A time-lapse film of our yard would reveal a shifting pattern of colors as plants come into bloom, then drop their petals and are upstaged by another plant in its moment of glory. Currently on center stage are Bee-balm, Daylily and Yarrow replacing former stars Elder and Rugosa Rose.
In addition to enjoying the beautiful show, I am learning about how we can use these blossoms as they briefly strut across our garden stage. Flowers attract and provide nectar and pollen for insects. With the threat to honeybees, we have all become aware of how important it is to provide a continual succession of flowering plants – especially ones with clusters of tiny flowers which tiny predatory and pollinating insects can easily access. In addition, many flowers provide food and medicine for us humans.
Blooming stars of today and yesterday:
Daylily is used raw in salads, breaded and fried for a fritter, steamed or sauteed in the bud stage, or dried when it wilts and used as a thickener in soups and stews.
I make a tea from the fresh or dried leaves and flowerhead of Bee-balm, a member of the mint family. Its alternative name, Oswego Tea, is an indicator of the medicinal value placed on this plant by our indigenous forebears.
Dried flowers of Yarrow – the ordinary white variety – are one of the ingredients, along with elder blossoms and peppermin,t in a tea that our grandmothers used to promote sweating and bring down fevers. I gathered and dried some this summer.
The showy white blossoms of the Elder bush are herbal medicine supe stars. They are rich in Vitamin C, relieve fever and help heal lung ailments like bronchitis. They are soothing to the nerves as well. Last year I brewed up some elderflower syrup that I froze in ice cube trays and used all winter long. This year I dried some elder flowers for tea and put some in a jar (carefully removing stems) and covered with 100 proof vodka to make a tincture.
Rugosa Rose‘s beautiful pink blossoms have a brief period of abundance in June, at which time I hustle out to gather the fragrant petals to make medicine. This year I made two extracts, a tincture in alcohol, and a glycerite – using 75% vegetable glycerine and 25% vodka. Rugosa Rose is considered a chi nourisher in Chinese medicine as well as a blood and liver tonic. Roses are said to have a nourishing effect on the heart and circulatory system as well as the reproductive and nervous systems. Whatever the particulars, they’re good for us!
I learned about making tinctures, syrups and salves in an herbal apprenticeship – Exploring the Art of Home Herbalism – where I studied with Brittany Wood Nickerson of Thyme Herbal. She was a great teacher and made me feel confident to get started brewing up herbal medicines and pursuing my dream of becoming an herb woman. I am co-starring in this movie with my fellow players the flowers and plants that grow in my yard and neighborhood. What could be better?