Guerrila Gardening - Planning for the Spring
Febuary is a good time for looking ahead, for visioning and dreaming, planning what you want to do once the growing season returns. While it is still fresh in your mind do a review of your gardening, foraging and guerrilla gardening year. What worked and why? What changes would you like to make both in yourself as a gardener, but also as a carer for the Earth, a protector of the native plants, a restorer of wild life, a helper of the bees?
Take into consideration what parts of the garden (or land you have thought about for guerilla gardening) get the most sun and where gets the most shade. If you are a guerrilla gardener, look for places nearby that you can adopt, plant out and add to in the coming growing season.
Consider native plants which would grow happily in wet areas and in woodland. A huge wealth of native plants that were once commonplace, can be grown, to rewild the landscape once again. It is important to do some research, perfect at this time of year, so that you reintroduce the native plants back into their natural habitats where they will thrive.
The lane to Minning Low
Lanes are ideal places to re-introduce wild native flowers back into the environment where they once thrived. Look for places that already have a diversity of plants regenerating. Look for places where you walk often and can keep an eye on what you are introducing and water if need be.
Lady Grove, Matlock Derbyshire
Once the site of cotton and flax mills, powered by water, now a haven for wild life and a place of great beauty, with it's waterfalls and dams. A fine example of nature's ability to regenerate if left to its own devises.
Weld ~ Reseda luteola - Found in a gateway to a field in Norfolk. An ancient dye plant, once common. Gives a bright yellow colour to fabric.
These are my two favourite field guides:
- Marjorie Blamey, Richard Fitter and Alistair Fitter. Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe. Published by Collins, 1974
Roger Phillips. Wild Flowers of Britain. Published by Pan Books Ltd, 1994.
I find it fascinating to give a name to plant I have met in the fields or woods. It helps me to strengthen the connection I have already made with this plant species and to understand its habitat. I then go on and research what their herbal and medicinal properties may be.
This is my favourite herbal:
- Julie Bruton-Seal and Mathew Seal. Hedgerow Medicine. Published by Merlin Unwin, 2008
Full of sound herbal information, interesting facts and snippets, and wonderful photos of the plants. Their love of the plants shines through and through thier enthusiastic writing and extensive knowledge, they help you to think and act like a herbalist. www.hedgerowmedicine.com
Nettle-leaved Bellflower or Bats-in-the-belfry - Campanula trachelium. A perennial native of woods and hedgebanks. Its common country name is Throatwort, which indicates it was once used for treating sore throats and tonsilitus. It flowers July to September.
Once you have a clear idea of what plants you love and are drawn to right now, you can begin poring over catalogues of seeds and on line native plant seed sites!
Here a some to be looking at:
Buying and growing native wild plants for your garden or for planting back out in the wild edges of the land means that you will be helping to restore the diversity that has been gradually been eroding due to intensive farming, destruction of their natural habitat, and pollution. A diverse and healthy wild plant population helps the natural pollinating insects and especially the bees to thrive.
The days are noticably lengthening now and I find myself yearning to be outside, to break out of the restrictions of the indoors. Every sunny day is not to be wasted, but made the most of ~ a walk or a bit of gardening, reaching back outwards, creating connection to the elements and the stirring of the life force. Everywhere there are signs of nature on the move..
These Valerian plants were little root clusters I planted up in December when I took off the biggest roots for making tinctures. They are such a hardy plant, having been covered with snow for weeks and now happily sprouting as the snow melts.
See December for more info on Valerian
Edible Native Plants
I have begun foraging in the garden for the first native greens to add, last minute to my food. Mostly I simply chop them up and sprinkle over the top of any meal or stir in at the end along with plenty of raw garlic to boost the immune system.
Salad Burnett ..... Chickweed
Lady's Smock ..... Corn Salad
The most noticeable of the native trees are the Hazel with its bright catkins -
- and Willow trees, which have taken on a noticeable golden hue:
WILLOW ~ Willow is associated with the early spring, Bridget, Water, the Moon, our feminine side, our unconscious, our intuition, inner vision, our dreams, divination.
QUICK: Willow energy is quick... it is quick growing, as a tree ~ you only have to put a stick of willow in the round and it will root and grow. The little whippy twigs break off and sail downstream to embed them selves in some mud and grow into a new tree.
TO LEAP: The Latin, saille, means to leap, a sudden outburst of action... this became anglicised to sally... as in sally forth.... there is a lot of movement in Willow energy. It is a young fresh clear energy, ready for action. You could link this to 'leap of faith' ~ sometimes you need this to change direction, or do something new.
RELEASING OUR EMOTIONS: Willow lives by water and helps us get in touch with our watery emotions. When we let out our emotions, let them rise to the surface, move through the layers of buried sadness... we release ourselves from the hold they have on us. We can let them go, picture them sailing off down the river... and then we are free to learn from them, heal and start again. Stuck emotions can lead to ill health.
Water is associated with our unconscious, the Moon, our dreams and our intuition.
INTUITION: This essential quick energy is linked to the catching of intuitive thoughts and understandings as they rise to the surface from deep inside us ..... and then:
ACTING ON IT..... too often we barely notice our intuitive responses and usually ignore it. We have been taught by our conditioning that it is not to be trusted, it is of no importance.... when actually the opposite is true.
FLEXIBLE: the Willow is flexible tree, it dances, sways and creaks, it is always shedding it's twigs. It teaches us to move with life, to flow and to move through and act upon all we are feeling so that we don't become stuck in the past, or in old emotional patterns, or old ways of doing things or thinking.
FLOWER ESSENCE: helps to clear discontent, old patterns of resentment and pain smouldering beneath the surface, and a negative outlook. It will bring a lifting of the spirits, and a recognition that we are not victims, and helps us to become active in our own healing.
IN THE MOMENT: the key to Willow is this essential acting in the moment, acting on our emotional responses and our intuition, so that we are flowing with life and everything is dealt with in the moment and we do not accumilate emotional baggage.
WILLOW WANDS OR TOUCHWOODS: To bring about emotional release and change and healing. If slept with under the pillow it will bring a deeper connection to dreams. If carried in the pocket it will enhance your ability to respond to your intuition.
HERBAL: For all damp conditions ~ arthritis, reumatism, muscle pains, stiffness.
~ The bark contains salcin a pain killer made into asprin (salicylic acid).
~ The Leaves: chew for toothache, gum problems. Make into a tea for colds and flu and to bring out a fever. And to staunch wounds. Use to help eliminate toxins after illness.
~ A sexual sedative, lessening sexual desire.
- Click here to download Willow notes as printable pdf document
Snowdrops are a native plant, but NOT edible. It is an ideal plant for a spot of guerrilla gardening, planting it back out in the wild where it once grew in profusion. They are transplanted once the flowers have died back. Either buy from your local garden centre (They sell them off cheaply once the flowers have gone over) or dig some up from your garden. Take them along in a paper bag and dig a hole with a trowel and pop them in, bag and all. Look for places along footpaths, under trees, along edges of playgrounds or churchyards etc and next year they will bring delight to all those who see them while out on their early February walks.
The more you get outside the more you see that the great awakening has begun. Despite the cold and frost, many hardy plants begin to send out new shoots from the centre of the old leaves and will provide the first greens for winter salads, stir fries and soups. Mixed with other vegetables they provide us with extra vitamins and early Spring tonics.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) this is my favourite winter leaf and I dig it up from other parts of the garden in late Summer and cultivate it in pots near the house. This means I can pop out and pick it easily and I often have a mouthful as I pass by! It is a great addition to winter salads and stir-fries, bringing in the much needed Winter greens.
Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor) This is another tasty plant that keeps growing all Winter. It grows easily from seed and is a very attractive plant for the garden. It has a mild flavour not unlike cucumber.
Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) - sharp and bitter this is worth growing as it keeps going all Winter.
Common Wintercress, or Yellow Rocket (Barbarea vulgaris) Much the same as above.
Other plants that begin to grow in the early Spring and can be tasty green additions to meals -
Chop up a pile of fresh dandelion leaves. Steam to soften and then add vinegar and honey. This makes a pickle that can be used in the Winter when greens are scarce.
At this time of year the leaves may be forced under plant pots and covered with straw or bubble wrap to encourage young tender salad leaves.
Plantain - Ribwort - plantago lanceolata
To be found growing through out the Winter months and an excellent remedy for coughs.
Make your own Cough Syrup
In a wide necked dark jar, tear up freshly picked ribwort. Cover with honey pressing the mixture well down with a chopstick to make sure there are no air bubbles. Leave to steep for 2 weeks, stirring and pressing with a chopstick every few days. Sieve off the leaves and squeeze out all the honey. Put the spent leaves in a cup and pour boiling water over them to get the last bit of goodness out of them and drink with your thanks.
Rosemary - Rosemarinus officinalis
This beautiful plant, although not strictly a native, is very hardy and well worth cultivating in the herb garden. It also makes an excellent hedge plant. In the Winter garden, the sight of its green leaves are a tonic to lift the spirits!
As a herb, it is warming, stimulating and strengthening and lets joy into the heart. It strengthens the heart and is a powerful antioxidant. It is good for the circulation and is a stimulant to the whole system if it has become sluggish or lethargic. It dispels grief and depression. Rosemary is for remembrance and will strengthen the memory, stimulating blood flow to the brain.
I make it into a herbal tea infusion, by simply pouring boiling water over a sprig of the herb. I make this in a coffee pot and keep topping it up through out the day. I drink it while working, as it is good for the brain. It is a warming tonic and is especially good for when we are over-sedentary in the Winter months. This same infusion can be added to the bath water as a pick-me-up, as a stimulant to the whole system and for poor circulation. (Don't bathe in it before bed!)
Rosemary is also a liver and digestive tonic and good to drink along with Fennel, after rich food.
WARNING: It will raise blood pressure so do not drink if you are pregnant and have high blood pressure.
Rosemary Brain Tonic Elixir - Half fill a dark jar with Rosemary leaves and Peppermint too if you have some growing or dried. Cover the leaves with Honey and poke well with a chop-stick to release any trapped air, then top up the jar with brandy. Shake everyday for 2 weeks and then strain and take a teaspoonful when studying.
Using an existing white wine, pour off some of the wine and add a few sprigs of Rosemary, let it steep in the wine and drink after a week. Refreshing and uplifting.
This takes a month to steep but worth the wait
1 cup of sugar
3 sprigs of Rosemary
The zest and juice from 1 lemon
24 fluid ounces of good quality vodka
1. Put the sugar in a saucepan with a little water to dissolve, medium heat, stirring constantly
2. Add Rosemary and simmer very gently for 10 minutes or so
3. Remove Rosemary and let the syrup cool
4. Combine the zest, lemon juice, vodka and Rosemary syrup, and transfer to a wine bottle. Keep in the fridge for 1 month. Run through a fine mesh to remove any bits and re bottle.
Maries Rosemary Cordial
This is non alcoholic and makes a delicious thick syrup to mix with water.
About two and a half litres of water
A generous amount of Rosemary
Bring to boil and simmer for 10 mins
Let it stand for 24 hrs
Pour through a sieve or muslin to remove the Rosemary
Return to clean pan
Add 1 kilo of sugar and boil for 15-20 minutes until it begins to thicken slightly.
Pour into warmed bottles. Keep in the fridge.
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