There’s a first time for everything. We’ve lived at Meadow Knoll for over 30 years, and this is the first time we’ve seen a snake on a hummingbird feeder. We watched for several minutes, and this five-foot bullsnake didn’t move. He was busy pretending to be an innocent, inviting tree branch that a wing-weary hummer […]
Drum roll, please! After 20+ years (and several makeovers) on my old multiple websites, I am delighted to have a spiffy new site to share with you! Life has a way of calling the shots. Last year, Peggy (my longtime webmistress and assistant) married, moved to Portugal, and retired. Lovely for Peggy and I wish […]
The red heirloom rose is blooming on the porch. Roses that can be traced back to a time before the Civil War are called heirlooms. They’ve been found growing beside old houses and in cemeteries and churchyards, and are propagated by collectors, sometimes called “rose rustlers.” (Yes, I know. Makes me smile, too. I once […]
Thousands of years before refrigerators, people who lived around the Mediterranean noticed that rosemary leaves kept fresh meat from spoiling. About the same time, over in Egypt, embalmers began using rosemary to make mummies. These demonstrations of the herb’s ability to preserve led people to believe that rosemary could also preserve memory. Which is why […]
Rhubarb isn’t for everybody. This truth was impressed upon me as a child, when my mother brought home some fresh rhubarb from a neighbor’s garden. She called it pieplant, and made it into a pie. I made for my bedroom. I’d rather do my homework than eat rhubarb pie. It tasted like medicine. No wonder. […]
They’ve been around all your life. You’ve avoided them, indulged in them, and maybe even been embarrassed by them. For, after all, there is nothing quite so smelly as the ordinary, extraordinary onion. But I’ll bet there are things about onions you don’t know. You’re probably not aware that the inhabitants of the ancient Egyptian […]
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, […]
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, […]
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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). […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
Ubiquitous is right. Around 200 species of this plant can be found in temperate regions around the world.
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 […]
In this podcast, Susan Albert talks about parsley, the culinary herb that everyone loves to hate. Learn how to grow parsley, how to use it, and why only certain people were supposed to plant it.
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.
Yes, indeed, the onion is an herb—a self-assertive herb with a fascinating folklore history in cultures all around the world, as well as a favorite in everybody’s kitchen.
Learn where this delightful plant came from, why it spread so rapidly, and how to use it in crafts, in aromatherapy, and in your kitchen.
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.”
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.
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.
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 . . .
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.
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!
Even music can hold a intriguing mystery. But is Ruby hearing the real song, or something else altogether? And why is Ethan Connors so interested in her psychic gift? Find out, in the second book of this suspenseful trilogy.