use them fresh or dried. (Drying concentrates the flavor.) Celery leaves contain calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, and iodine. To dry the leaves in the oven, strip from the stalks, rinse and pat dry, and spread on a cookie sheet. Use your […]

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Horseradish: The Herb with a Powerful Punch

Horseradish isn’t just for hamburgers. It has a long history of medicinal uses in cultures around the world. Some of its traditional therapeutic uses: –As a diuretic, increasing urinary flow. It also increases perspiration, and was used to treat fevers. –As a poultice, it was used externally for wound infections, arthritis, and pleurisy. –As a […]

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Rosemary for Remembrance

In this episode, Susan is talking about rosemary, one of the most beloved herbs of all time. She will tell you why rosemary was good for preserving mummies, how it became a symbol of love and faithfulness, and what scientists are learning about its ability to help us remember.

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Plantain: A “Weed” with Wanderlust

Some plants were made to be walked on! Plantain is one of those herbs that is always underfoot—in your yard, in your garden, in the neighborhood park. Susan fills you in on plantain’s mythic history and tells you how to use this valuable “weed.”

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Lovely, Luscious Lavender

Everybody’s favorite herb is a winner in your garden. Whether you live north or south, east or west, you can grow and enjoy lavender. Growing tips, ideas for cooking with lavender, and lavender crafts.

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The Faithful Violet

You might not think of the violet as an herb, but the plant has a long and interesting history of culinary and medicinal use. And while violets have come to be symbolic of steadfast devotion, they have also been associated with faithlessness and death.

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NoBODY: A Novella – Crystal Cave Series Book 1

Ruby has a rare gift for seeing things others can’t. But when she tries to look into the secret landscape of her dream, is she seeing what’s real or what’s false? Enter Ruby’s mysterious world in the first book of this masterfully crafted trilogy.

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Bluer than Blue: Indigo Bunting

Here in the Texas Hill Country, we have our resident year-round flocks of cardinals, chickadees, titmice, doves, and several species of sparrows. But we’re summertime hosts to two buntings: the Indigo and the Painted . . .

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A New Nest

The Bewick wren team has built a new nest on Bill’s workbench–and I’m moving my website to Wordpress!

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Foxglove: A Magical Medicine

With their spikes of distinctive, freckle-throated bells, foxgloves are a cottage garden favorite, providing a graceful, stately accent in a garden of part-sun and shade. They are at home in the woodland or native garden, in rock gardens and in formal borders.

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The Secret Life of Ferns

The fern is certainly a delightful addition to our gardens, filling those shady spots, both dry and wet, where nothing else will grow. But ferns have other important uses, as well. There’s plenty to be learned about their secret lives!

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The Notorious Nettle

If you’ve been stung by a nettle Urtica dioica, you probably haven’t forgotten the experience, and you may have avoided this notorious weed ever since. But over the centuries, the nettles has been a valuable wild herb. Next time you see a nettle, say “thank you.”

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Starting Points: A Year of Writing Prompts for Women with Stories to Tell

If you’re a woman who writes or a woman who would like to write, if you’ve ever journalled just for yourself or written family history for your descendants, if you long to tell your own story to your family and friends or to the world, this book will help you get started and keep writing each and every week for a whole year.

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The General’s Women

When former fashion model Kay Summersby is assigned to drive General Eisenhower in war-time London, they quickly become involved—in spite of Ike’s marriage to Mamie and Kay’s engagement to an American colonel. Kay and Ike struggle to keep their commitments but are increasingly drawn together. Mamie is battling jealousy, fragile health, and gossip. An engrossing and deeply sympathetic novel, based on Kay’s memoirs, Ike’s letters, wartime diaries, and extensive research in three decades of newspaper archives.

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