Diary - 04/08
Diary - April 2008
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April 2008


One of the replanted angelicas

Skullcap found "skullking" (sorry!) in the herb bed

Solomon's seal thriving in the cente of the main bed

Betony flourishing as well

Golden seal plants

The weather forecast promised sunny intervals and showers, but the rain managed to go elsewhere while we were down at the Sanctuary. Illness prevented the workshop participants from attending, so Chris and I girded our loins and began the task of the annual digging and weeding session.

Chris tackled the excavation of an ancient dry stone wall in the guise of weeding the large bed next to the fence. We should be able to make use of the pile of stones he unearthed to start a new path from the bottom herb bed up to the top one, but when that might be started, I cannot imagine. Having been given the task, Chris is tackling it like a true engineer and muttering about tanalised face boards, stakes and measurements, while I just hope one day my wish will come true!

It took him all the morning to dig (through a fallen dry stone wall! - Chris) about a third of the bed so we could replant four large angelicas which were threatening to overshadow most of the herb garden if they had been allowed to remain where they were. I am very tempted to experiment with making a remedy for plague by cutting a slit in an angelica stalk, filling it with sugar, binding in round with brown paper and waiting for it to grow to full height before decanting the new medicinal syrup.

I also waged war on all the goats rue plants I could find and removed them from the main herb bed along with large piles of navelwort, nettles, dandelions and hedge woundwort which happened to be growing in the wrong place. The chocolate mint was also threatening to take over every available inch of space, so that came out as well!

The bergamot is really coming on and I was amazed to see skullcap growing as well, so I wasn’t able to do a thorough dig along the one side of the garden for fear of dislodging too many plants. At least now I can recognise the thin white root of the skullcap so it can be replanted if necessary.

On Saturday afternoon I managed to plant 4 blue hyssop, 2 pink and two white in the main bed and 2 elecampagne, a pokeroot and a rose root along with two marshmallow beside and in front of the anglicas. Planting the final marshmallow and four calamus plants beside the top stream bed was a back breaking task. First the ivy had to be pulled off to uncover some soil and then the plants dug into pure, wet clay. I’m just keeping my finger crossed they will have a chance to grow this year as all my previous attempts to plant calamus by the pool have failed.

I was amazed to see how tall the solomon's seal had grown in three weeks and how many plants there are now, compared with the original ten from three years ago. It looked as if something had taken a bite out of two of the plants but then decided they didn’t like the taste as the rest were untouched. Wood betony, too, were growing new central leaves and the burdock leaves had grown several inches. You couldn’t tell where I’d harvested during my last visit.

The damson tree was in blossom, but neither of the other fruit trees was showing anything apart from fresh green leaves. When I went down again on Sunday morning there were birds everywhere flying from tree to tree. Although they disappeared once I drew near, they continued to sing throughout the day.

I managed to rake over the calendula patch and sow a packet and a half of new seeds. I am very silly not to collect the seed each year, but I like to put in some new varieties. There were two patches of self seeded calendula seedlings by the lower vervain, so I left those to grow at their own pace.

The sky turned black soon after 11am, so I left the Sanctuary and took shelter in the house. Once the showers stopped for a while, I went out into the field and gathered dandelion leaves and flowers, drying them on the Rayburn to get rid of the excess moisture. When we returned home that evening, after planting out a new bed of six golden seal and three black cohosh, I used the dandelion flowers and half the leaves to make a double infused oil and covered the remainder of leaves with vodka to make a tincture.

My other new plants from Poyntzfield Herb Nursery this year were a celtic valerian which likes acid soil and a roman wormwood. We shall see how they progress during the coming year.

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