Sage

When I think of sage, I automatically think of Thanksgiving dinner. There’s always cornbread dressing with sage, sausage, and apples at my house; my turkey is rubbed inside and out with sage; I also burn it as incense frequently in the fall, so just the smell of sage reminds me of harvest time, pumpkin carving, Halloween, and the upcoming winter.

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Sage growing in my garden during the fall.

Funny thing is, sage grows all season long in my area. It’s one of the first herbs that I can harvest and one of the last. I just cut some today and it’s still going strong. We’ve had two overnight frosts so far this year and it hasn’t hurt it one bit as evidenced in the photo with the maple leaves that have already turned and fallen onto the ground this October.

Drying sage is so easy too. I wash it after I harvest it, rubber band a bunch together then hang it upside-down from a push pin. About 7-10 days later, I can seal it up in a container to use whole, grind it in my mortar and pestle, or simply rub the leaves between my hands to make rubbed sage. Organic ground sage and organic rubbed sage runs about $4-6 for an ounce to two ounces. Add the fact that sage is a perennial in zone 5 (where I live) I bought a few live plants for under $10. Talk about cost-savings! Theses plants will last me forever given that I pay some attention to their water needs and that I’ve planted them in the a spot they’ll prosper.

Speaking of which…sage loves sunny to mostly-sunny areas in your yard. It tolerates some drought as it prefers well-drained soil, but you can’t let it get too dry. I’ve planted it next to my rosemary that requires similar conditions and they’ve done great together. Sage is an offshoot of the mint family, so it’s pretty sturdy (even if your son accidentally runs through it in the garden or your cats decide to lie down on it), but it doesn’t have the “take over the garden” aspect that mint does.

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Sage drying in my kitchen.

Sage spreads through its root system, so when I planted it, I gave it about one foot in either direction to grow out. Once your sage gets a little too crowded, it easily sets foot in another area by simply dividing it and replanting. I recommend resting the sage plant you’ve divided off and replanted for a season before you harvest it. This will allow the root system to establish itself, store energy for a winter, and then have plenty of energy stored for the following season producing a wonderful new sage plant. Also, I would recommend not dividing a plant that is less than three years-old.

I harvest only the leaves for consumption, but everything on this plant is edible. When I do harvest the plant for other purposes, I leave as much root in the ground to regrow and I use the woody stems for incense once they’ve dried thoroughly (takes about one month). However, you can harvest the whole plants, roots and all, dry it and use for various purposes like teas, tinctures, and salves.

Historically, sage has been  used medicinally in a tea for relief from diarrhea, indigestion, and anxiety. More holistic traditions have used sage for menstruation maladies like cramps, irregular periods, and to help the symptoms of menopause. That being said it is advised by most holistic practitioners not to consume large amounts of sage during pregnancy because it contains estrogen. Always seek a medical professional (CMA disclosure).

Ground sage
Grounding sage in a mortar and pestle.

Sage is a great herb to grow in the garden for teas, incense, medicinal purposes or simply to dry and hang due to its wonderful fragrance when dried. I can’t tell you how much I love this smell. Once you’re familiar with it, you’ll want to savor the scent and you’ll never forget it.

Many artsy-craftsy people make sage wreaths similar to those cinnamon wreaths you find in stores at Christmas just because the smell is so wonderful. I recommend growing it in your kitchen herb garden along with your other favorite go-to herbs, even if you’re like me and tend to use it only in the fall. Trust me, you’ll have amassed enough of a quantity by then to last you well after the holidays.

 

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Native Perennial Series: Chamomile

Chamomile is a lovely plant for a garden. It has a soft vanilla fragrance, interesting leather-like leaves, and adds a nice, bright element to the colors of the garden with its small white and yellow daisy-like flowers.

Chamomile, that is native to the United States, is also known as Pineapple Weed or Wild Chamomile. Its Latin name is matricaria discoidea. It has been used for centuries by Egyptians, Romans, and Anglo-Saxons in a tea, tincture, or salve to cure stomach aches, skin irritations, menstrual cramps, and many other ailments. Sometimes this plant is confused with Feverfew  (tanacetum parthenium) as the flowers look similar and they both help thwart headaches.

chamomile_peter-rabbitChamomile’s medicinal qualities and its hardy nature also appear in many historical works of literature. Peter Rabbit’s mother gives him chamomile tea to cure his belly ache after he’s eaten too much food in Mr. McGregor’s garden as written in Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

In Shakepeare’s King Henry IV (part one, act 2, scene 4) Prince Henry is told:

For though the chamomile, the more it is trodden on, the faster it grows, yet youth, the more it is wasted, the sooner it wears.

Good to note that chamomile is an excellent plant to place along the edge of pathways due to its durability. Stepping upon it will release its soft vanilla fragrance with every footfall.

Chamomile easily propagates by seed.

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Chamomile grown in my very own garden!

Once planted and left to go to seed, those seeds will germinate in the earth and pop up the next spring. Plant chamomile where it is warm and sunny as it prefers sunny areas and well-drained soil.

To save chamomile for drying in use for tinctures, salves, and teas, it is best to clip the flowers the day they open up all the way. They dry easily in brown paper bags and this is the best way to preserve the plant. Add with other herbs in teas, enjoy it by itself, or add it to potpourri for a pleasant smell in the bedroom, kitchen, laundry, or bath.

Chamomile’s vanilla-like scent and unique look will add years of enjoyment in a native perennial garden. Enjoy its beauty while you sip on some calming, chamomile tea!

Read more of my native perennial series here. Thanks for visiting!

Image sources:  Peter Rabbit photo is from http://www.luponde.co.uk/wp/?p=150; header photo is from https://pixabay.com/en/matricaria-discoidea-pineappleweed-846635/; insert photo credit April McLeish

Purple Coneflower (echinacea): Beautiful and Beneficial

Purple coneflower (echinacea) is one of the easiest native perennials to grow in the midwest United States. I live in northwest Indiana and these plants have propagated like crazy. Not only is it beautiful, but it benefits our health and our environment. If you’re looking for a great starter plant to beautify your yard and benefit the local bee or butterfly population, start growing purple coneflower (echinacea).

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A ladybug rests on a purple coneflower.

 

 

Purple coneflower is a native plant to the United States, which means it was not brought here from another location. It has been on this continent for centuries. It has adapted to the soil, rainfall amounts, pests, and diseases that could make it impossible for another type of plant to survive without a large amount of expensive, chemical care. Since it is a native plant, no fertilizer or pesticide is needed to have these beautiful plants flower and propagate.

Purple coneflower is a native species. They will attract the natural pollinators of the area. Some of the beneficial insects that frequent these flowers are ladybugs, bees, and butterflies. Goldfinches will benefit as well and be a daily visitor to your yard simply by allowing purple coneflower to go to seed in the late summer. Look at the ingredients list in any store-bought goldfinch bird seed and you will see this as the ingredient. Save yourself money and grow your own! Even purple finches have stopped by my home for a visit.

 

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Purple coneflower that has gone to seed along with a grasshopper photo-op.

If you harvest the roots of echinacea, as it’s known medicinally, you can use it as an immune-booster. Again, look at the ingredients lists of some of the  homeopathic cold and flu remedies and it will be on that list. Native Americans and early settlers used the dried roots as a tea for fighting off illnesses. It has antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiallergenic properties (source:  All About Herbs).

 

Purple coneflower grows approximately two to three feet tall, depending on its age, and prefers sunny areas although it will grow well in partial shade. It has a daisy-like flower and comes in many different colors. The main types of coneflower are echinacea angustifolia, echinacea pallida (these are the best grown for medicinal purposes) and echinacea purpurea.

If you’re looking for a carefree flower to add a cottage element to your yard, or simply want to attract beneficial pollinators like butterflies and bees, plant purple coneflower (echinacea). It will be attractive and help support the natural wildlife in your area.