Although I had previously written this article about edible plants with only foragers in mind, I think it’s also a great reference for Wellness Garden designers.
Most Wellness Gardens are used in a passive manner, as in a place for sitting and reflecting. These types of gardens are called Restorative Gardens, and can be found at many hospitals, hospice and community parks.The other main type of garden is called an Enabling Garden, as it allows people to work with and among the plants.
When designing for an Enabling Garden, plant choices need to selected quite carefully as clients will be face to face with those plants. Many times clients may break branches, allowing sap to run or even eat them, unquestionably.
I have read the United States Air Force Search & Rescue Survival Manual cover to cover many times. There’s some really good information in there that can help anyone stay on this side of the grass longer during a bad situation. (BTW – There is an app for this ) There are two chapters dedicated to plants alone. Plants can be your best bet for long term survival or your short ride to being plant food.
Here’s another wonderful site: Plants For a Future that lists over 7,000 plants and their medicinal purposes, really really great stuff going on there.
These are the steps to the Universal Edibility Test:
|1.||Test only one part of a potential food plant at a time.|
|2||Separate the plants into its basic components—leaves, stems, roots, buds, and flowers.|
|3||Smell the food for strong or acid odors. Remember, smell alone does not indicate a plant is edible or inedible.|
|4||Do not eat for 8 hours before starting the test.|
|5||During the 8 hours you abstain from eating, test for contact poisoning by placing a piece of the plant part you are testing on the inside of your elbow or wrist. Usually 15 minutes is enough time to allow for a reaction|
|6||During the test period, take nothing by mouth except purified water and the plant part you are testing.|
|7||Select a small portion of a single part and prepare it the way you plan to eat it.|
|8||Before placing the prepared plant part in your mouth, touch a small portion (a pinch) to the outer surface of your lip to test for burning or itching.|
|9||If after 3 minutes there is no reaction on your lip, place the plant part on your tongue, holding it there for 15 minutes.|
|10||If there is no reaction, thoroughly chew a pinch and hold it in your mouth for 15 minutes. Do not swallow.|
|11||If no burning, itching, numbing stinging, or other irritation occurs during the 15 minutes, swallow the food.|
|12||Wait 8 hours. If any ill effects occur during this period, induce vomiting and drink a lot of water.|
|13||If no ill effects occur, eat 1/4 cup of the same plant part prepared the same way. Wait another 8 hours. If no ill effects occur, the plant part as prepared is safe for eating.|
|Test all parts of the plant for edibility, as some plants have both edible and inedible parts. Do not assume that a part that proved edible when cooked is also edible when raw. Test the part raw to ensure edibility before eating raw. The same part or plant may produce varying reactions in different individuals|
Tips to keep you alive and well while foraging:
Be extremely careful when collecting mushrooms. Mistakes can be fatal.
Avoid collecting plants in commercially fertilized areas or where toxic herbicides or other chemicals may have been sprayed. This means avoid collecting under power lines, right of ways, in unfamiliar weedy lawns, beside commercial crop fields, or close to roadsides. Better to error on the side of caution!
Be grateful. Before picking, plucking or digging, pause for a moment and give thanks to the plant that is giving itself to you. Collect with consciousness. Make the area look as though you were not there. Take only what you need, leaving plenty for wildlife and future years.
Once the food is collected, clean and sort it ‘in the field’. It is much easier there. No cook wants a sink full of muddy roots mingled with grass blades and half an anthill.
Before you eat a food, be sure to prepare correctly. Many plants can be mildly toxic and may require cooking or parboiling (and then discarding) the first and second ‘waters’ before ingesting.
Learn to blend wild produce into a meal in subtle ways. Often the flavors can be quite strong. I like to use garlic mustard in my tomato sauces. It gives a light garlic taste.
Acer spp. – Maple ~ The inner bark & seeds
Allium spp. – Wild Onion/Garlic/Leek ~ The bulb & leaves
Amaranthus spp. – Amaranth ~ the seeds, shoots & leaves
Apios americana – Groundnut ~ The tubers (roots)
Arisaema atrorubens – Jack in the Pulpit ~ The corm (well dried)*
Armoracea lapathifolia – Horseradish ~ The young leaves & roots
Asarum canadense – Wild Ginger ~ The rootstock
Asclepias spp. – Milkweed ~ Young pods, before they set seed
Asimina triloba – Pawpaw ~ fruits (I’m dying to try these)
Artium spp. – Burdock ~ The root
Barbarea spp. – Winter Cress ~ The young leaves & flower
Betula spp. – Birch ~ The sap, inner bark, twigs
Brassica spp. – Wild Mustards ~ The young leaves, flowerbuds, & seeds
Capsella bursa-pastoris – Shepard’s Purse ~ The young leaves, seedpods
Carya spp. – Hickory and Pecan ~ Yummy nuts
Castanea pumila – Chinquapin ~ nuts
Celtis spp. – Hackberry ~ The fruits
Cercis canadensis – Redbud flowers~ The young pods
Chenopodium album – Lamb’s Quarters ~ The young leaves and tops
Cichorium intybus – Chicory ~ young leaves & root
Cirsium spp. – Thistle ~ The young leaves, inner stem (pith) & 1st year root
Chrysanthemum/Leucanthemum – ~ The young leaves
Claytonia spp. – Spring Beauty ~ corm**
Commelina spp. – Day Flower ~ The young leaves and stem
Corylus spp. – Hazelnuts ~ Yummy nuts
Crataegus spp. – Hawthorn ~ The fruits
Cyperus esculentus Chufa – Nut Grass ~ The tuber
Daucus carota – Wild Carrot ~ The root**
Diospyros virginiana – Persimmon ~ The fruits*
Erechtites hieracfolia – Fireweed ~ The young shoots and leaves
Fragaria spp. – Wild Strawberry ~ The fruit, leaves*
Fagus grandifolia – Beech ~ nuts
Fraxinus spp. – Ash ~ The fruits
Galium aparine & verum Cleavers – Bedstraw ~ The young shoots/leaves
Gleditsia triacanthos -Honey Locust ~ The fruits
Helianthus tuberosus – Jerusalem artichoke ~ The tuber (Makes the best soup!)
Hemerocallis fulva – Day Lily ~ The young shoots, flower, flower buds, tuber
Heracleum maximum – Cow-Parsnip ~ The young stems/ leafstalks, seeds, root**
Juglans nigra – Black Walnut ~ Yummy nuts
Lactuca spp. – Wild Lettuce ~ The young leaves
Lamium amplexicaule – Henbit ~ The new tips
Lepidium spp. – Peppergrass ~ The young leaves & seedpods
Lycopus spp. – Bugleweed ~ The tubers
Malva neglecta – Common Mallow ~ The young leaves & green fruit
Matricaria matricarioides – Pineapple-Weed ~ The flowers
Medeola virginiana – Indian Cucumber ~ The root & tuber
Mentha, spp. – Wild mint ~ The leaves (Did someone say Mojito?!)
Mitchella repens – Partridgeberry ~ The fruits
Morus, spp. – Mulberry ~ The fruits
Nasturtium officinale – Watercress ~ The young leaves and stems
Nelumbo lutea – American Lotus ~ The young leaves, seeds & tubers
Nuphar, spp. – Yellow Pond Lily ~ The rootstocks, seeds
Nymphaea spp.- Water Lily – The young leaves, flowerbuds, seeds & tubers
Oenothera biennis – Evening Primrose ~ 1st year taproots, young small plants
Opuntia humifusa – Prickly-Pear ~ young leaf pads,* fruit & seeds
Oxalis, spp. – Yellow Wood-Sorrels ~ The leaves & fruit
Pastinaca sativa – Wild Parsnip ~ The taproot
Phragmites communis Reed – Phragmites ~ The young stem, seeds & rootstock
Physalis spp. – Ground-cherry ~ The fruits
Phytolacca americana – Pokeweed ~ The young leaves**
Plantago spp. – Plantain ~ The leaves
Podophyllum peltatum – May-apple, Mandrake ~ Only the mature fruit**
Polygonum cuspidatum – Japanese Knotweed ~ The new bamboo-like tips
Pontederia cordata – Pickerel Weed ~ The shoots & seeds
Portulaca oleracea – Purslane ~ The stems and leaves & seeds
Prunus americana – Wild Plum ~ The fruits
Prunus spp. – Wild Cherry (Choke, Black) ~ The fruits
Pteridium aquilinum – Bracken fern ~ The fiddlehead
Pteretis pensylvanica – Ostrich Fern ~ The fiddlehead
Malus spp. – Crap Apple ~ The fruits
Pyrus, spp. – Chokeberry, Chokecherry ~ fruits
Quercus spp. – Oak ~ acorns*
Rhexia virginica – Meadow Beauty ~ The tender leaves, tubers
Ribes spp. – Gooseberries, Currents ~ fruits
Robinia pseudo-acacia – Black Locust ~ The flowers (only)
Rosa spp. – Wild Rose ~ petals, fruits (hips)
Rubus spp. – Brambles ~ Fruits Blackberry, Raspberry, Dewberry, etc.
Rubus typhina and spp. – Staghorn Sumac ~ The fruit**
Rumex acetosella – Sheep (or Common) Sorrel ~ The tender leaves and stems
Rumex crispus -Dock, Curled and Yellow ~ The young leaves
Sagittaria spp. – Arrowhead ~ The tubers
Salix spp. – Willow leaves ~ The inner bark
Sambucus canadensis – Elderberry ~ The flower clusters, ripe fruit**
Sassafras albidum – Sassafras leaves ~ The root (for tea)
Scirpus spp.- Bulrush ~ The shoot, pollen, seeds & rootstock
Smilax spp. – Catbrier, Greenbrier ~ The young shoots and leaves & rootstock
Solidago odora – Sweet Goldenrod ~ The leaves and flowers
Stellaria spp. – Chickweed ~ The tender leaves and stems
Taraxacum officinale – Dandelion ~ The leaves and root
Tilia americana – Basswood ~ The leaf buds and flowers
Tradescantia spp. – Spiderwort ~ The shoots
Tragopogon porrifolius – Salsify, Oyster-Plant ~ The young leaves and root
Trifolium pratense – Red Clover ~ The young leaves and flowers
Trifolium spp. – Clover ~ The young leaves, flowerheads
Typha spp – Cattails ~ Young shoots and stocks (inner core), immature flowers, pollen and root
Urtica dioica – Stinging Nettle ~ The young shoots & leaves*
Vaccinium, spp. – Blueberry, Huckleberry ~ The yummy fruits
Viola, spp. – Violet ~ The leaves & flowers
Vitis, spp. – Grapes ~ The tender leaves and fruit***
© Wellness Garden Design
° Here’s the standard warning ~ Kids, don’t try this at home! Go out in the forest and give it a try!! Please truly know you’ve identified the edible plant correctly before eating. I’m not going down for it 😉
An African Violet is one of the easiest flowering houseplants to own. Therefore, this makes them a popular with black-thumbs and folks that may not have lots of time or energy to care for a plant. It’s easy to see if the plant is in need of water, due to the clear glass water reservoir. And with a good initial set-up and some minor care, African Violets will bloom ten months out of the year.
Procuring an African Violet is convenient and low cost. I always goes to the indoor plant section of the Big Box Depot store where the price for one is around $2.50.
African Violets require a special acidic soil that must be kept moist. Because of this, a normal growing pot is not recommended. There are two types of pots: one type uses capillary action via a wick within the soil and a pot-within-a-pot soaking in water. I created the latter with a glass bowel, decorative rocks and a terracotta pot.
During the summer months African Violets can be moved outdoors in a partly-sunny location. When the temperatures get below 50F it’s time to bring them inside. Place them in a South or West window for the most available sunlight. Most flowering plants also require a dark period to bloom. Make sure there are no nightlights in the vicinity.
African Violets do not like drafts either, hence keep them away from doors, vents, space heaters and fans.
When it comes to watering, there’s certainly nothing easier than an African Violet. Both type pots have a reservoir that only needs refilling with quality, non-softened water. No guesswork involved.
To help maintain the flowering of the plant, be sure to give is a dose of liquid fertilizer according to the labels directions.
African Violets can bloom 10 months out of the year. Care is the key to keeping it in bloom.
Maintaining a good watering schedule is important. They can go a few days being empty, and it is ok to do that periodically, just not to “droop” status. If the whole plant is drooping, water from above and fully soak pot to revive, careful not to wet leaves.
Always use good water. African Violets like it a bit more acidic and my Midwestern water is alkaline. Consequently, bottled or filtered water works well, but room temperature, melted snow is slightly acidic and a better choice if available.
Rinse off the rocks and container, monthly to avoid fungus (green) which may grow in the water, or the pot will develop a white film on it, due to mineral build-up. An old toothbrush works without using any soap. It’s OK to let a bit of water to run through the pot, as it rinses the mineral salts thru the soil and out the sides of pot, just keep the leaves as dry as possible.
Prune off the dead flowers with a scissors, don’t pull. Just trim the individual dead flower, as the rest of the main stem might still be blooming. This steps-up additional flower production for the plant.
Remember, it is seriously stressful for the plant to flower (think pregnancy!) Therefore, after a good run of blooming, the plant may chill, and just be green for awhile. Be happy with that, and anticipate blooms after a short rest. Generally, stores sell these in bloom so people would buy them. That means the non-blooming rest period may come sooner than you expected.
Prune off any bad looking leaves at anytime with scissors, don’t pull at them. The leaves that rest on the pot may get damaged/bent with age, promptly remove them if this happens.
Talk to your African Violet, it likes to listen to your problems… (it certainly also wants your CO2)
Many folks think of trees and shrubs for fall color, however ornamental grasses also offer exceptional autumn color. Here’s a great list of grasses to add to your garden designs.
When folks think of autumn color, trees are surely their first thought. However, not many folks realize that there are some perennials that put on a pretty good show at the end of the season also. So, if you’re the kind of gardener that wants the most bang-for-their-buck out of their herbaceous plants, here’s a list for you!
Yellow is probably the most common color for fall foliage on perennials. In fact, the leaves of many perennials will turn yellow before they go dormant or disappear for the winter however, here are some tried and true yellows for fall.
Amsonia tabernamontana – Blue Star
Amsonia ciliata – Downy Blue Star
Amsonia hubrechtii – Arkansas Blue Star
Sensitive Fern – Onoclea sensibilis
Royal Fern – Osmunda regalis
Autumn Joy Stonecrop – Sedum
Solmon’s Seal – Polygonatum
Balloon Flower – Platycodon
Hostas – I feel the variegated ones put on the best shows
Monkshood – Aconitum
Variegated Solomon’s Seal – Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum
Red fall color tends to be the most brilliant color in the garden, it also tends to be the most variable, and sadly not as reliable.
Leadwort – Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
Beardtongue – Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’
Japanese Painted Fern – Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’
Prairie Smoke – Geum triflorum
Peonies – Paeonia
Pigsqueak – Bergenia
Cardinal Flower – Lobelia cardinalis
Barrenwort – Epimedium
Gooseneck loosestrife – Lysimachia clethroides
Virginia creeper – Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Columbine – Aquilegia
Bloodred Geranium – Geranium sanguineum – Above all, a sure bet for red foliage.
Swamp Milkweed – Asclepias incarnata
Blazing star – Liatris
Lastly, there are many colored foliage plants being created in many different species. However, here’s some of the more well known ones.
Arisaema triphyllum -Jack-in-the-pulpit – Has a bright red seedhead.
Actaea – (aka Cimicifuga) – Some have black foliage.
Heuchera – Range from yellow to orange to red to purple (Coral Bells)
Heucherella – Encompasses many colors from red to orange to yellow to purple (Foamy Bells)
Tiarella – Leaves range in color from purple to red to yellow (Foamflower)
Thalictrum – Some have black stems with yellow leaves.
Ligularia – Many types have dark stems and foliage.
It’s been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do. .. However, you could always stay home and cuddle-up with your internet device and read my posts all day!! =-)
Traditionally in numerology, 12 is considered the number of completeness: the 12 signs of the zodiac, the 12 Apostles, 12 hours of the clock, the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 days of Christmas – the list goes on. The number 13 is considered a transgression, or going beyond completeness.
Feng Shui originated in China approximately 6,000 years ago. Feng Shui involves the arrangement of objects in relation to the flow of Qi (Chi, 氣) “natural energy” to bring about happiness, abundance and harmony. Literally, Feng Shui translates to “wind” (Feng) and “water” (Shui).
There are many types of Feng Shui, however this post will describe one of the original forms called “Compass School”. This form uses “Patterns of Chi” which involves the use of a compass, hence the name.
Feng Shui uses the 8 directions of the compass represented by the 8 outer squares with the center square represents the center of your life.
Each compass direction has certain colors and elements associated with it: earth, water, wood, metal or fire (The 5 Elements). These colors and elements are used in the design to balance and harmonize the garden. Each of these areas is called a “gua” in Chinese. “Ba” means eight, therefore the “Bagua” means 8 areas.
Feng Shui is a concept you don’t learn in one reading. Mastery of the craft can take years of learning. However, the chart (or following verbiage) can give you a great start to the structure of your Feng Shui garden or spruce-up your current one. There are a variety of tools available in Feng Shui to unblock energy and balance the garden (and your life). So, if you feel you need some help in a certain area of your life, accent that specific qua.
My favorite season is on its way, AUTUMN!!! Which also means it’s time for autumn annual containers.
The only thing you need remember for a well-presented display is: Thriller, Filler & Spiller!
The only small difference you need to remember is that autumn plants do not grow like summer plants do. Basically, WYSIWYG (what you see, is what you get), you do not need to think about a plant growing into it’s place. Fill the pot to it’s greatest extent because this container will only be around for two months at best.
Here’s a great tip when using grasses: There’s no need to plant them! Wire, tie or tape them together right at the base (think ponytail), and stuff them in. Therefore, no high-end real estate being wasted on another bundle of roots.
Most autumn plants are also not that tall. I use grasses, sticks and other material to get the height the design requires.
Keeping your cut flowers as fresh for as long as possible is easy with this list of tips.
First, choose a clean vase or container for your arrangement. For hard-to-clean narrow-necked containers, simply add dried beans or coarse salt to the vase with water and swish. Here in limestone land (alkaline), I use some vinegar to rid the vases of white spots (calcium).
There are other options to using a vase, florist foam (called florist oasis). If the blooms are of a taller variety, a disk of chicken wire pushed into the neck will help hold them straight. Rocks, pebbles, or florist colored-jelly balls can help hold stems upright also.
The best time to harvest flowers from your garden is in the early morning when moisture is at it’s highest. When purchasing flowers from the store, never place them in a rear-window of a car, a windy location or where the sun hits them. Wrapping them in damp newspaper or paper towel will help them stay hydrated.
Aside from trimming off all leaves that could potentially be in the vase water, it is always good practice to trim at least an inch off the stem before arranging, if possible, cut under water. In addition to these two practices, here are some special treatments for some floral arrangement favorites:
Clemantis = Pour boiling water over the stems, then place them in cold water. Another choice would be to dip them in champagne for a few hours before arranging in vase. (Drink leftover champagne… 😉
Daffodils = Cut them in bud or barely open. Fill the hollow stems with water and plug with a small amount of cotton. This works for all hollow stemmed flowers. (delphinium, amaryllis). Don’t put other flowers with them, they give off chemicals harmful to other flowers.
Dahlias = Never cut in tight bud, as they will not open.
Poppies = Harvest while still in bud. Sear the base with a lighter or by dipping in boiling water.
Gladioli = Cut when lowest floret is opening, and remove a few of the top buds.
Hellebores & Lilacs = Smash or split the stems before arranging in vase. This technique works for all woody type flowers.
Lilies = Harvest while still in bud. As flowers open, trim off anthers to prevent the pollen from staining anything nearby.
Marigolds = When re-cutting stem, trim exactly at a node (where the leaf meets the stem). Condition the flowers before adding them to the main arrangement by setting them in a vase for an hour with a tablespoon each of sugar and bleach.
Pansies = Submerge flowers one to two hours in tepid water to revive. They also fair better when a few leaves are left on.
Peonies = Cut them when the buds are half open and coloring. Slit the stems one to two inches to aid with water uptake.
Tulips = Add a few drops of vodka to keep them from drooping. I like to add some vodka to my drink, too.
Clearly, arranging cut flowers could lead to getting tipsy 😉 Be safe out there!!
Nothing brings a smile to my face faster than a sip from a dirty chai latte! However, I’m not a big fan of the high cost or shoddy attempts some coffee shops make… I’ve literally see some pour it out of a box! The horror!
I finally started experimenting with making my own dirty chai latte. It took a few tries, however I finally tweaked it to amazing.
I found all of the ingredients at Amazon.
This is your basic chai tea recipe. It can be made in many ways. Mixing a teaspoon or two in hot water is the easiest way to make it, however it packs a powerful punch.
I make mine in my Mr. Coffee!
I use 3 teaspoons of chai mix for an eight cup pot. I also add two tablespoons of espresso to the filter.
After brewing, add your favorite sweetener and creamer. Done!
If you’d like to make the recipe fully out of powdered ingredients, continue with these.
Chocolate Chai Mix: Add 1 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa along with dry milk powder to the latte blend above. Follow serving directions above.
Chai Shake: Blend 1/8 cup Chai Tea Mix, 1/2 cup milk, and 2 cups vanilla ice cream in a blender.
White Chocolate Chai: Add 1 teaspoon of finely chopped premium white chocolate to your cup of Chai Tea Mix.
When designing wellness gardens (or any garden for that matter), I prefer to use plants that tantalize all 5 senses.
Although most gardens look pretty, many don’t offer more than sight for sense stimulation.
The purpose of a wellness garden is to distract people from their current issues and to make them feel better. When senses are distracted by sights, sounds and smells, the mind can be easily swayed to relax and live in the moment.
Here are a few of my favorite plants, listed by the sense they arouse.
These plants are all long blooming or have large blooms.
These plants all smell wonderful, some have scented foliage.
These plants may need a bit of outside stimulus to create noise.
These plants are all edible and safe to eat. (Click here for more edible flowers)
These plants all have interesting textures or have other interesting sensations.