Description: Can plants help us with our physical therapy? Do plants clean the air, add moisture, and lift the mood? Yes, they do and more. Meet Jeff, The Plant Guy, from CT who offers therapeutic horticulture to at least 87 different types of institutions across parts of NE and eastern NY. He describes the joy, the connections and the memories they stir up for us in so many ways. Join us for a lively discussion.
About My Guest: Jeff, is lovingly named and referred to by his communities as Jeff, The Plant Guy. Jeff has over forty-five years’ experience in horticulture. For more than 25 years Jeff owned interior plant scaping company “Natures Interiors” providing interior plant, flowers and weekly care to area businesses and private homes. He is an avid bonsai enthusiast and plant collector boasting just over one hundred seventy plants in his personal indoor collection as well as over one hundred deciduous and conifer bonsai that are kept outdoors year round. He has traveled extensively across Europe and South America visiting botanical gardens along the way. Jeff is a published author, penning his book “How To Kill Your House Plant” on plant care along with a little bit of family history and anecdotes from his years of plant care. Jeff has written articles for the Hartford Courant, The Green Thumb Print and Knox Park Foundation and many other publications. Jeff is a past founding member of the Petit Foundations, Michaela’s Garden 4 O’clock Project.
Transcript: #68 Jeff Eleveld
I’ve had a little bit of anise hyssop in my garden but none recently. I like the fact that deer ignore it. Tall beautiful flowers are attractive to a garden’s background. This lovely medicinal and edible plant is the International Herb for this year. If you are interested in herbs, I highly recommend the International Herb Symposium held in MA in June this year. Herb talks on a variety of issues, plants, growing, health are worthwhile.
Plant name: Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, herbaceous perennial of the mint family, not to be confused with hyssop, anise or star anise; Also known as giant hyssop; though they look alike they have different origins.
Parts Used: Leaves and flowers, emit a soft licorice scent and flavor. They are edible and can be put into bread, muffins, or as a garnish on salads, used in hot or cold teas.
Where Found: native to NW US, often creates a beautiful blanket of violet across prairies;
Garden tips: blooms early summer to the first frost. Grows to about 2-4 feet in height and self-sows. You can grow from seeds too. This plant is very hardy and can be found in zones 4-9, and drought tolerant. It’s a favorite of pollinator insects especially honeybees, and some birds. Not only does anise hyssop provide food for pollinators but it also relies on pollinators for fertilization so it can produce seeds in the fall. Likes well-drained to dry soils. Deers seem to avoid this plant but rabbits love it. Doesn’t spread like mint and will grow into a bushier like shape.
Benefits: “Native Americans found many uses for this plant. They included it in their medicine bundles and burned it as incense for protection. Its uplifting fragrance was also used to treat depression. Anise Hyssop made into a poultice can be used to treat burns and in wound healing. As a wash for poison ivy, it helped to reduce itching. Internally it was used to treat fevers and diarrhea. It is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and very useful as an infusion for relieving congestion. As a medicinal herb, it has soothing, expectorant and cough suppressant properties. A tea made from the leaves and flowers is sedating and relieves pain from coughing with chest colds. Used in combination with licorice it is especially effective for lung conditions such as bronchitis and respiratory tract infections.” (from Susan Weeds herbalzine.)
From what I researched, Anise hyssop has many health benefits. What I found interesting is that many traditional herbals, (and I have many) do not include anise hyssop but rather its European counterpart, Hyssop. They share some traits but anise hyssop may be more beneficial.
- used in cold remedies, used to prevent summer colds;
- may strengthen a weak heart
- anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory
- can be made into a salve for wound healing
- sip tea with meals to prevent gas/bloating
- You can bathe in it to treat sunburns and /or treat fungal infections like athlete’s foot.
- As an essential oil, it is antiviral and may help with Herpes Simplex I and II
Consider Anise Hyssop, a Native to the US for your garden. Enjoy. Judith
Someone gave me a cutting of lemon balm two years ago. It grows fast and spreads out, a great filler in any garden bed. When leaves are rubbed, crushed, this plant releases a refreshing lemony aroma.
Plant name: Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis, a member of the mint family
Where found: herbaceous perennial, native to southern Europe, Iran, Central Asia but naturalized here in the US and elsewhere.
Garden Tips: this aromatic plant does not spread underground like mint. Stems sprout from seeds that come from inconspicuous flowers. It responds well to cutting and trimming a few times a season. Lemon Balm likes mulch too.
Most herbs like the sun but lemon balm can tolerate some shade.
3 Benefits: Why is it popular? Its been used as a flavoring in recipes, adding lemony citrus tones to meats, fish, veggies for centuries. Probably arrived here with the early settlers, as they took their food and their medicines with them. Known for its calming effect, especially when digestion is involved, lemon balm must have been soothing on long ocean voyages.
Another benefit is as a carminative. Carminative means a substance that prevents or eases gas in the alimentary tract. Also known for its calming effect. Medical Medium goes further and tells us that the balms kill viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms inside the liver. Lemon balm calms the nerves of the liver. And calms the nerves of the intestinal lining which in turn lowers toxic heat in the liver. IBS, Irritable Bowl syndrome, is a worldwide malady. Could lemon balm be a good first choice herb to calm nerves especially GI nerves in our fast-paced world? Yes, it can. It’s also a diaphoretic which means it promotes perspiration which helps with the onset of colds.
Tea: can be made with dried or fresh leaves. I make fresh lemon balm tea as its growing as I want to manage its size. Little shoots are coming up nearby so I don’t worry about having enough. I pick a handful and place fresh leaves into a half gallon of boiling water. I turn off the heat and let sit for about an hour, strain and then serve over ice.
I checked my dried herbs this morning from last years supply. I tend to mix a few herbs for winter teas. This morning I made a cup with last year’s dried supply. When I opened the jar I noticed there was little lemon aroma. The tea itself is a little stronger too, though that’s not the right word. There is a difference between the two. How about experimenting with dried versus fresh and compare. What’s the difference? Which do you prefer?
Lemon Balm, whose botanical name is connected to bees, is a lovely herb for any garden.
Remember all comments are appreciated. Enjoy. Judith
While we wait for the rain to stop here in the NE, spring flowers brighten up our landscapes. The grass is an ‘Emerald City’ green. Bulbs rise, flower, come and go as we place seeds in the ground for early crops. Clovers will be coming up soon though I kinda take the little white clover blossoms for granted.
Botanical name: Trifolium repens
Common names: white clover, shamrock
Parts used: whole plant, Peterson’s field guides to medicinal plants states the entire plant can be used.
Uses: teas, washes for sores, ulcers, very popular in Europe. This plant was brought to our country with the early settlers during the 1600-1700’s. It’s short, a perennial and flowers from April to September with shamrock type leaves. As you can imagine, looking for four-leafed clover was and is considered a sign of good luck. In Europe, flower tea was used for rheumatism and gout. In North America, the Native Americans used the leaf tea for colds, coughs, and fevers.
Jethro Kloss, an American icon in the world of herbalism, lived from 1863 to 1946 and practiced herbal medicine. He used white clover blossoms in a tea to cleanse the system, especially if ulcers, boils or other skin ailments were present. He also noted that poultices, tea washes applied externally, helped heal sores, ulcers too.
White clover has been used for many years as a ground cover. It is useful as a ground cover for its nitrogen-fixing properties. There are nodules on the roots that literally grab nonusable nitrogen from the air and with the help of bacteria convert it into a plant usable form which is important for plant growth and provides protein source for foraging animals.
Benefits of White Clover: (from the University of Hawaii cooperative extension service pdf.)
1. Excellent for attracting beneficial insects, for reduced- or non-chemical pest management, for controlling erosion, suppressing weeds once established,
2. …and as a source of organic nitrogen good for quick growth and establishment,
3. …for bearing equipment traffic
4. …tolerates low fertility soils
5…. fair shade tolerance suitable for higher elevations
6. …good forage for animal grazing systems;
7. …high production, nutritional quality, and palatability
8. For use in plantation and orchard cropping systems including macadamia and coffee, in vineyards, and as a living mulch in vegetable cropping systems.”
In doing research for this article I came across a blog: insteading.com they use white clover as a living mulch, planting it in the garden to keep down weeds; eventually, it becomes mulch, retains moisture, attracts pollinators, and improves the soil. When I visited Michael Judd’s property, (author of Edible Landscapes), I saw his use of crops like mint growing in many places. He explained to us that he was not worried about keeping them harnessed. He cut them down periodically during the growing season and they became mulch there and then. It seems Insteading supports the same practices.
Last but not least, white clovers attract pollinators. White clover honey is one of the most popular honey here in the US, light in color and milder in taste.
Teas are easy: gather flowers, leaves at peak growing times, dry, store in glass jars. These plant parts can be combined with other herbs for tea making. A few white clover blossoms along with red clovers can be added to ice teas too creating pleasing summertime drinks.
White clover flowers dried, then ground into flour can be added to bread recipes. Southern forager shares a bread recipe made from dehydrated and dried, ground white clover blossom flour. I have found forager sites have great uses and recipes for meadow plants.
I hope you look at white clovers in lawns, gardens, and paths a bit differently. This little plant often mowed and ignored provides a host of uses. Do you have a favorite recipe? Please share…I’d like that.
We’ve had a lot of rain here in the NE this spring. Yet we eagerly run out when the sun pokes through a cloud and continue to spruce up yard and garden. We plan our vegetable beds and flower beds and usually look forward to adding something new. I’ve got three great tips for you today to consider when nursery shopping:
1. Think foliage.
We drool over the new hybrid creations that flash color and design but I propose looking at plant specimens from a foliage perspective. Check tags and better yet research the plant first to make sure its compatible with native species in your region. Choose native or heirloom varieties. Then look at foliage types for texture, depth, and color. The trick is to plant-wide leafed plants next to ones that are lacier or with a finer texture. For example, hostas have a variety of colors, sizes, and shapes. Their strong root system makes them ideal next to wet areas, ponds. They can handle some shade too. Next, consider planting daisies between the wider leafed varieties such as Leucanthemum vulgare.
Years ago I planted several Hosta varieties ( deep blue leafs next to variegated white and green with yellow tints in between) in a relatively small shaded area to create a textured appearance. It takes a couple of years for new plants to fill in space but it’s worth it. Are deer a problem? Yes, they can be. Hostas are one of their favorites. I sprinkled cayenne pepper on leaves routinely and then added a nonobtrusive wire mess to the area.
2. Add food producing plants to your landscapes.
In previous posts, I have mentioned adding fruit-bearing shrubs such as blueberries, cranberries, and loganberries into more traditional non-food landscapes. If you spray and/or use chemicals then they are not edible. But if you have azalea, rhododendron bushes on your property, which like an acidic soil and are not treated, then you have a great match. Berries add color and provide food and habitat for many species. Get a soil sample done to make sure soil pH will support the berries. Blueberries, cranberries, and loganberries are all in the Vaccinium family and compatible.
3. Plant Wildflowers
Wildflowers can occupy a small land space. I especially recommend them if you have a field of “weeds” and its overrun. While the first year is the most work, the subsequent years need little to no maintenance, are drought resistant, and are sustainable. Meadows provide habitat, shelter, food, and water for so many critters, who are endangered today. My book, At the Garden’s Gate, has a chapter on how to turn lawn into a meadow in 7 easy steps.
We get creative in spring with our land spaces. After winter’s quiet and mono palette we look forward to springs renewal. I know I do.
I hope you found these tips helpful. What changes will you make in your gardens this year? Share your stories. We enjoy hearing from you. Judith.
I couldn’t resist this video. The photographer shares his lifetime of work capturing pollinators on film. He reminds us that when we see something that is beautiful and touches our heart we are more apt to care for it. My podcasts seek to remind us that we are nature and what we see in nature is in us, whether looking for a medical cure, protecting pollinators, looking for solutions to climate changes, or social changes. It’s all there if we look more deeply and let nature guide us more. Let’s “get out of our cleverness”, says Janine Benyus, co-founder of the Biomimicry Institute and open our hearts to more compassion for nature’s intelligence. This short film is spectacular and inspiring. Please share and comment. It’s always appreciated.
My podcast guest this week, Vicki Wojcik, program director at the pollinator partnership reminds me that pollinators are losing their habitat. It doesn’t take much to bring them back. “If you plant it they will come.” Pollinators are diverse species that are often specialists and need specific plants to thrive. What new plants are you adding this spring? Do they favor pollinators? Don’t forget to check their regional guide too. I recommend you visit their site for more detailed information.
Enjoy spring. Judith